Al Gore’s election loss could be Clinton’s gain


The New York Times

WASHINGTON – Only days after they steadfastly defended Vice President Al Gore as the man who should be president, many prominent Democrats now say it would be difficult for him to stage a comeback in 2004. Instead, they are looking to someone who will never again run for president to serve as the driving force in opposition party: Bill Clinton.

As the party prepares for a spell out of power in both Congress and the White House, tensions are already flaring between loyalists of Gore and Clinton over who should have more say over the future of the Democrats.

For all their effusive praise for Gore’s concession speech last week, several leading Democrats say they still believe he was a flawed candidate who squandered a prime opportunity to capture the White House.

“Gee whiz, I wouldn’t begrudge the guy for wanting to try again,” said Sen. Joseph Biden of Delaware, who friends say has toyed with running himself in 2004. “Ironically, the closeness of the election has put a sheen back on him that I’m not sure can be sustained for four years. It will be an uphill battle for him to get the nomination again.”

Given that Clinton remains a more popular figure in the party than Gore, many Democrats said they would turn to him to help set the message for the party and raise money. The latest Wall Street Journal/NBC News poll shows that nationally Clinton has an impressive 66 percent approval rating – higher than two other popular postwar presidents, Ronald Reagan and Dwight Eisenhower, at the close of their terms.

Even Tony Coelho, Gore’s former campaign chairman, said Clinton was now the leader of the party, although the vice president was the standard bearer in 2000.

“Bill Clinton is the incumbent president and the so-called last winner, so he is the de facto leader,” said Coelho, a former congressman from California. “He will be the one that the party will depend on to raise money and to be a major voice in whatever they’re doing across the country.”

He added: “I submit to you, we’re going to have a governor’s race in New Jersey next year – and Mr. Clinton will draw the biggest crowd.”

Clinton, who apparently has not settled on what he intends to do when he leaves office aside from working on his presidential library, has encouraged the interest, telling influential Democrats that he intends to play an energetic role.

“He is serious,” said Sen. Tom Daschle of South Dakota, the Senate Democratic leader. “He has indicated to me that he will be helpful to work with us in Congress to articulate our message and help with fund-raising. He will always be the one who energizes our base. He enjoys a depth of friendship and a network of relationships around the country that is pretty remarkable.”

A telling example of Clinton’s desire to stay influential is that he is moving behind the scenes to install his best friend and the party’s top fund-raiser, Terry McAuliffe, in the job of chairman of the party.

Though Gore belatedly signed on to the idea, Clinton’s move infuriated some Gore loyalists who complained that Clinton was trying to impose his own team without regard to the vice president’s wishes.

To be sure, in the minds of some people, Clinton’s presence was a liability to the ticket after the scandal that led to his impeachment but ended in acquittal.

But adding to the Clinton family’s expected political power, some Democrats also said that Hillary Clinton, the senator-elect from New York, will have a larger role in the party than Gore – and that Clinton’s stature will be enhanced by his wife.

“He’s not someone who’s going to be relegated to backstage,” said Art Torres, chairman of the California Democratic Party. “He’ll continue to have a role, not only as the spouse of a senator, but his energy and commitment will always be there.”

One reason why many Democrats are turning to Clinton over Gore is that they contend that the vice president made a fundamental mistake during the campaign by not emphasizing the administration’s accomplishments.

“I’m very sorry that he lost the presidency by such a close margin,” said Tom Giblin, chairman of the New Jersey Democratic Party. “But politics is not like horseshoes: you don’t get a prize for second place. It’s going to be very difficult for Al Gore to come back.”

Expressing concern that Gore neglected the president during the campaign, Giblin added, “My attitude was that Bill Clinton brought Al Gore to the dance. He should have gone home with him from the dance.”

Torricelli said “there will be a sense of entitlement” on Gore’s part because of the close outcome. But he said that while there was “sympathy” for Gore’s loss, “there is a deep disappointment that his campaign was unsuccessful in nearly ideal circumstances following a successful Clinton presidency, an expanding economy and Democratic dominance of most national issues.”

In a statement e-mailed to The New York Times, Gore said he had made no decisions about his next career move, let alone whether he will run for president in 2004.

“I’m not going to make any decisions about what I do next in life until I take some time off,” Gore said.

Talk to us

> Give us your news tips.

> Send us a letter to the editor.

> More Herald contact information.

More in Local News

Traffic idles while waiting for the lights to change along 33rd Avenue West on Tuesday, April 2, 2024 in Lynnwood, Washington. (Olivia Vanni / The Herald)
Lynnwood seeks solutions to Costco traffic boondoggle

Let’s take a look at the troublesome intersection of 33rd Avenue W and 30th Place W, as Lynnwood weighs options for better traffic flow.

A memorial with small gifts surrounded a utility pole with a photograph of Ariel Garcia at the corner of Alpine Drive and Vesper Drive ion Wednesday, April 10, 2024 in Everett, Washington. (Olivia Vanni / The Herald)
Death of Everett boy, 4, spurs questions over lack of Amber Alert

Local police and court authorities were reluctant to address some key questions, when asked by a Daily Herald reporter this week.

The new Amazon fulfillment center under construction along 172nd Street NE in Arlington, just south of Arlington Municipal Airport. (Chuck Taylor / The Herald) 20210708
Frito-Lay leases massive building at Marysville business park

The company will move next door to Tesla and occupy a 300,0000-square-foot building at the Marysville business park.

A Mukilteo firefighter waves out of a fire truck. (Photo provided by Mukilteo Fire Department)
EMS levy lift would increase tax bill $200 for average Mukilteo house

A measure rejected by voters in 2023 is back. “We’re getting further and further behind as we go through the days,” Fire Chief Glen Albright said.

An emergency overdose kit with naloxone located next to an emergency defibrillator at Mountain View student housing at Everett Community College on Tuesday, March 5, 2024 in Everett, Washington. (Olivia Vanni / The Herald)
To combat fentanyl, Snohomish County trickles out cash to recovery groups

The latest dispersal, $77,800 in total, is a wafer-thin slice of the state’s $1.1 billion in opioid lawsuit settlements.

A giant Bigfoot creation made by Terry Carrigan, 60, at his home-based Skywater Studios on Sunday, April 14, 2024 in Monroe, Washington. (Annie Barker / The Herald)
The 1,500-pound Sasquatch: Bigfoot comes to life in woods near Monroe

A possibly larger-than-life sculpture, created by Terry Carrigan of Skywater Studios, will be featured at this weekend’s “Oddmall” expo.

Deputy prosecutors Bob Langbehn and Melissa Samp speak during the new trial of Jamel Alexander on Tuesday, April 16, 2024, at Snohomish County Superior Court in Everett, Washington. (Ryan Berry / The Herald)
Second trial begins for man accused of stomping Everett woman to death

In 2021, a jury found Jamel Alexander guilty of first-degree murder in the killing of Shawna Brune. An appellate court overturned his conviction.

New Jersey company acquires Lynnwood Land Rover dealership

Land Rover Seattle, now Land Rover Lynnwood, has been purchased by Holman, a 100-year-old company.

Dave Calhoun, center, on Capitol Hill in Washington, DC, on Jan. 24. (Samuel Corum / Bloomberg)
Boeing fired lobbying firm that helped it navigate 737 Max crashes

Amid congressional hearings on Boeing’s “broken safety culture,” the company has severed ties with one of D.C.’s most powerful firms.

Authorities found King County woman Jane Tang who was missing since March 2 near Heather Lake. (Family photo)
Body of missing woman recovered near Heather Lake

Jane Tang, 61, told family she was going to a state park last month. Search teams found her body weeks later.

Deborah Wade (photo provided by Everett Public Schools)
‘We are heartbroken’: Everett teacher died after driving off Tulalip road

Deborah Wade “saw the world and found beauty in people,” according to her obituary. She was 56.

Snohomish City Hall on Friday, April 12, 2024 in Snohomish, Washington. (Olivia Vanni / The Herald)
Snohomish may sell off old City Hall, water treatment plant, more

That’s because, as soon as 2027, Snohomish City Hall and the police and public works departments could move to a brand-new campus.

Support local journalism

If you value local news, make a gift now to support the trusted journalism you get in The Daily Herald. Donations processed in this system are not tax deductible.