In an article Sunday about the campaigns of Vice President Gore and Bill Bradley, scholars Cornel West, whose name was misspelled, and Henry Louis Gates Jr. were identified with the wrong university. Both are at Harvard. (Published 12/14/99)
Looking beyond the early presidential contests in Iowa and New Hampshire, Vice President Gore visited the South today to offer himself as the Democrat better suited to win the region's blacks, senior citizens and environmentalists.
Careful not to mention Bill Bradley by name--except to cheer his rival's speedy recovery from an irregular heartbeat--Gore nevertheless made clear he intends to knock Bradley out of the nomination fight in the series of southern contests that begin March 7.
"I believe I know what kind of Democrat it's going to take to win the state of Florida and win the White House next November," Gore told several thousand activists at the state convention here after President Clinton warmed up the crowd this morning.
"A Florida Democrat," Gore said, protects Medicare, opposes private school vouchers and rejects efforts to raise the retirement age for Social Security. And, in his most pointed comparison with the former New Jersey senator who is his opponent for the Democratic nomination, Gore added: "I have never been afraid to take on the big pharmaceutical companies."
As he battles back in northeastern states such as New Hampshire and New York, Gore also has begun targeting areas of opportunity where Bradley may not be as well-known. They include Georgia, which holds the first southern primary of the year; Gore's home state of Tennessee; and Florida, a state he and Clinton won in 1996.
Clinton, saying "this is from the heart," told Florida Democrats that Gore is "the most effective and influential vice president who has ever served."
"And he's got a lot of good ideas for the future, too," Clinton added.
At the heart of Gore's nominating strategy is the African American community, which represents about a quarter of the Democratic primary vote across the South. So before flying here, the vice president stopped in Atlanta for a rally with prominent black leaders.
In a neighborhood steeped in the history of slain civil rights leader Martin Luther King Jr., Gore used biblical references to assure the predominantly black audience he will keep up the fight for racial equality. "Anyone who says affirmative action is no longer needed because we've reached the promised land has confused wilderness with Canaan," he said as the crowd rose to its feet and cheered.
"Anyone who says we've already conquered discrimination are not seeing or hearing or feeling the same country we live in," he continued. "We--especially those of us here in the South--are intensely proud of what we have done together. Those who took the blows shed blood that was redemptive for our nation."
Although Bradley has made racial healing a centerpiece of his insurgent campaign and has touted the support of famous--often African American--basketball players, Gore has held an edge with black voters in early polls.
Accompanying him today was campaign Chairwoman Donna Brazile, a veteran grass-roots organizer born in the South and the first black woman to run a major party presidential campaign. She said Gore chose Georgia--and specifically the Atlanta Life Insurance Co.--to collect the backing of 3,000 black officials and activists because of its history and the state primary's place on the political calendar.
The insurance company, founded in 1905 by freed slave Alonzo Franklin Herndon, sits about a mile from King's crypt and the Ebenezer Baptist Church where he preached.
Georgia's March 7 primary--held on the 35th anniversary of the march from Selma to Montgomery--is the first southern contest of the 2000 campaign. Brazile said 25 percent to 30 percent of Georgia's primary voters are African American.
Asked about Bradley's high-profile lineup of black supporters, including former NBA star Michael Jordan and Princeton University professor Cornell West, Brazile matched the Bradley team with a basketball star of her own (Shaquille O'Neal) and a Princeton dean (Henry Louis "Skip" Gates).
"They've got Cornell West and we've got his boss," she smiled, quickly adding entertainers Bill Cosby and Aretha Franklin to the Gore lineup.
Sen. Max Cleland (D-Ga.) predicted Gore would follow in the tradition of Andrew Jackson, another Tennessean who served in the Army, lost his first run for the White House and finally won it in 1836. An early inspiration for the modern Democratic Party, Jackson was known as Old Hickory.
"As you look out along the long line of candidates out there--Republican, Democrat, Libertarian and Reform and God knows what else there is--there is one person that really stands tall and stands firm that you can count on," Cleland said of Gore. "He is the old hickory of this presidential class."
Staff writer Vanessa Williams contributed to this report.