By Ceci Connolly
By Ceci Connolly
Richard Gephardt: The earnest House minority leader spent much of 1997 distancing himself from the Clinton-Gore team, on issues ranging from the budget to welfare to free trade. In a speech at Harvard at the end of the year, he thumped New Democrats who "lack core values" and insisted he would be the defender of those left behind. The Missouri Democrat won the Iowa caucuses in 1988 and could cause trouble there for Gore in 2000. As he sizes up the likely competition, Gephardt is positioning himself to the left, staking out the populist, pro-labor, pro-choice, pro-gay rights territory. It's a far cry from the Gephardt of 20 years ago. Back then, he opposed abortion, promoted free trade and fought an increase in the minimum wage.
Al Gore: The worst kept secret in Washington is that Gore really is a fun guy. Get him on a plane at the end of a long day and the pizza-eating, beer-drinking vice president is good company. He's even been known to "surf" the aisles of Air Force Two on laminated plastic cards. Too bad nobody else in America sees this stuff. A career politician, Gore's squeaky-clean image was tarnished in 1997 over ethics questions about fundraising calls. And his "no controlling legal authority" defense was bureaucratic at best. These days, Gore is using his office to deliver goodies to critical primary states and cultivate his reputation as a policy wonk. He meets regularly with the Technology Network, a collection of influential California executives, and he's road-testing his Oprah-style town hall meetings although the index cards have got to go. Tobacco, technology, housing and the environment are his domain, for better or worse.
Andrew Cuomo: With a famous name and a major cabinet post, Cuomo has quickly established himself as a player in Washington. But his political skills were honed long before his arrival at the Department of Housing and Urban Development. He ran his father's gubernatorial campaigns. These days, Cuomo devotes much of his time and energy to getting Gore elected. Why else would he go to New Hampshire in October?
John Kerry: Like his Senate colleague from Nebraska with a similar last name (see below), this Kerry is a handsome Vietnam vet with a healthy appetite for attention. And like Bob Kerrey, he has tempered his liberal tendencies to adjust to the national mood. "Live shot," as he is known in Massachusetts, has done nothing to quell speculation that his victory over then-Gov. William Weld in 1996 was a warm-up for bigger things. Money may be at the heart of his decision whether to tap into the fortune of his wife, Teresa Heinz, and whether he can shake reports his fundraising operation relied on some of Clinton's questionable donors.
Bill Bradley: Always mentioned, never runs. That's the rap on Bradley, a thoughtful former senator known as much for his basketball prowess as his government work. Coy about his plans in 2000, the New Jersey Democrat remains in the public eye with speeches, TV appearances and his work on campaign finance reform. He even has his own weekly fax, the "Bill Bradley News." But the last time he faced a tough challenger, in 1990, he almost lost to then-unknown challenger Christine Todd Whitman.
Bob Kerrey: Enigmatic, independent and dangerously candid, the Nebraska senator continues to toy with a second presidential run. A highly decorated Vietnam veteran, Kerrey once championed such liberal ideas as a broad, government-funded health care system. He now takes on unpopular issues such as entitlements and Social Security. But in a business that rewards loyalty, he is something of a lone wolf. His testy relations with Clinton whom he called an "unusually good liar" date back to the 1992 race, and much of that ill will appears to be directed now at Gore. Kerrey's position as chairman of the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee gives him a fundraising and visibility advantage, but there is little concrete evidence he is tapping that for 2000.
Paul Wellstone: So many quixotic quests, so little time. A product of the rebellious '60s, Wellstone has fought unsuccessfully for public financing of campaigns, a Canadian-style health care system and a wide range of pricey government assistance programs. Once in a while, the Minnesota senator scores a win, including raising the minimum wage, banning gifts to lawmakers and establishing mental health coverage in insurance plans. Last summer, Wellstone embarked on a poverty tour of the South, tracing the path of the late Robert F. Kennedy. The goal, he said, was to draw attention to children and families still left behind. He's a creative candidate, but like Bauer on the right, his campaign would likely be about ideology, not victory.
Ceci Connolly is a national political reporter for The Washington Post. She can be reached at email@example.com
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