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Democrats have one plan for L.A. gathering: Introduce Al Gore

Clinton to address delegates Monday night

LOS ANGELES (CNN) -- The 2000 Democratic National Convention is shaping up as a four-day get-to-know-you exercise intended to roll out a presidential Al Gore.

With Monday's opening of the Democratic showcase at the gleaming Staples Center sports complex in Los Angeles, the Democrats will seek to shift all attention to Gore, "the person," a senior campaign official said Sunday.

Voters have to get to know Gore better, the source insisted, because in the arena of public perception, Gore has fallen significantly behind the Republicans' nominee, Texas Gov. George W. Bush.

"The issue terrain favors us enormously," the source said Sunday.

But in a manner perhaps fitting to the showbiz-tinged spectacle the Democratic convention promises to be, campaign operatives and the myriad of scheduled convention speakers must concentrate on who Al Gore is and what he wants for the country. Gore, the source said, has often encountered voter resistance, and it is only when education and introduction efforts have been undertaken that he has been able to recover.

The vice president can credit his win over former New Jersey Sen. Bill Bradley in New Hampshire's first-in-the-nation primary at the beginning of this year to such a publicity blitz, the source said.

The convention, he said, would focus on the fight "for working families" undertaken by Gore and his running mate, Connecticut Sen. Joseph Lieberman.

"We want to infuse the meaning of (Gore's) phrase, 'fighting for the people, not the powerful,'" the source said. "We want people to get to know Al Gore better."

To that end, the convention's four-day schedule will lean heavily toward testimonials and personality sketches delivered by some of the people closet to the vice president -- most notably President Clinton, who will deliver a key address on Monday night. But a number of Gore family and friends will make their way to the convention podium in the course of the next four days, all of whom will tell the American people "who Al Gore is as a person, as a husband, and as a father."

"When people understand the motivation that led him to public service in the first place, they come to him," the campaign source said Sunday. "His story is very powerful and has an impact in voters."

Clinton speech intended to give Gore a big boost

In his Monday address, President Clinton will be among the first to reintroduce Al Gore to the general public -- not an easy task for the this oft-critized chief executive, whose personal foibles have managed to attach themselves to his vice president.

Clinton
President Clinton waves to the crowd gathered at the Rancho Park Golf Course in Los Angeles, Saturday  

That guilt by association -- coupled with stark criticism of the Clinton administration's tax, entitlement and military policies -- has been helped along in large part by Bush and his vice presidential choice, former defense secretary Dick Cheney. Both delivered stinging indictments of the Democrats during the Republican convention in Philadelphia two weeks ago.

A large portion of the speech, a White House aide familiar with an early draft said Saturday, aims to remind voters of the policy challenges that remain, despite record economic prosperity and low rates of unemployment.

Clinton will enumerate a list of major legislative priorities he has not managed to get through the Republican-controlled Congress in the past year -- items on which Al Gore will now have to take the lead.

Among those: the so-called patients' bill of rights -- which would bolster the legal rights of individuals in dealings with their health maintenance organizations -- and a new prescription drug benefit for Medicare recipients.

"We'll be talking about prescription drugs, the patients' bill of rights and how to keep our economic success going," the Gore campaign source said Sunday.

Clinton will provide "direct reasons and examples" of why he believes Gore and Lieberman are more in step with the views of working class families than the GOP ticket of Bush and Cheney, several aides said. In this portion of his speech, the president plans to deliver a personal testimonial about the vice president and his leadership role in the administration.

Gore, Clinton has said -- and will likely say again Monday -- has been perhaps the most participatory vice president in the nation's history. He has served as a close advisor and policy architect in the White House, Clinton has reported, and has wielded significant intellect and influence in the shaping of administration economic and social policies.

The first lady, also slated to speak Monday, will offer similar sentiments. Hillary Rodham Clinton, immersed in a heated battle with Republican Rep. Rick Lazio for the New York Senate seat being vacated by retiring Democrat Daniel Patrick Moynihan, will offer her own views of Gore's contributions to the eight-year Clinton administration.

In an interview to be aired on CNN's "Larry King Live" on Monday, Mrs. Clinton said, "I think that what's important at this convention and this election is the future."

"It's very clear to me that if you look at the public record of this administration and what Clinton and Al Gore have meant to America and the world, then this shouldn't be a close election ... We need to get people to focus on what's at stake in their lives and what the decisions are going to be," she said.

Monday's order of business

As workers placed the finishing touches on the inside of the Staples Center on Sunday -- including a sprawling area for delegates that extends into the arena's lower tiers of spectator seats, and an enormous podium festooned with metallic trimmings meant to approximate the unfurling of a large banner -- Democratic delegates continued to troop into the city and readied themselves for two convention sessions beginning early Monday.

The convention's first, early-day session is devoted to various bits of business and bookkeeping: The evening session, which kicks off at 5 p.m. Pacific time (8 p.m. EDT), begins the long march toward Gore's nomination acceptance speech. That address will cap the party proceedings Thursday night.

While President and Mrs. Clinton will close out Monday night's program, much of the three hours of the night's rundown will focus on Democratic women and their accomplishments.

The six Democratic women in the Senate -- Barbara Mikulski of Maryland, Barbara Boxer and Dianne Feinstein of California, Mary Landrieu of Louisiana, Blanche Lincoln of Arkansas and Patty Murray of Washington -- will be feted, as will Rep. Lynn Woolsey of California, a small business owner first elected to the House in 1992.

Labor Secretary Alexis Herman will also see time on the podium, along with New Hampshire Gov. Jeanne Shaheen, who reportedly made Gore's "top six" list of vice presidential possibilities.

Also on tap is a tribute to former President Jimmy Carter, elected for one term in 1976 and ousted by Ronald Reagan in 1980. Carter now administers the Carter Center, a nonpartisan, nonprofit organization dedicated to national and international public policy issues.



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Sunday, August 13, 2000


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