Clinton Picks Gore As Running Mate -- Democrats' Ticket: Young, Southern And Middle Of The Road
AP: Chicago Tribune
LITTLE ROCK, Ark. - Bill Clinton's decision today to select Tennessee Sen. Albert Gore Jr. as his running mate provides Democrats a young, moderate, all-Southern ticket for the three-way race this fall.
Gore spokeswoman Marla Romash confirmed that the senator had accepted Clinton's invitation to run for a job that Gore four years ago called a "political dead end."
As the product of a Tennessee political family, the 44-year-old Gore gives the ticket a generational appeal. It also could help Clinton in Southern and border states that have been Republican strongholds in recent elections but might be vulnerable in the three-way race involving independent Ross Perot and President Bush.
But the selection of Gore raised some concern at the liberal end of the party. The Rev. Jesse Jackson went on television before the announcement and said the addition of Gore made a "fairly narrow ticket." He questioned whether two Southern moderates could gain labor support.
Jackson - who hasn't even endorsed Clinton yet, let alone Gore - told Fox Morning News that he had "deep concerns."
"It takes two wings to fly and here you have two of the same wing," Jackson said.
One senior Clinton aide said that the Arkansas governor was impressed - and a bit surprised - at the immediate rapport he felt with Gore during their first meeting, held weeks ago.
"I don't think he thought this one would feel right, but he kept going back to Gore, saying, `He's so smart. I feel so comfortable talking to him,' " the aide said.
Clinton's advisers were initially concerned about picking Gore because it was "breaking the mold, age-wise, region-wise," the aide said. But in the end, Clinton decided to forego those worries because he wanted "someone he felt he could have as a partner, to campaign with, to work with," the aide said.
Although the pairing of Gore with Clinton, 45, creates the youngest team fielded by a major party in modern history, the two men have between them more than two decades of political experience at the top levels of state and federal governments.
In 1988, Gore ran for president, so he has been exposed to the rigors and scrutiny of a national campaign. Therefore, no personal problems should be found that would add to the concerns raised about Clinton during the primary season.
Gore's expertise is in the fields of foreign policy and the environment, which would shore up two Clinton weaknesses.
However, Gore was a wooden campaigner in 1988, affable in person but not much of a spark when giving a stump speech.
His wife, Tipper, has crusaded for record companies to voluntarily label albums for offensive lyrics, which could help counter the Bush administration's efforts to campaign on a family values platform but might also bother liberal Democrats.
And Clinton's campaign team reportedly believes that Gore could help Clinton win a few Southern states and force Bush and Perot to spend more time in the region and less in the keys to a Democratic victory: California and the industrial Midwest.
During the 1988 general election, Gore spent considerable time in California campaigning for Democratic nominee Michael Dukakis and is well liked among environmental activists there.
Bush loyalists were quick to dismiss that suggestion today.
"I don't think we'll have any problems at all in the South," said Bush campaign manager Fred Malek, although he said Gore's Tennessee was now within Clinton's grasp.
Another Bush strategist, however, said the Gore pick probably would make more of the South competitive. "We'll have to work harder, absolutely," said the aide, who spoke on condition of anonymity.
While some might view the ticket's youth as a handicap, others argue that voters often turn to atypical candidates when clamoring for change - witness this year's stunning success of women candidates in Senate races.
"This is a pair that can stand up and say, `We are change,' " said Democratic strategist Ann Lewis. "`We want to change our party and change this country and this is how we are going to get there.' "
Less clear is whether Gore's service in Vietnam will offset or underscore Clinton's decision to avoid the draft by promising to join an ROTC program. Also impossible to gauge at this juncture is the electorate's reaction to a ticket whose members both have outspoken wives.
Gore was born in the nation's capital and was just 28 when he went into the family business - politics - following his father into the Congress.
Gore's political heritage complicated his life early, as he faced the choice of many in his generation: whether to serve in the armed forces during the Vietnam War. Albert Gore Sr., a strong opponent of the war, was locked in a bitter re-election battle with Bill Brock in 1970 as the younger Gore faced the prospect of the draft.
Caught between politics and his opposition to the war, Gore joined the Army and was sent to Vietnam, where he was a combat journalist. Some of his letters from Vietnam were published in The (Nashville) Tennessean newspaper, where he worked after returning from the war.
Looking for a career, he attended both law school and divinity school at Vanderbilt University but did not graduate.
Gore won his first political race in 1976, when he clinched a seat in the House. Back in Washington, he dove into environmental and defense issues. In 1984, he moved over to the Senate when former Sen. Howard Baker retired.
As a senator, Gore's environmental advocacy has made him the leading congressional spokesman on the subject.
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