But Will It Hurt Al? (TIME, 4/21/97)
Gore Gears Up In 1998
Vice president hopes to rebuild image, lay groundwork for 2000 run
By John King/CNN
WASHINGTON (Dec. 29) -- For Vice President Al Gore, 1997 was a tough year dominated by questions about his 1996 campaign fund-raising. But Gore hopes to use the upcoming election year to repair his public image and lay the groundwork for a presidential run of his own.
For a vice president looking to move up the career ladder, 1998 is a year of opportunity: a chance to make important friends while helping Democrats in critical elections for Congress and governor -- and to practice for the big campaign to come.
Political analysis Charles Cook said, "We have to remember that Jan. 1, 1999, that's when the presidential campaign really begins for 2000. So this is a good lead-in, a good way for the vice president to test themes, test speech lines and really sort of pre-test his campaign that's going to be starting the very next year."
George Bush serves as a model: he criss-crossed the country in 1986 as he stepped out of Ronald Reagan's shadow and geared up for the 1988 presidential campaign.
Bush had to overcome questions about his role in the Iran-Contra scandal. For Gore, the campaign fund-raising controversy took a toll in 1997, and is a potential cloud over 1998.
Gore's favorable rating fell 10 points over the past year to 50 percent, while 37 percent now have an unfavorable view of the vice president.
Former Bush political director Ron Kaufman said, "This is a problem, a legacy of this administration, that Al Gore is going to wear around his neck going into 2000."
Gore's strategy for rebuilding his image includes traveling four days a week on average, and sources tell CNN the president plans a few new high-profile assignment for Gore in the new year.
Bush campaign veterans say it's also time for Gore to distinguish himself a bit from his boss.
"Make sure you know what your vision is of where you want to take the United States for the next four years during your presidency," Kaufman advised.
But top Gore advisors say it's too soon to go solo.
Gore advisor Robert Squier asked, "Why in the world would a vice president who's been so important in this administration try to separate himself from the most popular Democratic president we've had since Roosevelt?"
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Monday Dec. 29, 1997
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