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BUSH, ON 'OPRAH,' INSISTS HE'S NOT RUNNING TO AVENGE DAD'S DEFEAT

George W. Bush took his turn today on the "Oprah Winfrey Show," part of his effort to woo back women voters from his Democratic rival Al Gore.

Asked what the public's "biggest misconception" of him was, Bush replied: "Probably I'm running on my daddy's name. That, you know, if my name were George Jones I'd be a country and western singer."

Winfrey pressed: Didn't some small part of him want to "restore" the Bush family to the White House? Bush's father was president from 1989 until Bill Clinton and Gore defeated him in 1992.

"Not even in the teeniest, tiniest part," Bush insisted. ". . . Basically, what you're saying is, Are you running just because of revenge? Revenge is such a negative thought. I'm running for positive reasons."

Bush appeared on the show a week and a day after Gore became the first politician Winfrey ever invited onto her show.

In polls, women voters indicating a preference have given Gore his strongest advantage in months. A Gallup survey released Monday showed him leading Bush by 17 points among women.

Bush was in Little Rock, Ark., on Monday touting policies he said would help middle-class families from birth to retirement.

"The hopes of American families are the cornerstones of my campaign," he said after touring a hospital maternity ward and pushing his plan to increase families' per-child tax credit to $1,000 from $500.

Bush is spending the week talking about parts of his plan that would benefit the middle class, from the child credit, to his $1.3 trillion tax cut, to more spending on education and medical care for the elderly.

Gore also made an appeal to women while campaigning Monday in Las Vegas, pushing for legislation to force health maintenance organizations to cover mastectomies, set minimum hospital stays and require coverage for treatment and diagnostic opinions from more than one doctor.

"The issue today is whether we will have a president who stands up and fights for the families who need health care and against the HMOs and insurance companies that are standing in the way," he said. "I'm calling for tough new patients' rights legislation to make sure women get the best health care, not just the cheapest."

The Gore camp, meanwhile, appeared unprepared for a news report charging that the vice president misrepresented the facts in using his family to illustrate a complaint about the high cost of prescription drugs.

Meeting with senior citizens in Florida last month, Gore said his mother-in-law pays three times as much to buy the same arthritis medicine used by his aging dog, Shiloh. He said his mother-in-law pays $108 a month for Lodine vs. $37.80 for his dog.

The Boston Globe reported Monday that Gore was basing his claim on a study done by Democrats in the House of Representatives, not on his own family, and that the costs he cited were wholesale costs, not retail. The generic equivalent is available for less than $40, the Globe said.

Gore aide Kym Spell said the campaign verified that Gore's mother-in-law did indeed have a prescription for Lodine. She said the cost of the Lodine was 231 percent more per capsule for Tipper Gore's mother than it was for Shiloh the dog.

At a Beverly Hills fund-raiser, Gore later softened threats of sanctions against Hollywood for marketing violence to kids.

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