As Al Gore contemplates another run for president, Sen. Byron L. Dorgan (D-N.D.) has some crisp advice: Don't do it again.
"Al Gore is a fine person, and I like him," Dorgan said in an interview. "My feeling is that our party must turn the page."
Dorgan, burned by the way Gore and the national Democratic Party ran the 2000 presidential campaign, sent the former vice president a three-page letter in April outlining his complaints. He blamed Gore for issuing an "I give up" message in North Dakota and many other states long before the campaign was over.
"It's one thing to try and fail," Dorgan said in the letter. "But I think it is unforgivable to fail to try. . . . I want a presidential candidate who will give us a fighting chance in the heartland states."
Dorgan said over the weekend that his views haven't changed. "Vice President Gore is pretty much a known commodity," he said. "My own view is that, at this point, I hope he will make a decision not to seek the presidency."
Dorgan's letter carries an inherent warning to other Democrats thinking of running in 2004. Democratic candidates in Republican-leaning states need financial and rhetorical support from the party's presidential nominee and national organization to avoid what happened in North Dakota in 2000, which was a Republican sweep.
Dorgan isn't the only Democratic elected official sounding off about Gore lately. Rep. Barney Frank (D-Mass.) said last week he thinks Gore should not run.
"Gore would lose," Frank told the Boston Herald, adding that the aftermath of Sept. 11, 2001, had made Bush much more popular. "Al's been wounded," Frank said. "It's not his fault and it's unfair, but it's reality."
Gore has said he will announce a decision shortly after the holidays.
Senate Democrats Prime for '04
Senate Democrats yesterday tapped Sens. Jon S. Corzine of New Jersey and Debbie Stabenow of Michigan -- whose contacts stretch from Wall Street to auto unions -- to lead the party's effort take back control of the Senate in 2004.
Corzine, a former chairman of the Goldman Sachs investment firm who made history by spending $60 million to win his seat two years ago, will be in charge of candidate recruitment and fundraising as chairman of the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee. Fellow first-termer Stabenow, who was regarded as a skillful dollar-stretcher in a campaign boosted by strong union support, will be vice chairman.
Although Democrats lost their Senate majority in last month's elections, Sen. Mary Landrieu's reelection in Saturday's hotly contested runoff in Louisiana has lifted their spirits. "We have bounce in our step this morning," said Senate Democratic leader Thomas A. Daschle (D-S.D.) in announcing the appointments.
"We will do well because we have the right issues," said Corzine, stressing the need for firm support for homeland security and a forceful assertion of economic priorities. An aide to Corzine said he will try to broaden the base of campaign fundraising in response to restrictions on large contributions in the new campaign finance law.
Barbour Readies for Race
It's all but official, it seems. Former Republican National Committee chairman Haley Barbour has filed paperwork needed to begin raising money for his planned 2003 campaign for Mississippi governor.
Barbour hasn't formally announced his candidacy, but he has been traveling the state and criticizing Gov. Ronnie Musgrove (D), who hopes for a second term. Barbour was the state's 1982 GOP nominee for the Senate. He lost that race but went on to serve in the Reagan White House, head the RNC and found a Washington lobbying firm.
Staff writer Helen Dewar and researcher Brian Faler contributed to this report.