Gore strikes a chord with Democratic delegates

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Gore Strikes A Chord With Democratic Delegates

STEVE KRASKE and SCOTT CANON - The Kansas City Star

Date: 08/17/00 23:10

LOS ANGELES -- Republicans left their national convention in Philadelphia convinced their nominee would be the next president of the United States.

Today, Democrats fly from Los Angeles confident of having a winner but conscious that it will take some work.

Part of the reason for their optimism was Gore's acceptance speech on Thursday, in which he focused on working families.

"So often, powerful forces and powerful interests stand in your way, and the odds seem stacked against you, even as you do what's right for you and your family. How and what we do for all of you...that is the standard by which we should be judged."

One piece of bad news for Vice President Al Gore as the convention drew to a close were reports out of Washington that the independent counsel had empaneled a new grand jury to investigate President Clinton. The news could make it even more difficult for Gore to escape Clinton's shadow.

Still the race between Gore and Texas Gov. George W. Bush remains a work in progress. The polls are all over the lot. Voters remain largely uninterested and may not tune in for weeks. And any issue that's going to decide the race still isn't apparent.

But for now, the Democrats have largely matched their Republican rivals in staging a highly scripted, finely calculated convention. Both major parties have been able to reshape their gatherings into large-scale promotional efforts that cloak intramural strains.

"You expect (the Democratic convention) to be a little more casual, a little less manageable," said Bruce Buchanan, a University of Texas political scientist. "Nobody regards that as any special problem."

For sure, the Democrats faced more obstacles in presenting an unfettered message to the American people. There were questions about how much President Clinton's presence would diminish Gore's promotion to party leader.

African-American delegates wondered aloud about vice-presidential nominee Joseph Lieberman's commitment to concerns such as affirmative action. The Teamsters union, an important segment of the labor constituency, still hasn't endorsed Gore.

And the vice president faced new questions about his viability. A USA Today/CNN poll released on the convention's opening day showed that 47 percent of likely voters across the country had decided that they definitely would not support him.

But some of the controversy was expected. This was, after all, a Democratic convention, and Democrats have a reputation for laying out their disagreements for all to see.

A bipartisan Voter.com poll released Thursday morning showed Gore making some progress, but there was still a considerable distance between him and Bush. If the election were held today, voters told the survey, 48 percent would back Bush, 37 percent Gore, 3 percent Green Party nominee Ralph Nader and 2 percent Reform Party nominee Patrick Buchanan.

The poll Thursday of 1,000 likely voters found Bush leading in one key swing group: married, white, working women by a 2-to-1 margin. However, it also showed Gore gaining in the Midwest, where several crucial states are perceived to be in play. And in general, independents have been moving toward the Democrat during his convention, and he may be winning some Nader supporters back to his camp.

In Los Angeles, Democrats said their goal was to leave with the race tied up. In the wake of the Republican convention, pollsters had Bush leading by double-digit margins.

"We want this race to be back inside the margin of error," said Joe Andrew, national chairman of the Democratic National Committee.

Republicans, meantime, were confident that Bush was still the favorite.

Daryl Duwe, a spokesman for the Missouri GOP, said Thursday that he was more confident of a November win than he had been before the Democratic convention.

"I don't hear a mainstream-type of message coming out of that convention," Duwe said. "They just can't resist going back to their liberal base."

A better read will come about 10 days from now, when the electorate has had time to digest the events of the two conventions.

In Philadelphia, the Republicans had the luxury of appealing to independent and undecided voters, because the GOP base stood firmly behind Bush. In Los Angeles, Democrats faced the twin tasks of pursuing those same centrist voters and shoring up wayward party members.

The Democrats sought to appease their liberal base by devoting much of Tuesday night to party stalwarts such as the Rev. Jesse Jackson, former Sen. Bill Bradley and Sen. Ted Kennedy. In contrast, the Republicans made no such appeal, and conservative party leaders were largely confined to the sidelines at the GOP convention.

On Tuesday, Lieberman had what appeared to be a successful meeting with black delegates that apparently quelled any lingering resentments.

"You have your questions, and you want them answered," said the Rev. Nelson Thompson, a delegate from Kansas City. "But he answered them, and we have all rallied around Joe Lieberman."

In fact, Lieberman repeated the Clinton administration's pledge to "mend, don't end" affirmative action, and black leaders appeared to drop their reservations about the ticket.

Intraparty complications like that conjure memories of the Republicans' 1992 convention, when President George Bush talked of a "kinder and gentler nation" while Pat Buchanan shouted that the country was locked in culture war.

"It's 1992 in reverse," said Leonard Williams, a political scientist at Manchester College in North Manchester, Ind. "The Republicans are willing to submerge their differences to get behind a candidate that can win. The Democrats were more willing to do that when they were desperate to get back in the White House."

Appealing to independents will be difficult and could take longer than just the Democrats' four-day convention, Bruce Buchanan, the Texas political scientist, said. Gore must deal with what Buchanan called his "LL" problem -- Gore's perceived lack of leadership and likability. Undecided voters won't listen to Gore's message, he said, if they don't like him.

"Bush has made this about leadership and likability. He's got that advantage," Buchanan said. "Unless Gore can neutralize that advantage, Gore will be unable to change the subject to policy."

Even among the hard-core Democrats at the convention, there is a realization of campaign work to be done, and that the lease on the White House does not get renewed automatically.

"With party people, there is the understanding that the presidency tends to turn over from one party to the other every eight years," said Mary Ellen Miller, a Democratic political strategist from Blue Springs. "That's something we've got to beat."

Donna Collins, president of the Missouri Education Association and a middle school teacher from Grandview, senses her allies came into the convention "well, lackadaisical."

"But," she said, "the enthusiasm and urgency grew during the week."

To reach Steve Kraske, political correspondent, call (816) 234-4312 or send e-mail to skraske@kcstar.com. All content ) 2000 The Kansas City Star

-- 2000 Election Watcher (2000@election.watcher), August 18, 2000


"Gore must deal with what Buchanan called his "LL" problem --"

I just couldn't resist : )

-- capnfun (capnfun1@excite.com), August 18, 2000.


Oh darn, when he's done dealing with his LL problem he will probably be too tired to restle.:-(

sulking goes back to the top.


-- consumer (shh@aol.com), August 18, 2000.

Personally, I was [for the most] pleased with the Democratic convention. They weren't trying to hide their more radical members, as demonstrated by the Republican Convention. They weren't trying to appeal to a base that wasn't already represented by representatives in Congress. I'm looking forward to the debates.

-- Anita (Anita_S3@hotmail.com), August 18, 2000.


I would look forward to the debates as well,when they let the other parties participate.They don't want ANY competition,elitest scumbags that they are.

-- capnfun (capnfun1@excite.com), August 18, 2000.


I don't think it's so much eliticism that is keeping the other parties out of the debates, but WHERE one would draw the line. For instance, there are 34 seats up for re-election this year in the Senate. There are 71 candidates seeking Senate seats:

3 Independent

1 Natural Law

6 Reform

22 Democratic

5 Green

22 Republican

12 Libertarian.

Notice there's no mention of the Socialist party or some of the other lesser-known parties. Jesse Ventura demonstrated that a third party COULD win an election into Congress, but I think until one of the third parties demonstrates that it can gather more than casual interest, the candidate from that party would be blowing in the wind in any debates.

One idea is simply elimination of ANY political affiliation with a candidate. There's absolutely nothing in the Constitution to suggest that the founders intended for parties to be involved. Why do we need a majority leader and minority leader? We don't.

-- Anita (Anita_S3@hotmail.com), August 18, 2000.

Gore is the son of satan...(sorry AL-D)

-- Uncle Bob (unclb0b@aol.com), August 21, 2000.

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