Vice President Gore was so infuriated by the Senate's rejection of the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty on Wednesday, he sat down in his Seattle hotel room and penned a response. Then he summoned a camera crew to film his first advertisement of the 2000 campaign.
"I'm angry," Gore told National Public Radio after the vote. He suggested yesterday there was an element of "political spitefulness" in the Senate's action. He said he plans to hammer the issue in his campaign, hoping to link Texas Gov. George W. Bush with the "breathtakingly reckless" vote by congressional Republicans.
"There has never been a time in my memory that issues of war and peace, issues of nuclear security have been handled on a party-line vote in a partisan atmosphere with personal invective directed at the commander in chief," Gore said in an afternoon speech to the centrist Democratic Leadership Council.
Although Gore had been tracking the progress of the treaty for several weeks, aides said they were startled to receive his late-night telephone call Wednesday requesting a camera crew. They distributed copies of his hand-scribbled notations on the ad script.
"I believe in my heart this vote does not speak for the American people," Gore says into the camera. "So why don't we do something about it?"
Battling back from a disappointing summer, the Gore team hopes the ad -- and a softer, biographical spot -- will give him a boost in the early-voting states of Iowa and New Hampshire. As part of Gore's renewed focus on New Hampshire, where he continues to trail Bill Bradley in the polls, the vice president will spend much of the next two weeks there. On Monday, Gov. Jeanne Shaheen, one of the state's best political organizers, plans to endorse him.
Although they refused to say how much money they are spending on the ads, Gore's advisers said a combination of the commercials will air in those states for the next three weeks.
"This is a significant buy," said one Gore strategist. Bradley aides estimate the Gore campaign has purchased more than $244,000 worth of television time in Iowa.
With the exception of multimillionaire Steve Forbes, no other candidate is airing television ads. But the Gore campaign felt pressure to advertise early to slow his steady slide in the polls, especially in New Hampshire, where he and Bradley will make a joint appearance Oct. 27.
"He needs a little bit of momentum," said one Democrat who has informally advised the campaign. "If this gets a little buzz going and narrows the gap in New Hampshire, then it will be worth it."
Also, the nominating season is coming soon. Iowa officials decided yesterday to schedule their caucuses for Jan. 24, eight days before the New Hampshire primaries.
Several political consultants applauded Gore for moving nimbly to demonstrate his foreign policy credentials and draw a sharp contrast with Republicans, though they said it remains to be seen whether the treaty becomes a burning issue with voters.
"This is more about image-building" than the treaty, said Democratic pollster Fred Yang. "Anything that puts him in the position of leadership is good for him." California pollster Paul Maslin, a former Gore adviser, said that to most voters the treaty issue may be coming out of "left field."
"But to have Gore positioned against the Republican Congress is a good thing," Maslin said.
Gore indicated yesterday that he was convinced the public would respond. "I think it should be a political issue in the campaign and I plan to make it an issue in the campaign," he told the DLC members after recounting his late-night filming tale.
In the commercial, Gore promises to resubmit the treaty for Senate ratification if he is elected president next year.
Yet the real challenge for Gore is to begin making a personal connection with voters, said Gerry Chervinsky, an independent pollster who has been tracking the race in New Hampshire. "At the moment, he connects with people on nothing," said Chervinsky. "People like Bradley's story; they like the NBA stuff, they like the Rhodes scholar stuff; they like his whole act."
Gore aides said they hope to counter those perceptions with Gore's retooled, more personal stump speech and the 60-second biographical spot that will begin running next week.