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Wednesday, June 16, 1999 Published at 21:36 GMT 22:36 UK

World: Americas

Al Gore: The same, but different

Al Gore wants to forge an identity apart from Bill Clinton

By BBC Washington Correspondent Rob Watson

It is hardly a surprise, but now it is official.

US Vice President Al Gore is looking for a promotion, formally launching his campaign to become the nominee for the Democrats in the 2000 presidential election.

After seven years of being seen as President Clinton's loyal but stiff and boring sidekick, Al Gore has now begun the process of coming out of his boss's shadow.

[ image: Hillary Clinton and Tipper Gore: The Gores want to step out of the Clintons' shadows]
Hillary Clinton and Tipper Gore: The Gores want to step out of the Clintons' shadows
It is not an easy task, but the vice president has clearly decided on a two-point tactic.

He is distancing himself from President Clinton's personal failings as a confirmed adulterer, while identifying with the undoubted economic boom of the Clinton administration years.

As he stood outside the courthouse of his Tennessee home town to announce his candidacy, the recurring theme was values and his own beliefs and morality.

He told the crowd that if he was entrusted with the presidency, he would "marshal its authority ... and moral leadership to fight for America's families".

Clinton supportive

That comes in stark contrast to his comments about his current boss's sexual exploits with Monica Lewinsky, which he described as "inexcusable" in an interview on American television.

But this will hardly come as a surprise to President Clinton, who strongly supports his deputy's presidential ambitions and understands the needs of campaigning.

The two men are still close politically and still friends, and the vice president was also careful in his nomination speech to praise the president's handling of the economy.

So how would a Gore presidency be different?

'Al Bore'

According to the candidate himself it is all about making America not just better off, but better.

Mr Gore promises to add social and spiritual vigour to the undoubted economic health of the country.

So far though the opinion polls are not encouraging for the vice president.

[ image: Tipper Gore says her husband is 'relaxed and sexy']
Tipper Gore says her husband is 'relaxed and sexy'
They show him trailing the leading republican candidate, George Bush, Texas governor and son of the former president, by up to 20 percentage points.

The problem appears to be that Al Gore simply does not excite the voters.

Although his wife Tipper has publicly announced how funny, relaxed and sexy her husband is, the voters do not seem convinced.

They see him as a dull man in a suit with a boring voice and as a politician through and through.

But it would be a big mistake to write the vice president off.

He is clearly a decent man and an experienced politician.

£9m fighting fund

The son of a senator, Mr Gore has been immersed in politics his whole life and served 16 years in the Congress before becoming vice president.

He has already amassed some $9m of campaign funds to fight this election.

In addition Mr Gore has only one challenger for the democrat nomination, while George Bush has several Republican rivals.

Mr Gore also has one of America's most skilful politicians, Bill Clinton, to give him advice and the platform of the vice presidency to keep his profile high.

Most important of all is America's current economic boom and voters' renowned tendency to vote with their wallets.

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