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banner Monday, 7 August, 2000, 01:33 GMT 02:33 UK
Gore seeks comeback formula

By the BBC's Gordon Corera

After seeing his lead in the polls tighten in the run up to Philadelphia, George W Bush is now back to being well ahead in the race to the White House.

The Republican convention was a success and while the lead is unlikely to last once the spotlight moves onto Gore, Bush still has the upper hand.

The whole convention was incredibly carefully orchestrated and controlled by the Bush campaign as the message that Bush was a "different kind of Republican" was rammed down delegates, the media and the public's throats with a parade of speakers whose diversity was not always matched by the party itself.

Bush was trying to dissociate himself from the more harsh Republicanism of the past - embodied in the bitter partisanship of Congress and figures like Newt Gingrich as he tried to convince the American public that they had nothing to fear and much to gain from his "compassionate conservatism".

It seems to have worked well and Bush's acceptance speech was good - if not brilliant - staking out his claim to the centre ground where this election will be won or lost.

Mr Motivator

So what does Al Gore have to do in Los Angeles?

His task is different from Bush's.

Firstly he needs to energise his supporters. While Bush enjoys solid support from the Republican base - 9 out of 10 Republicans say they will vote for him, only three quarters of Democrats say they will vote for Gore, a real problem for the vice-president.

So he will need to get Democrats excited about his candidacy - something they haven't been in the past, partly because they lack the hunger for the White House that the Republicans have after their 8-year exclusion.

In doing this, Gore needs to establish his credentials on the left to prevent votes being siphoned off by Ralph Nader.

Highlight the 'risks'

Gore will also have to negate Bush's "time for a change" mantra. "It won't be long now," was Bush's refrain in Philadelphia, tying Gore to the miasma of scandal surrounding the Clinton presidency and promising a 'change in tone' in Washington.

Gore's best bet will be to say that the change in the form a Bush presidency will be too risky - risky for the environment, the poor, the elderly and others - in other words expect even more negative attacks.

Finally, while Bush's big speech was all about showing he was up to the job and capable of being president, Al Gore has a different task.

This will be his last chance to reinvent himself.

Elusive charm

He keeps trying to do it through his rhetoric and even his clothes but his acceptance speech will be the last real opportunity to shake the old image of a wooden vice-president who lacks the personal touch and charm that made Bill Clinton such a master politician and which George W Bush also seems to have.

Essentially, people like Bush but are not sure he is up to the job, people know Gore is up to the job intellectually and in his knowledge of policy, but people don't warm to him in the same way and are unsure what he really believes in - a problem compounded by his constant reinventions.

His acceptance speech will be Gore's big chance to finally connect with the American people and get them to like him.

Along with the presidential debates in October, conventions are the key moment when American voters decide who they want running their country.

Bush may lead for now, but its who leads after Los Angeles that will really matter.

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See also:

04 Aug 00 | Election news
Who's watching the Convention?
03 Aug 00 | Election news
On the party circuit
01 Aug 00 | Election news
Bush's bumpy centre ground
01 Aug 00 | Election news
The two faces of Philadelphia
29 Jul 00 | Election news
Choreographing the convention
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