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Gore's Money Troubles
Political Junkie
Send your questions about campaigns and elections.

By Ken Rudin
Special to washingtonpost.com
Friday, June 23, 2000

Question: Will the campaign finance issue haunt Al Gore in his bid for the White House? – Dick Bergstad, Granville, N.D.

Answer: It already has had some effect, but I donít know if Gore is "haunted" by the issue. For example, the official line on why campaign manager Tony Coelho resigned last week was health reasons. But with questions about Goreís 1996 fundraising activities still unanswered, it made no sense to have a similarly scrutinized manager in Coelho. Coelho quit the House in 1989 because of questionable junk-bond dealings, and he remains under investigation over his role as head of the U.S. pavilion during the World Exposition in Portugal in 1998.

It is true that some people have a hard time reconciling Goreís non-stop calls for campaign finance reform with his non-stop fundraising. But will it hurt him in the fall? Bill Bradley obliquely tried to make it an issue during the Democratic primaries earlier this year and got nowhere with it. And Republicans no doubt will be running their Buddhist Temple commercials. But Democrats argue there is little data to support the thesis that Gore will suffer a backlash on this, especially against George W. Bush, who has raised a record $90 million for his own presidential bid.

Question: Polls in Tennessee indicate Al Gore is neck and neck with George W. Bush. I know that George McGovern lost his home state of South Dakota in his famous 1972 blowout to Richard Nixon. Has any other party standard bearer lost his home state in the general election? – John Snyder, Frederick, Md.
McGovern received only 45 percent of the vote in his home state in 1972. (Collection of Ken Rudin)

Answer: It has happened a fair amount of times in the 20th century. Adlai Stevenson (D) was the incumbent governor of Illinois when he ran against Dwight Eisenhower in 1952. He not only lost his home state to Ike that year, but he lost it a second time when he challenged Eisenhower again four years later. New York Gov. Thomas Dewey (R) lost the Empire State to President Franklin D. Roosevelt in 1944, an election in which both candidates were from the same state. There was nothing earth-shattering about Alf Landon, the Republican governor of Kansas, losing his home state to FDR in 1936; Landon managed to lose 46 out of the 48 states that year, carrying only Maine and Vermont. Gov. Al Smith (D) lost his home state of New York to Herbert Hoover in 1928. Former congressman John W. Davis (D) lost West Virginia to Calvin Coolidge in 1924. And Ohio Gov. James Cox (D) struck out at home against Warren Harding in 1920.

The last time a candidate won nationally despite losing his home state was in 1916. President Woodrow Wilson, the former governor of New Jersey, was elected to a second term but was defeated in the Garden State by his GOP opponent, Charles Evans Hughes.

Question: In 1996, Bob Dole was pushed to step down from the Senate because he could not properly fulfill his duties as Senate majority leader while simultaneously running for president. But there has been no suggestion this cycle of having Gore or Bush do the same. Does Gore have different spinners than Bill Clinton had in 1996? – John W. Ford, Richmond, Va.
Democrats loved to link Dole to Newt Gingrich during the '96 campaign. (Collection of Ken Rudin)

Answer: Thereís no reason for Gore to resign the vice presidency, since that is precisely what has gotten him where he is today. Gore does have a tendency for self-reinvention, which began with his moving his campaign headquarters from Washington to Nashville – or, as he would put it, from K Street to Kmart – and swapping his blue suits for blue jeans. He has now been running as the Nice Gore, as opposed to the Mean Gore who took apart Bill Bradley during the Democratic primary season and who had been until recently lambasting Bush every chance he got. Now he has nary a negative thing to say about anybody. And by settling on a strategy of linking himself to President Clinton at every opportunity, quitting as Veep wouldnít make sense. Even Vice President John Nance Garner, who challenged President Franklin Roosevelt for renomination in 1940, didnít give up his day job in making his move. Not that there are a lot of V.P. duties to give up anyway.

The responsibilities of being governor of Texas are not very demanding either. It is a historically weak office, with most of the power held by the lieutenant governor. Bush is taking some heat over the number of death penalty cases he has carried out under his watch, as well as his earlier refusal to embrace hate-crimes legislation in the state. But that doesnít mean a resignation is in the offing.

The situation with Dole was different. His role as majority leader was clearly impeding his campaign. Still, for the record, Dole didnít resign from the Senate in í96 because he couldnít fulfill his duties as majority leader, as you suggested. As leader of a party on Capitol Hill that was constantly getting outsmarted by President Clinton, Dole realized that he could not run for president from Congress. Legislation was in a constant state of gridlock, as Democrats effectively used parliamentary maneuvers to tie up the Senate and rob Dole of showing the voters his legislative craftsmanship. Or they would call for votes they knew would make Dole uncomfortable, such as their clamor for a rise in the minimum wage. Further, his resignation was an attempt to separate himself from Newt Gingrich, the unpopular House speaker whom Democrats were jubilantly linking to Dole.

The initial reaction to Doleís move was positive, and in resigning he gave one of the most eloquent speeches of his long career. But the good reviews didnít last long. Ultimately the move was seen as a gimmick, a strategy to show a "new Dole" – which, after 35 years in Congress, was really too much to expect. The sad thing is, Dole loved the Senate and loved the give-and-take that was needed to keep the institution running. He was not happy to have given it up, and it showed on his face.

Got a question? Ask Ken Rudin: junkie@washingtonpost.com

Ken Rudin, political editor at National Public Radio, is also the creator of washingtonpost.com's ScuttleButton contest.

© Copyright 2000 Ken Rudin

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