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banner Friday, 11 August, 2000, 16:54 GMT 17:54 UK
The Al and Joe Show
Preparations for the Democratic Convention in Los Angeles
Al Gore hopes to get out of Bill Clinton's shadow
By BBC Washington Correspondent Paul Reynolds

Vice President Al Gore needs a lift from the Democratic Party convention in Los Angeles next week.

He has been put on the defensive by a successful Republican convention in Philadelphia and now needs to level the score.

He has been helped by the choice of his vice presidential running mate - Senator Joseph Lieberman of Connecticut.

Indeed, Joe Lieberman is such an interesting character that there is a danger of Al Gore being overshadowed by his partner.

As an observant Jew, he is the first Jewish American to run for such high office and the first senior Democrat to speak out against President Clinton over Monica Lewinsky.

President Clinton's shadow

But the choice has revived interest in what looked like a campaign in trouble.
Al Gore and his vice presidential pick Joseph Lieberman
Mr Gore's choice for Vice President has renewed interest in the campaign

At a stroke, it undermines the Republican effort to link Vice President Gore to the scandals of the Clinton era.

With Joe at his side, Mr Gore can say that he has distanced himself from the president, even though critics will still recall that, on the day of impeachment, Al Gore said that Bill Clinton would one day be regarded as one of America's greatest presidents.

But Mr Gore needs to do more than that.

He needs to get himself identified with the tremendous economic performance which the United States has achieved over the last eight years in which he and Mr Clinton have been in the White House.

The problem is that many people credit Microsoft marvel Bill Gate for the economic revolution, not Bill Clinton, let alone Al Gore.

This may be unfair. After all, some key deficit reduction measures were taken by the administration, but it remains a problem for the Democratic campaign.

Clintons continue in spotlight

There will therefore be a lot of emphasis in Los Angeles on the American success story.
President Bill Clinton
Bill Clinton may strike too high a profile for Al Gore's taste

The first day, Monday, for example, will highlight "the nation's prosperity and progress."

President Clinton himself will be speaking and will remind people that all this has happened on his and Al Gore's watch.

Hillary Clinton will also speak.

Indeed the Clintons will feature so much in the run up to the convention and on its opening day that there is a real danger of them overshadowing Al Gore like some Shakespearean ghosts.

Over the weekend before the convention, they are holding two glitzy Hollywood events.

On Saturday the First Lady is having a concert to raise money for her Senate campaign and on Sunday the President is invited to a Barbra Streisand brunch to raise money for his presidential library.

Fightin' Al Gore

Mr Gore is also fighting on the theme of "the people against the powerful."
A Gore-Lieberman rally
Mr Gore will have to generate excitement behind his campaign

He hopes to paint George W Bush as the friend of big business and himself as the friend of the common man.

The motto of his pre-convention campaign swing is "Going the distance for America's working families."

The issues he will be stressing are health care including getting all children on health insurance and giving Medicare recipients coverage for prescription drugs, a benefit which was left out when Medicaire for the elderly started.

He will also focus on gun safety, education and retirement security.

Al Bore

But Al Gore's basic problem remains his lack of charisma. He clearly has an able mind but he does not have a natural style.

He has made huge efforts to improve his image, wearing "earthtone" colours of brown and green and holding numerous town meetings.

But at these meetings, his answers tend to drone on; despite the era of the soundbite, he has not mastered the art of speaking in short bursts.

Selling the candidates

In Philadelphia the Republican Party faithful were shown a sentimental film about the wonders of George Bush as a compassionate conservative and concerned cowboy, leaving out all the bits about him going to private school in New England.
The stage of the Democratic National Convention
After the showy conventions, the real race begins

In like manner, the Democrat delegates will be able to swoon at the sight of their man portrayed as the humble man from Carthage, Tennessee, leaving out all the bits about him living in a Washington hotel suite with his dad the Senator.

Remember that conventions are giant sales conventions. They are warm-up shows.

After they are over, the real race will begin.

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See also:

08 Aug 00 | Americas
Public debut for Democrat hopefuls
08 Aug 00 | Americas
Joe Lieberman: Moral crusader
08 Aug 00 | Americas
Gore deputy backs social policies
07 Aug 00 | Americas
Lieberman: The Jewish factor
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