Gore steps out on his own, gets Gephardt endorsement
March 15, 1999
WASHINGTON (AllPolitics, March 15) -- Vice President Al Gore secured the endorsement Monday of House Minority Leader Dick Gephardt in a sign that top Democrats would like to settle the presidential nomination early and focus on winning in November 2000.
Gephardt, who decided last month that he would not seek the presidency himself, announced his endorsement in Manchester, New Hampshire -- the first stop on Gore's first official political trip of his presidential campaign.
"I'm here today because I want to make my fight putting Al Gore in the presidency of the United States," Gephardt told a boisterous rally of 400 activists. "We would all be proud to have him as president of the United States."
With a row of American flags as a backdrop, Gore replied in kind: "We are going to make Dick Gephardt the next speaker of the House of Representatives."
Gore was headed next to Iowa and St. Louis, Missouri, Gephardt's hometown, before returning to Washington late Monday night. "I'm going to be back early and often," Gore promised the New Hampshire rally in a cramped auditorium. A huge banner read: "New Hampshire welcomes the next president of the United States."
Gephardt would have been a formidable rival for the nomination but decided to instead focus his attention on recapturing the House for the Democrats. The 1998 midterm election gains by the Democrats encouraged the minority leader that it was possible to take back the speaker's gavel in 2000.
"It's huge," Gore spokesman Chris Lehane said of the endorsement. "Obviously, having Congressman Gephardt's support is very welcome. The unity that this is going to bring to our effort will be extremely helpful."
Gore's only announced opponent for the nomination is former New Jersey Sen. Bill Bradley, although civil-rights activist Jesse Jackson is considering the race. Opting out in recent weeks in addition to Gephardt were three senators who could have offered stiff challenges.
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