How will the two sides of Al Gore impact his White House hopes?
By Jeanne Meserve and Bruce Morton/CNN
June 16, 1999
Web posted at: 12:01 p.m. EDT (1601 GMT)
WASHINGTON (June 16) -- Al Gore is warm, funny, loose. Al Gore is wooden, boring, a suit. Will the real Al Gore please stand up?
|Chat: Vice President Gore's first online conversation as an official presidential candidate, Thursday at 4:50 p.m. EDT.
His friends and supporters say there's much more to the man than his stiff image. It's a point his wife makes over and over again.
"I have here, as you all probably know, the best-kept secret in America. He is funny, he is good looking, he is handsome, and he is sexy," said his wife, Tipper Gore, at a recent campaign event.
It's not hard to find the relaxed Al Gore. He shows up every time the vice president leaves Washington for a bit of retail politicking.
Off goes the suit, out come the khakis. He's good with kids, even charming but that Al Gore is seldom seen by most Americans.
What they see is what makes the news, such as Gore's fund-raising troubles that prompted him to issue his much-maligned "no controlling legal authority" defense. Gore also served as an unwavering cheerleader for President Bill Clinton during the congressional impeachment proceedings.
"From what I've been able to observe, both in person and in television, I think Al Gore, the vice president, has a disconnect problem. That is, his body language, his facial expressions and his voice tone are not quite connected to the words that he is using at the time," said image consultant Susan Petersen, one of the nation's leading media trainers.
It's an image that has built up over years, in the Senate and as vice president. Gore's aides hope Wednesday's official kickoff will give Gore an opportunity to recast himself.
The Bush factor
However the formal announcement goes, it's unlikely to resemble this week's other opening blast: the Bush blitz. Texas Gov. George W. Bush finally left his front porch in Texas for the campaign trail this weekend, and was greeted with covers "TIME" and "Newsweek," a plane crammed with journalists and crowded rallies -- everything but a band playing "Hail To The Chief."
Bush is the new face, clearly at ease in a crowd but just starting to take positions on a lot of national issues. The vice president has been on the job six-and-a-half years -- and a senator and congressman beforehand -- giving him the advantage of national experience.
Gore's camp plans to stress those issue positions on its campaign swing following the announcement to Iowa and New Hampshire, trying to contrast the two front-runners.
The vice president has a record with high points, like casting the tie-breaking vote on gun control in the Senate last month. But the vice president also has a record of odd exaggerations, like this one.
"During my service in the United States Congress, I took the initiative in creating the Internet," Gore said.
Gore, who, shown a poll that said 22 percent of the sample found him "very boring," 34 percent only "somewhat boring," told "The Washington Post": "I'm encouraged that of the number who answered the poll, less than a majority of them have described me as 'very boring.' If your 'very boring' number is below a certain level, you've got something to work with."
There is one other major difference as the two men run.
People know who Bush is because of his family, but may not vote for him because of it. Al Gore has stood with Bill Clinton. That may help -- the economy is strong -- but if voters are weary of Clinton and his shabby morals it may, however unfairly, hurt Gore.
"In the years that we've worked together because there's no question that he has been integral to all the good things that have happened in this administration," Clinton says.