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Gore and vice presidentitis

By Bruce Morton/CNN

September 30, 1999
Web posted at: 4:38 p.m. EDT (2038 GMT)

WASHINGTON -- The 2000 presidential nomination, long seen as belonging to Vice President Al Gore, is now up for grabs. The news is that now, Gore knows it.

"I think that the difficulty for Al Gore is that he started with the sense that the nomination was coming his way, that major opponents like (House Minority Leader) Dick Gephardt and (Nebraska Sen.) Bob Kerrey dropped out," said Democratic pollster Peter Hart. "I don't think he realized how formidable the challenge would be coming from Bill Bradley or just in general."

Gore has been suffering from an old disease. Hubert Humphrey had a hard time separating himself from Lyndon Johnson and the Vietnam war. Former President George Bush had it in 1988. CNN Polling director Keating Holland calls it "vice-presidentitis," being seen as follower, not leader.

"The polls showed very clearly that Bush the father had exactly the same problems in 1987 that Al Gore is facing today," said Holland. "He wasn't considered inspiring, people didn't think he could bring about change and he wasn't thought of as a strong leader."

Gore's decision to move his campaign headquarters to Nashville puts some distance, physical and maybe symbolic, between Gore and President Bill Clinton. But Holland says Clinton fatigue isn't anything new either. Voters even grew tired of President Ronald Reagan.

"The American public really starts to dislike a president after six, seven, eight years. They want change, they know they're not going to get it from the incumbent, and they suspect that the incumbent's sidekick is also not going to bring it about," Holland said.

Hart says Gore needs to find his own style outside of Clinton.

"I think Al Gore really needs to find his voice, and I think he needs to find his own style. I think, up to this stage, he hasn't found that," Hart said.

Holland says Bradley benefits from the current lack of knowledge about him among voters. "Nobody knows who Bill Bradley is yet, therefore they project on him all the qualities they wish a strong presidential candidate would have," Holland said.

That's probably why Gore wants debates. One way to show he's as forceful, as pro-change as Bradley is to stand on a stage with him and trade views on issues. And Gore remains very much alive in the race.

"This race has gone from being one-sided to competitive," Hart said. "I think we make a mistake to think that Al Gore is being routed out of this campaign. He's still in the lead and he's the formidable candidate."

And if Gore wins after a fight, that may help in the general election, Holland says.

"I think that's one of the things that made people start thinking differently about Vice President Bush in early 1988, where they started to see him come out on his own, become his own man, win a few," Holland said.


Gore says he's the 'underdog'; announces lower fund-raising totals (9-30-99)



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Thursday, September 30, 1999

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