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CAMPAIGNS LIGHTEN UP WITH GORE ON MTV, BUSH ON LARRY KING

Al Gore said he never cheated on a college test. He'd pick Tommy Lee Jones to portray him in a movie. Air Force One would be his favorite presidential perk. And the vice president remains confounded over the choice of paper or plastic.

"Oh, man, I've never figured that one out. Just lump (the groceries) up in your arms and take it like that," Gore told a group of 150 students at an MTV forum at the University of Michigan. He finally allowed that he normally sided with paper.

His rival, meanwhile, had a light night appearance with CNN's Larry King; he predicted it would be a close race on Nov. 7.

Indeed, a Los Angeles Times poll out Tuesday night shows that overwhelming support among men has powered Bush back ahead in the race for the White House.

Less than six weeks before the election, the survey finds men and women diverging on their presidential choices to an enormous degree. While women still prefer Gore by seven percentage points, men give Bush a crushing 22-point advantage -- enough to provide the Texas governor a 48 percent to 42 percent overall lead among likely voters, the poll found.

Meanwhile, Gore, the featured guest on the televised MTV "Choose or Lose 2000" town hall forum, tackled issues that included the fate of the music-sharing program Napster, the rapper Eminem and the relative merits of hip-hop.

But there were nonmusical topics discussed as well during the 90-minute taping, which was edited down to an hour. The show aired Tuesday night and will be repeated throughout the week.

Gore pledged to issue an executive order banning racial profiling. He supported extending naturalized citizenship rights to the foreign partner in a legalized civil union of homosexual couples. He opposed legalization of marijuana for medicinal purposes. He said the so-called abortion pill, RU-486, should be on the market and not held back for political purposes. He said government shouldn't censor entertainment content judged to be inappropriate for younger children.

As for Gore's early resume, MTV said, "He listened to rock, rode a motorcycle and even smoked the herb."

One woman asked Gore about that "herb," telling him a member of her family was in jail for giving marijuana to a cancer patient.

The vice president replied that he is against legalizing marijuana for medical use because "thus far, there is absolutely no evidence" it is medically effective.

In a similar forum in 1994, President Clinton was asked about whether he favored "boxers or briefs." "Usually briefs," Clinton responded.

Bush has been invited to appear on the program, but his campaign has not decided whether to do the show, according to Bush spokesman Scott McClellan. Bush did have an interview with the MTV program during the primaries.

In Los Angeles, meanwhile, Bush said that recent swings in the polls point to a "really close race" against rival Gore and that he is eager to go "toe to toe" with him next week in the first televised debate.

The Republican presidential nominee also predicted the FBI would soon find out how a bootleg tape of his debate preparations ended up with the Gore camp.

"I believe we're going to get to the bottom of it, and I look forward to finding out who it was," Bush said in the interview on CNN's "Larry King Live."

"It's not one of my supporters," Bush added.

His comments on the mysterious delivery of the tape came as his campaign accused the FBI of not being aggressive enough in questioning Democrats.

Bush and his wife, Laura, appeared on King's show while campaigning through California.

"The fact that I'm this close to a sitting vice president with the economy pretty good and the world at peace indicates I've got a very good chance," Bush said.

King noted that Bush's poll ratings had climbed after he greeted Oprah Winfrey with a kiss, and wore a lookalike dark-on-dark outfit on Regis Philbin's show.

"Imagine if I'd have worn suspenders," Bush joked with the coat-less, suspender-clad King.

Bush, who wore a business suit, sat next to his wife and answered questions from King and telephone callers during the hourlong session. He appeared relaxed and upbeat.

Asked if he had written off any states at this point in the campaign, with six weeks remaining before Election Day, Bush paused a second and said, "That's a tough question . . . "

"No," Laura Bush interrupted.

As Bush courted West Coast voters, his spokeswoman, Karen Hughes, suggested the FBI wasn't being aggressive enough in investigating how a bootleg tape of Bush's debate preparations ended up with Gore's campaign.

Hughes said she and other top Bush aides "would all be happy" to take lie-detector tests, if necessary, to prove they did not pass along the debate tape.

Meanwhile, an employee of Bush's media consultant said she was questioned by the FBI after mailing a parcel Sept. 11 containing Gap pants from an Austin post office, an event captured by a security videotape.

"They kept saying, 'Those weren't pants in that package,' " Yvette Lozano said in an interview with the Dallas Morning News, posted on its Web site Tuesday. She denied mailing any Bush debate package, which mysteriously showed up at a Gore campaign office Sept. 13.

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