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banner Thursday, 17 August, 2000, 23:10 GMT 00:10 UK
Gore's last chance to impress?

By the BBC's Gordon Corera in LA

In a large hall, but in front of a sparse crowd here in Los Angeles, film director Rob Reiner was interviewing childhood friends of Al Gore.

It was a long list of people - from a former governor of Tennessee to family friends to someone who met Mr Gore at a county fair when they were young men.

And on the convention floor on Wednesday night there was a similar testimony from actor Tommy Lee Jones - a room-mate of Mr Gore from their days as undergraduates at Harvard and then an even more personal tribute from Mr Gore's eldest daughter, Karenna.

Tommy Lee Jones
Actor Tommy Lee Jones was just one of many friends lining up to endorse Gore
The purpose of these personal testimonies, and arguably of the whole convention, is to re-launch the vice-president to the American people - to humanise him and to energise a campaign that has been struggling to excite both its own supporters and the public at large.

People already have a deeply ingrained image of Al Gore, built up over his last eight years as vice-president, and it's not entirely positive. Strategists are hoping that stories of Al growing up on the farm or playing with his daughter will end the perception of him as stiff and boring.

Artificial

When I asked Rob Reiner why the exercise was necessary, he said that even though it's the issues that count, in the modern world, people have to like their president and on that issue, George W Bush wins - even Reiner admitted that most people would rather have a beer with the Texas governor.

Karenna Gore Schiff and Al Gore
The most personal testimony came from Gore's daughter
So Mr Gore has to make people like him - not an easy task, especially because the chances are that the harder he tries the less likely he is to succeed because he will look too artificial.

The atmosphere is different here from Philadelphia - after eight years out of office, the Republicans are desperate to win and willing to do what it takes.

In Los Angeles, there has been less sense of purpose so far.

The rhythm has also been different - in Philadelphia it all built up to Mr Bush's speech on the last night, but here Bill Clinton managed to energise and excite the delegates on Monday night in a way Mr Gore will struggle to match in his moment.

Paradoxes

Tensions have been rising between the Clinton and Gore entourages over just how much of the limelight Bill Clinton continues to capture and whose convention this really is.

Bill Clinton and Al Gore
Whose convention is it anyway? Bill Clinton has taken much of the limelight
Off the record, both White House and Gore campaign officials express their frustration with each other over who controls the news agenda.

The Gore campaign strategy is full of paradoxes - it has to strengthen his support with liberals but also appeal to the centre where the election will be win.

It has to talk about the issues but also get across the fact that Mr Gore has a personality. And it has to distinguish itself from the Clinton years whilst also taking credit for the prosperity America enjoys.

Squaring the circle will be a tough task for Al Gore. But his acceptance speech may be his last chance.

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17 Aug 00 | Americas
Make-or-break time for Gore
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