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The two presidential hopefuls focused on November's elections. With their presidential campaigns in full swing, Al Gore and George W. Bush both made quick campaign stops in Philadelphia yesterday. Victories in recent primaries have already assured them of their party's nomination, but Pennsylvania's status as a crucial swing state in November means the candidates are keeping a constant eye on the Keystone State. Gore met with a group of 80 local residents -- largely consisting of senior citizens -- in a South Philadelphia community center yesterday morning to discuss revamping Social Security to enhance benefits for women. "Social Security is a lifeline for millions of American women, but there are ways in which Social Security treats women unfairly," Gore said yesterday. He announced he wants to make "modest but crucial changes in our Social Security system that will make it fairer for women." Meanwhile, Bush held an education roundtable with local Latino leaders in the Philadelphia suburb of Abington. The Texas governor largely focused his education-based discussion on returning control of schools to the local level. The talk followed his announcement of new literacy and teacher aid programs last week. Although the two candidates were miles apart, they still managed to exchange heated attacks. "If [Bush] gets his hands on America's retirement system, it will quickly become a system of social insecurity," the vice president said yesterday. Gore announced during his talk that if he is elected in November, he would push to help stay-at-home parents -- most of whom are women -- receive Social Security credit for up to five years of work while they raise their children. Because many women often leave the workforce to raise children, Gore said the Social Security status quo penalizes women. He added that his plan will increase benefits to women by about $600 each year, emphasizing the important role stay-at-home parents play in their children's lives. "Anybody who's [raised children] knows what hard work that is," Gore said. "We should honor it, and we should respect it." Gore also proposed giving widows increased Social Security payments upon their husbands' death. Currently, a widow's payment can be more than halved when her husband dies. The vice president also continually attacked Bush's five-year proposed plan to cut $483 billion in taxes, calling it a "risky tax scheme." From across town, Bush threw criticism right back at Gore. "I can't think of a better reform than allowing women to manage their own personal savings account, particularly younger workers in our society," Bush said in a statement released after his talk. "It's going to be an important debate in the campaign for president," he continued. "It's the status quo in the administration that does not reform Social Security -- versus an administration that will put capital on the line? to make sure that Social Security is available in the long run." Recent Gallup polls indicate that the vice president and Texas governor are running neck and neck, with 46 percent of likely voters favoring Bush and 45 percent supporting Gore.

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