Gore suffers from 'Clinton fatigue' in campaign
September 12, 1999
WASHINGTON (Reuters) -- Vice President Al Gore's presidential campaign is being dragged down by growing "Clinton fatigue" among U.S. voters, according to poll data and political analysts.
"Clinton fatigue" is directed not only against the president, who has dragged the country through years of scandal climaxing in this year's impeachment trial, but also against first lady Hillary Rodham Clinton, who is preparing to run for a Senate seat from New York.
"It's become a rather substantial drag on Gore, amplified by the attention being focused on Mrs. Clinton's Senate campaign," said Andrew Kohut, who heads polling for the Pew Research Center.
Kohut has found a consistent 70 percent of the public saying they are "tired of the Clintons." His most recent poll found 73 percent of respondents expressing that sentiment.
"Gore is really handicapped by this and it makes it more difficult for him to put his best foot forward," Kohut said.
A Reuters poll published last Thursday found 54 percent of some 1,004 likely voters preferred to see both Clintons leave public life and lower their profile at the end of the current presidential term in January 2001. Forty percent favored the idea of Mrs. Clinton serving in the Senate.
A 14-point majority said they wanted to see change rather than a continuation of Clinton administration policies from the next president.
"It's so difficult when you have been seen for eight years. I mean, people got tired eventually even of (comedian) Jerry Seinfeld and Al Gore is no Jerry Seinfeld," said Rep. James Moran, a Virginia Democrat interviewed this week on MSNBC.
"They've seen him (Gore) for eight years, it is almost impossible to come up with a new idea that his boss hasn't already used, so he is in an untenable situation," said Moran.
The Reuters poll also showed Gore trailed both Texas Gov. George W. Bush and former Cabinet secretary Elizabeth Dole, the two Republicans at the top of their party's polls.
The figures suggested that while Gore was holding on to the support of most Democrats, independent voters were opting by 2-to-1 for Bush.
Gore also has to worry about a well-financed challenge for the Democratic Party presidential nomination from former Sen. Bill Bradley of New Jersey. The poll showed Gore leading Bradley nationally by a wide margin, however the former basketball star is picking up ground in some key states, like New Hampshire.
The problem for Gore is to find a way of differentiating himself from Clinton while still claiming credit for the successes of the past seven years.
"We're focused on that fact that this election will not be about Clinton or any other past president for that matter," said Gore campaign spokeswoman Kiki Moore. "The Gore campaign is about continuity and change, building on the best of the past while giving new ideas for the future."
It is a well-known phenomenon in U.S. history for presidential administrations to run out of steam and lose popularity in their final couple of years. But the "Clinton fatigue" phenomenon may be even more marked because of the unprecedented impeachment drama, sparked by the president's relationship with former White House intern Monica Lewinsky.
"It makes sense there would be a letdown after impeachment. People are tired of scandals and want peace and quiet," said political scientist Gary Jacobson of the University of California, San Diego.
But Jacobson said it was too soon for Gore to become too alarmed. The first binding votes of the campaign are still six months away and the election itself 14 months in the future.
"Gore has the economy on his side and the statistics he will be able to produce will be an impressive argument. I am expecting a very close election," said Jacobson.
Copyright 1999 Reuters. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.
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