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Wednesday, June 16, 1999 Published at 23:54 GMT 00:54 UK

World: Americas

Gore puts family first

Al Gore with wife Tipper: "Values of faith and family"

American Vice-President Al Gore has formally announced his candidature for the 2000 presidential election.

Philippa Thomas in Tennessee: The home town welcome was rapturous
Mr Gore, 51, promised moral leadership to tackle what he called the crisis in the American family and sought to distance himself from the scandals that have hit President Bill Clinton.

Al Gore announces his candidature for President of the United States
He told a rally of several thousand people in his home town of Carthage, Tennessee: "There is a hunger and thirst for goodness among us ... If you entrust me with the presidency, I will marshal its authority, its resources and its moral leadership to fight for America's values.

[ image:  ]
"These are our deficits now: the time deficit in family life, the decency deficit in our common culture, the care deficit for our little ones and our elderly parents.

"With your help I will take my own values of faith and family to the presidency to build an America that is not only better off but better."

The announcement came a few hours after he made a strong attack on the morals of President Clinton.

Vice-President Gore:"Should we have had to go through it? No."
Mr Gore said the consequences of the president's affair with the White House trainee, Monica Lewinsky, had put a strain on his relationship with Mr Clinton.

He said he had had to show steadfastness during a difficult year, and he questioned whether all the disruption need have happened.

Cracking jokes

"Particuarly as a parent I felt what he did was inexcusable, but by the good graces of the American people we got through it," he said.

[ image: Al Gore: Trying to shake off stiff image]
Al Gore: Trying to shake off stiff image
Political observers say that one of the challenges facing Mr Gore is to run on the successful policies of the Clinton administration, without being tarred by its scandals - including the Monica Lewinsky affair, that led to the president's impeachment.

But they say the vice-president's image as an upstanding husband and father is unchallenged.

The vice-president also tried to use his home state launch to shake off his image as being stiff and boring, cracking jokes and speaking in Spanish.

Al Gore's long-time friend James Bass speaks to the BBC's PhilippaThomas: Al Gore can be a strong leader
He first ran for the post in 1988 but failed to attract enough public support. More than a decade later, he holds a solid lead in the opinion polls, as well as money raised, over his only Democratic rival, former Senator Bill Bradley of New Jersey.

But there is concern among Democrats about his ability to win the presidency.

So far the polls do not look good for Mr Gore, showing him some 20 percentage points behind the leading Republican contender George Bush, the governor of Texas and son of the former president.

Mr Gore is launching his campaign early in an attempt to cut that lead and to help add to the $9m or so he has already raised to fight the election.

With America's economy booming, Washington insiders say the vice-president should not be written off, whatever the polls say now.

Mr Clinton was in Geneva at the beginning of a European tour, but called Mr Gore from from his motorcade "to wish him good luck".

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