|SNAPSHOT: AL GORE|
October 5, 1999
After senior correspondent Margaret Warner reports on the campaign of presidential candidate Al Gore, Washington Post reporter Dan Balz, who recently traveled with Vice President Gore in New Hampshire and New York, talks about the Gore campaign and election issues.
MARGARET WARNER: Vice President Al Gore, who last week declared himself the underdog in the Democratic nomination fight, took his reinvented campaign on the road this week. In Maine on Sunday, Gore insisted on having "Face the Nation" host Bob Schieffer interview him not in a TV studio, but in a more down-home setting.
BOB SCHIEFFER: I see you're out of the blue suit, you're out of the tie. Is this the new Al Gore?
AL GORE: Well, there are not many people in suits and ties here at the public market in Portland, Maine.
MARGARET WARNER: Then it was on to New Hampshire, site of next year's first primary, where early polls show challenger Bill Bradley edging ahead of the Vice President. Yesterday, at the Three Rivers Middle School in Pembroke, Gore met with area parents, teachers, and administrators and touted one part of his education agenda.
AL GORE: I'm going to present a new policy on how to help local school districts with the expenses associated with special education. And I pledge to you today that as President, in my first budget, I will announce the largest increase for special education ever to take us toward that goal.
MARGARET WARNER: Gore laid out several specifics, including a program to identify at an early age students with disabilities. He closed his remarks this way:
AL GORE: I will make you this pledge that, as president, I will veto any budget that does not have adequate funding for the needs of all students.
MARGARET WARNER: One local school board member sounded a bit skeptical.
SCHOOL BOARD MEMBER: This community spends approximately $2 million of a $12 million budget for special education, for approximately 16 percent of the kids. If we spent a larger amount for regular education, our standards would increase. What does policy do? Policy doesn't give my community money.
AL GORE: Well, that's right, and that's why I'm proposing more money.
SCHOOL BOARD MEMBER: You said you were proposing a policy.
AL GORE: Well, the first point in the policy is to have more money for special education. Maybe I wasn't clear.
MARGARET WARNER: Gore's evening schedule included a neighborhood block party in Manchester, but rain forced the event indoors.
AL GORE: Well, this is one heck of a block party, and thank you so much for crowding in here this way. I've challenged Bill Bradley to a series of debates because I believe that we can best serve our party and, more importantly, our country by having a vigorous discussion of the ideas that we have to look at to make choices about what kind of country we're going to have in the 21st century.
MARGARET WARNER: Gore briefly laid out some of those choices, but he spent more time on personal reflections.
AL GORE: You know, I feel passionately about these issues. But I have to tell you this: I wasn't always in the position of directing my passion toward politics or public service, because there was a long period in my life when I thought politics would be the absolute last thing I ever did. When I came back from Vietnam, I was as disillusioned with the political process as you can imagine. I had watched my dad be defeated on principle. I had seen my country go into that long, dark tunnel called the Vietnam War, and I felt the tearing at the seams of this country. And then I watched Watergate unfold with the demonstration of corruption and worse at the highest levels of government. Boy, I didn't want to have anything to do with politics.
MARGARET WARNER: But ultimately, Gore said, he decided he wanted to have an impact on people's lives, and politics was the way to do that.
AL GORE: I want you to feel in your hearts what I felt in my heart at that moment, and what I feel in my heart still. I want you to get involved. I want you to rekindle the American spirit. You know from the news media that I'm behind in the polls in New Hampshire. You know that this is a hard- fought race. You know what that means? Among other things, it means that New Hampshire can make all the difference. It means that you can pick the Democratic nominee with enough enthusiasm and excitement to build up a head of steam that will win the general election. And I want to see this campaign be an experience that brings people new respect for our democracy. Voter participation has declined since 1960. We need to reverse that. Why can't we? We can with your help. Let's make this country the way it's supposed to be in the 21st century. God bless you. Thank you very much. Appreciate it.
MARGARET WARNER: Gore has been campaigning in New York State today and travels to Tennessee tomorrow to open his new headquarters in Nashville. For more we turn to Dan Balz of the "Washington Post." The NewsHour is working with the Post in covering the 2000 presidential race. Dan was traveling with Gore this week in New Hampshire and New York. Hi, Dan. Welcome back.
DAN BALZ: Thank you, Margaret.
MARGARET WARNER: How new is the Al Gore you spent these last two days with?
DAN BALZ: Not dramatically new from the Gore that has been on the campaign trail, particularly the last six or eight weeks. He may have said it best yesterday when he was asked by a local reporter "Is this the new Al Gore?" Basically he said "same person, new campaign." What we are seeing is that the Gore advisors, the Gore team believes that he's become a better candidate over the last couple of months. He's more comfortable, he's a little looser, very often he takes off his suit and tie as he did with the "Face the Nation" interview, he's developed a different kind of stump speech, a more human or personal stump speech. But the problem they've run into is that that didn't seem to be breaking through. There was too much discussion about the stumbles in the campaign, the rise of Bill Bradley. A lot of what happened last week in moving the campaign headquarters to Nashville and talking about a new, invigorated campaign, was an effort to force people to take a new look, a second look, at al Gore to see if this is a different person and a different candidate than they thought he was.
MARGARET WARNER: Well, it was interesting looking at last night's speech, and we couldn't run it all, that he spent so much time on the personal. Are you saying that's become typical?
DAN BALZ: It's very much part of his stump speech. It's the standard part of the message that he delivers to an audience of people -- even people who have known him for a long time. I think he feels that people don't adequately know where he came from, what his roots are. He talks about his mother, who was one of the early graduates of the law school at Vanderbilt; he connects that to his commitment to women's rights. He talks about his father; he links that to his commitment with civil rights, as you saw; he talks about his time in Vietnam, he talks about disillusionment with politics, all as way of to try to give people a sense of how he's gotten to where he is, not that he's an imperial Vice President, but this is a person who has been on a long journey and that his passions and commitments come out of something real. That's what he's trying to get across.
MARGARET WARNER: When I looked at his schedule, though, it still looked very vice presidential, one might even say glacial. I mean, there were, I think, two events yesterday, three maybe, three?
DAN BALZ: There are a couple of reasons for that. One is he is the Vice President. He travels on Air Force Two; he can't travel commercial, the Secret Service won't allow that; wherever he goes, in the big or small state he has a motorcade of a dozen cars or maybe seventeen or eighteen cars. There is a big entourage that goes with the Vice President, and not all of his own design, but it just comes from the office and the Secret Service and the kind of police protection he gets. So there's no way he can step out of that and do what a Bill Bradley can do, which is to quietly come into a place or a town or a village or a grocery store or something like that and begin to talk to people. There are agents around whenever the Vice President is there; there's extra security. The schedule this week reflects two things. One, he is doing some personal events, but he's also spending time doing some private meetings with Democratic activists wherever he goes. He is trying to convince them not only in public events but in private events that he really needs their support and he's trying to get from them a sense of what he ought to be doing differently as a candidate.
MARGARET WARNER: All right. So New Hampshire and New York, two early states next year, two early primaries. How precarious a shape do Gore's people think he really is in those states?
DAN BALZ: I think they're very worried about New Hampshire and for good reason. New Hampshire is unique. It's not only the first primary; it's one of the few primary where independent voters are allowed to vote in the Democratic or Republican primary. Bill Bradley does very well with independent voters, Al Gore does not do nearly as well with them. So, they're worried about New Hampshire and that electorate, in addition to it being a place that likes to trip up front runners,. New York is a different problem for them. New York was a terrible state for Al Gore in 1988 when he ran for president the first time. He did badly up here, he came out of here and embarrassed. And I think he's always had a feel that he didn't really understand how to campaign in New York. In addition to that, Bill Bradley was a New York Knicks basketball star for ten years, he was for 18 years the Senator from New Jersey next door. Somebody said to me this week he probably as a politician, had more time on television than virtual live anybody else around. So he's very well known. That puts Vice President Gore in a hole here. They're running roughly even at this point, but Bradley has clearly made up a lot of ground in the last four or five months. And, interestingly, there was a new poll released this week that shows in a general election contest that Bill Bradley beats George W. Bush in this state and Al Gore is I believe it's just narrowly ahead.
MARGARET WARNER: So, finally, before we go, how often does Al Gore talk about Bill Bradley and what kind of contrast is he trying to draw?
DAN BALZ: Two things. At every stop he talks about his challenge to Bill Bradley for a debate, said he's disappointed that Bradley has not yet agreed to debates this year on a regular basis. He's pressing that case hard. He has a laundry list of issues that he says they are different on. But I think the larger issue that he's trying to raise goes to the issue of political character. He's portraying Bradley - and his surrogates are doing it even more vehemently -- as somebody who was a quitter, who walked off the field, as they put it, when the Gingrich revolution took over the Congress. They are trying to show that Bill Bradley has not been there for the big fights and that Al Gore has.
MARGARET WARNER: All right. Thanks, Dan. Thanks very much.
DAN BALZ: Thank you, Margaret.