The expectations game is in full swing as the Los Angeles Democratic Convention comes to an end. Gore sources tell Whispers that their internal polls suggest the veep's 5 percentage points behind George W. Bush, a gap narrow enough to close. "When the convention is over, I'd like to be even," says Gore campaign boss Bill Daley. "I think we have a shot." But a Democratic pollster says it won't be easy. "Realistically, it's more that Gore wins by 1" percent if at all, says the pollster. "He's got an uphill but winnable fight."
What is it with the Democrats? Are they organizationally challengedor what? At the GOP convention, the House Republican leadership imported over 100 cars to chauffeur their guys around Philadelphia, and the Bush team relied on a huge fleet of its own. You'd think the Dems would take a cueat least on the transportation front. But nooo . . . Instead, top Gore aides were reduced to flagging down taxis or hitching rides in media limos to get to meetings and interviews.
A group of volunteers who traveled the nation to promote their favorite son, Vice President Al Gore, has invented the "Gore Corps." Their model: President Clinton's Arkansas Travelers, which the prez created in 1992. What does the corps do? For one thing, volunteers talked up their boy to most of the state delegations to the Democratic convention. But it seems there was some snickering in the Arkansas delegation that the Gore cheerleaders blew it when they named themselves. The corps, said one Arkie, should have been called the "Tennessee Walkers."
Democrats once hopeful that some of Bill Clinton's charisma would rub off on Vice President Al Gore have thrown in the towel and are now claiming the veep's just fine the way he iswooden personality and all. "If people say he's not comical enough," offers Arkansas Sen. Blanche Lincoln, "supporters should counter: 'I don't want a clown for president.' " And if that tack fails, says Virgie Rollins, a Motown delegate who's been to eight straight Democratic conventions, try this: Gore may be dull, "but he's brainy."
The Dems may be holding their party confab in laid-back L.A., but they're anything but cool when it comes to, of all things, signs. Get this: When GOPers held their convention in Philly a couple of weeks back, they let delegates bring their own placards to the floor. But don't try that at the Dems' party. A sign posted at the entrance gates to the Staples Center warns against bringing weapons into the hall, including "signs or placards." Instead, interns hand out specially designated placards before every major speaker beginswith strict orders to delegates to use the right one.
Here's one invention Vice President Al Gore doesn't mind sharing: being the first political big to suggest the death of the internal combustion engine. Gore's been whacked by Republicans for being a radical in making the call in his manifesto, Earth in the Balance. But friends now think they've found some cover in, of all people, former President Nixon. The father of the Environmental Protection Agency called for "motor vehicles with alternative, low-pollution power source" way back in 1970. At the time, officials were looking at steam and natural gas. "So the Republicans should lay off!" says one ally.
The Bush dynasty
They won't admit it, but the Gore team is jealous of the Bush name. Seems they thought the Gore name and legacy of public service left by Al Gore's late dad would help the vice president. But insiders say it hasn't happened. On the other hand, they say, George W. Bush has gotten a bounce from his famous name, largely because people still remember his dad. "He gets a lot just by being a Bush," grumbles a top Gore adviser. No sour grapes there, huh?
Among the most popular campaign buttons and bumper stickers seen in L.A.: "Read my lips, no new Texans," and "No More Bush-it." Then there's the T-shirt that reads: "Lick Bush and Dick." And what about the button worn by members of the Arkansas delegation: "I'll only sleep with Democrats." Aware that President Clinton is a big collector of political buttons, several delegates have tried to get one to the prez.
There's lots of evidence that labor is running the show at the Democratic National Convention. First off, about one third, or 1,500, of the delegates on the floor are card-carrying union members. Then there are the strict rules barring anyone but local union folks from carrying equipment or even Federal Express packages into the convention facility. The catch: It costs more to have a union worker walk a Federal Express package into the building than it does to send it.
Here we go again . . . One party charging the other's candidate is "slick" and a "slave" to special interests. What a surprise. This time it's the Democratic National Committee, which charges in a "confidential" campaign operation plan sent to supporters that "George W. Bush is a skilled politician who will say anything to win and who is backed by an awesome fundraising machine and the full might of the Republican Party. He can also count on the strong support of powerful special interests like the NRA, the Christian Coalition, and Big Tobacco, whose slick political consultants and campaign war chests will be fully committed to a Bush victory." Adds DNC National Chair Joe Andrews, "As a committed Democrat, you no doubt share my dread over the nightmarish prospect of both a Republican president and Republican-controlled Congress. . . . It would unleash the extreme Republican congressional agenda."
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