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 TIME on politics TIME CNN/AllPolitics CNN/AllPolitics - Storypage, with TIME and TIME

An early morning of eggs, bacon and Gore

By Karen Spiller/The Telegraph of Nashua

November 8, 1999
Web posted at: 1:10 p.m. EST (1810 GMT)

NHPrimary.com

MERRIMACK, New Hampshire (NHPrimary.com) -- It was business as usual at Ruthie’s Postal Parlour Restaurant on Sunday morning – until hordes of police, Secret Service agents and a dozen local and national reporters swarmed the restaurant awaiting the arrival of Vice President Al Gore.

Gore says his close race with former Sen. Bill Bradley gives him energy – an energy he passed on to people of all ages at the Daniel Webster Highway restaurant and in one neighborhood where door-to-door campaigning was a welcome surprise.

Gore faces a strong challenge from former New Jersey Sen. Bill Bradley, the only other candidate pursuing the Democratic presidential nomination in 2000.

At Ruthie’s, waitresses and cooks squeezed by reporters to get food to the tables, as others stared in awe at the television cameras and waited for their turn to meet the vice president.

Sporting a shirt with bright blue collars and a charcoal sweater, Gore introduced himself to everyone in the restaurant – giving high-fives to some and handshakes to others.

He talked to a large table of Merrimack residents as he sipped black coffee and ate a cheese omelet with onions, mushrooms and extra bacon.

"I’m thrilled," said restaurant owner Ruth Roberts. The Manchester independent was obviously delighted to welcome Gore. "He’s the vice president. Whether I vote for him or not is one thing. But he’s the vice president."

Interviews with a few of the roughly 50 customers inside the restaurant showed Gore won some votes with his Sunday visit to Ruthie’s, a cozy restaurant that has hosted to various presidential candidates over the years.

"He has a nice personality," said Jackie Flood, 59, a Democrat from Merrimack, who said she would vote for Gore. She said he articulates his views well and is experienced.

"We elect oddball people sometimes who don’t have an intrinsic knowledge of how to deal with Congress."

But most people eating breakfast at Ruthie’s on Sunday said they didn’t know yet who they support for president.

"It’s too early," said Meg Moore, 63, of Bedford. "I don’t have any impressions of any of them at this point."

Jim Roberts, 27, of Manchester, son of the restaurant owner, agreed. "They really capitalize on the fact that we’re the first (in the nation primary). It’s ridiculous."

"They should take 30 days to campaign and that’s the end of it," agreed Larry Finnegan, a 20-year resident of Merrimack.

Fifteen-year-old Danielle Miller, who was having breakfast with her father, Steve Miller of Merrimack, said it was the first time she met and shook hands with the vice president.

"He seemed very nice and genuine," said the Pembroke Academy sophomore, who said she hoped the next president will focus on improving education.

Gore’s Merrimack visit was part of a two-day swing through the Granite State. He held one of a list of recent open meetings Sunday afternoon at the Weston Elementary School in Manchester, where undecided voters were invited to meet Gore and ask any questions.

While in Merrimack, Gore went door-to-door on Currier Road, near Baboosic Lake Road, where he was again flanked by media and bodyguards. There, a group of about 100 supporters wearing campaign stickers lined up holding signs and taking photographs.

Gore walked from house to house, knocking on doors and handing out campaign fliers.

"I’d like to have your vote in the New Hampshire primary," Gore said to the unknowing people who opened their front doors.

"You’ve got it," said Paul Soucy, of 4 Hemlock St., who happened to be taking a walk down Currier Road when he was greeted by Gore.

Gerry St. Amand, the assistant principal at Mastricola Elementary School, raked leaves outside with his family. He said he will vote for Gore, and was pleasantly surprised to see him in his neighborhood.

"I’m glad we didn’t go out for the day," St. Amand said as Gore made his way to the next house.

Larry and Paula Schofield, in the area visiting their daughter, were stopped by the vice president as they were getting into their car. Larry Schofield’s hat sparked a brief conversation about bass fishing.

"I hope you make it. You’ve got my vote," Larry Schofield told Gore.

Paula Schofield said she likes Gore’s politics. "He’s got the experience. He knows the country’s problems."

Recent polls show Bradley ahead in New Hampshire and other parts of the Northeast. Still, a Newsweek poll Saturday found Gore with a 46 percent to 36 percent lead over Bradley in New Hampshire, three points outside the survey’s margin of error.

But Gore said he doesn’t believe polls because many people still haven’t made up their minds. "The nice thing about rejecting the polls is that if you reject the ones that are good for you, you can have an easier time rejecting the ones that show you behind."

"I’ll campaign like an underdog as if I’m one vote behind. I think that’s a good way to campaign. I’m hopeful that I’ll be able to win by at least a one-vote margin on Feb. 1."

As for the challenge from Bradley, Gore conceded he’d prefer to run unopposed. "The competition is good for democracy, good for the voters and it’s enabled me to break through and communicate a lot more effectively."

Gore said he respects Bradley, and would never launch any negative personal attack against him. But he did say Bradley’s proposed elimination of Medicaid, in favor of a sweeping plan designed to offer affordable coverage to everyone, would hurt poor people. But Gore didn’t want to talk about Bradley’s plans.

"I prefer talking about what I want to do," Gore said.

Gore would offer full access to affordable health care to every child in America in four years. He said his plan extends a 25 percent tax credit to people who don’t get health care at work.

He also emphasized making improvements to public schools for the 21st century and promoting lifelong learning.

Still, after meeting Gore, there were some people who said they would vote for Bradley.

"I think (Gore) is a good man, but I think he’s a little stiff," said Bob Soucy, 61, a Democrat from Merrimack.

Shirley Small, 63, of Merrimack, said she thinks Gore has plenty of charisma. "I think he’s had to hold back because he’s in the second position," she said. "I think (holding back) is sort of a prerequisite of the vice president."

Steve Miller, who ate breakfast at Ruthie’s on Sunday morning, said he thinks Gore’s relationship with Clinton may hurt his campaign.

"I think Bradley’s got a good shot of taking Gore out of this thing if he doesn’t look out," Miller said. "After that whole thing with Monica Lewinsky, he backed Clinton, and that was a big, big mistake. It made him look like he agreed with what went on."

But Gore made it clear he wants to separate himself from the scandals of the Clinton White House.

Gore admitted he was disappointed and angered by the president’s affair with Monica Lewinsky, but emphasized he’s not running with Clinton.

"I’m running on my own, so I think the people are rightly focused on the future and not on the past," Gore said.


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