Gore goes home to close campaign


Associated Press

CARTHAGE, Tenn. – In the Tennessee hills where his father once charmed voters with a fiddle, Al Gore marked his presidential ballot in seconds today and was back at his own brand of electoral charm – a mini-lecture on civics.

“When you vote, you pick people to represent you and to make decisions that affect our country and affect our lives,” Gore told Forks River Elementary School children sitting on the gym floor outside the curtained booths where the vice president and his family had just voted.

“It’s really important to choose carefully.”

While he asked for a show of hands from students who knew the branches of government, Tipper Gore snapped photographs of three of their four children emerging from the booths – Kristin, Sarah and Albert III, the candidate’s namesake who turned 18 and eligible to vote just last month.

The senior Gore signed line number 32 in the Smith County ledger with a pen that poll worker Lisa Overstreet then tucked into her pocket as a souvenir.

The curtain cranked closed, leaving nothing but his cowboy boots visible to dozens of news cameras. Mrs. Gore beat him out of an adjacent booth and flung her arms wide with a smile that said, “Ta-da!”

“I voted for my husband,” she announced. “I’m so thrilled.”

Watching from bleachers, gray-haired neighbors wearing campaign buttons tut-tutted about polls giving George W. Bush the lead in Gore’s home state and whispered to journalists in from Washington: How’s Al doing in Michigan? Florida?

And still Gore quizzed the kids: “What kind of person do you want to pick for president?”

“My friend,” volunteered a pint-sized boy. Gore appeared to take his answer as a reminder of how much personality and likability have dominated.

“Well,” Gore mused, “that’s probably why most of the candidates run advertisements that try to make you think that they’re like your friend.”

Gore had closed his campaign by admitting he might not win any personality contest. But he offered other strengths – disciplined study and workaholic tenacity – and promised to employ them in stewarding the economy and fighting for universal child health coverage, environmental protections and improvements to public schools, Medicare and Social Security.

Gore’s Democratic presidential candidacy was the culmination of eight years as President Clinton’s understudy, 16 years in the U.S. House and Senate, a failed 1988 White House race, and a childhood spent straddling the Washington circles of his father’s Senate career and the rural family farm in Carthage where the elder Sen. Albert Gore saw his own presidential aspirations wither.

The candidate lunched there with his mother, known to all as “Miss Pauline,” today.

The Gores’ eldest daughter, Karenna, voted today in New York before joining the family in a Nashville hotel suite to watch returns with Joseph Lieberman and his family, who voted in Connecticut.

Politics, a decades-old family legacy, became a lively family affair this season for the once relatively anonymous Gore children.

Kristin and Karenna had their own campaign appearances, while Sarah and Albert piled into their father’s private cabin aboard Air Force Two, playing cards and keeping Mom and Dad company in the grueling, final-days marathon.

Gore was a picture of vigor throughout the day. Around 4 a.m., as campaign aides held their heads in their hands and struggled to appear awake, Gore talked hard-core health policy with nurses at a Tampa, Fla., cancer center. Back at the airport, he phoned a dozen radio stations in order to reach battleground voters on their morning commutes. He dawdled on the tarmac, playing with a football, his long campaign ending.

Copyright ©2000 Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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