By Ken Rudin
Question: What are some of the likely names that Vice President Al Gore has on his running-mate list for 2000? I've heard everyone from Andrew Cuomo to Dianne Feinstein to Hillary Clinton. They'd all make a lot of sense. Roben Farzad, Miami, Fla.
I see Cuomo more as a high-ranking Gore administration or Cabinet official than a vice presidential hopeful. I confess I was surprised he opted out of a run for the seat being vacated by New York Sen. Daniel Patrick Moynihan (see the Nov. 25 and Feb. 5 columns). He seems to have the gut instinct to make it in electoral politics, a trait learned at the knee of his father, former New York governor Mario Cuomo. As for Hillary Clinton, she may have other plans.
Other names I've heard floating around include Evan Bayh, the newly-elected senator from Indiana, and Jeanne Shaheen, in her second term as governor of New Hampshire. If you're looking for a long shot, I'd take a look at John Edwards, the freshman senator from North Carolina, who ousted Lauch Faircloth last year. He's rich, smart, attractive and clearly ambitious.
Of course, the old criteria that got people named to the ticket -- such as geographical or ideological balance -- may no longer apply. Bill Clinton threw that formula out the window when he picked Gore in '92, and it proved to be a very smart choice.
Question: Is there any chance that Wisconsin's Mr. Clean, Sen. Russ Feingold, could get tapped for V.P.? With Gore's fundraising issues, Feingold could be a great teammate. Andy Wiesner, Madison, Wis.
Answer: Feingold's reputation for independence was enhanced during the impeachment trial of President Clinton. In late January, he voted against the motion to dismiss the case and in favor of calling witnesses -- the only Democrat to do so, and in fact the only senator to break party lines on either vote. He also was the only Democrat to vote against Minority Leader Tom Daschle's early February motion to move directly to closing arguments without hearing witnesses. He ultimately voted not to convict the President.
Such independence might not be welcomed at a Democratic convention that is surely going to be a gigantic Clinton love fest. And if the retiring president has any say in Gore's campaign, I would suspect rewarding the one Democrat who didn't vote in lockstep in favor of their leader would not be on his wish list.
Question: Do you see the Rev. Jesse Jackson playing a role in Gore's inner circle? Ron Kisner, Cleveland, Ohio
Answer: By most accounts, Gore and Jackson have worked well together during the past six years. They have treated each other with respect, even while Jackson was flirting with making a bid for the 2000 nomination. Jackson has said that he would push for the naming of an African-American running mate, but there is no talk of "demands" that clouded Jackson's relationship with previous nominees Walter Mondale ('84) and Michael Dukakis ('88).
However, one should remember that Jackson and Gore were at each other's throats during their unsuccessful bids for the 1988 Democratic presidential nomination. That was especially true during the New York primary, where Gore ran as a fierce defender of Israel and his campaign, led by then-New York Mayor Ed Koch, relentlessly focused on Jackson's association with Nation of Islam leader Louis Farrakhan. Perhaps those memories are forgotten. Perhaps not.
Question: On key positions, how are former senator Bill Bradley and Vice President Gore different? Elmore Lockley, Yorktown, Va.
Answer: Bradley is trying hard to point out contrasts between Gore and himself. He says he had a life before politics -- as a star forward for the New York Knicks during the 1960s and '70s -- while Gore knows nothing other than the life plotted out for him by his father, the late Senator Albert Gore Sr. Bradley talks about growing up in small-town Missouri, while Gore, for all his Tennessee farm stories, was born and raised in a Washington, D.C., hotel and attended private schools in the nation's capital. Bradley is against the military spending increases proposed by Clinton and seconded by Gore. Bradley really draws the line over the changes in welfare during the Clinton administration. The ex-New Jersey senator has called the reform measures a "disaster" that have hurt the very people it was designed to help.
Question: How serious of a threat is Bradley to Gore for the Democratic nomination? Randi Rothbaum, West Orange, N.J.
Maybe the media has become bored with what looked like a prospective anointment, but things have changed in the last few weeks. The inevitability of Al Gore no longer looks so inevitable. Even the Washington Post's David Broder wrote, "The script for a possible upset is becoming clear." Gore continues to trail prospective GOP candidates George W. Bush and Elizabeth Dole in every trial matchup. His stiff, uninspiring campaign style has yet to connect with most voters. He has been ridiculed for his claim of having invented the Internet and focusing on things like local traffic congestion. For all the money he's stockpiled, questions remain over his fundraising methods, whereas Bradley is seen as a "Mr. Clean." And Gore may still have to live down the fact that on the day the House voted to impeach, he called Clinton "one of our greatest presidents."
Plus, Bradley has assumed the Anybody-But-Gore mantle, thus attracting support from anyone who has a beef with the administration. And if the situation in Kosovo gets more hopeless, it is bound to drag down the vice president -- as Vietnam helped drag down Hubert Humphrey in 1968.
Yet there are caveats to all this. Polls this early in the campaign season are meaningless, as President Ed Muskie well knows. For all the mocking of Gore's wooden style, Bradley is no Mr. Charisma either. It's not easy to sell oneself as an anti-establishment figure after spending 18 years in the U.S. Senate. And there is no indication that welfare reform will translate into votes. In addition, Bradley has shown a propensity more for raising questions than offering solutions, and while he says he is making the "quest for racial unity" a key theme in his bid for the White House, it is thus far short on specifics.
I would still keep my money on Gore. But this is no longer the slam-dunk it once looked like.
Question: Does Vice President Gore have any deep, dark secrets? Jo Roybal, Albuquerque, N.M.
Answer: Not that I know of.
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© Copyright 1999 Ken Rudin