If Al Gore runs again, he'll 'just let it rip'

Published: Monday, July 1, 2002 at 6:01 a.m.
Last Modified: Monday, July 1, 2002 at 12:00 a.m.
MEMPHIS, Tenn. - Former Vice President Al Gore conceded this weekend that his 2000 presidential campaign was too heavily influenced by polls, consultants and tactical maneuvering, telling key supporters here that, if he runs in 2004, he will "let it rip" and "let the chips fall where they may."
"If I had it to do over again, I'd just let it rip," Gore told a private gathering of many of his most significant donors and fund-raisers, according to an aide who relayed the remarks to reporters. "To hell with the polls, tactics and all the rest. I would have poured out my heart and my vision for America's future."
Gore's comments won a standing ovation from those supporters, who were near-universal in their encouragement for him to run again. His remarks came after both his wife, Tipper, and eldest daughter, Karenna Gore Schiff, emphatically said they would like to see him challenge President Bush in 2004.
Gore later told reporters that he will decide "sometime after the first of the year" - the first time he has offered a timetable for his own planning. He signaled that, based on the lessons learned from 2000, he would try to run a different kind of campaign.
"I would spend more time speaking from the heart on a few occasions each week, addressing the major challenges of the country in-depth, and spend a lot less time going to media events and making tactical moves," Gore said.
Gore's 2000 campaign was top-heavy with consultants and marred by internal strife and strategy disagreements.
But Gore also suffered from self-inflicted wounds, as he struggled to fend off criticism that he was constantly trying to reinvent himself.
His comments about speaking from the heart could resurrect questions of who the real Gore is, but his supporters said he could run in 2004 as a more relaxed and more liberated candidate than he could as a sitting vice president.
With potential rivals for the Democratic nomination actively recruiting fund raising and grass-roots activists, Gore invited about 60 of his most significant allies from the fund-raising community for a weekend of informal discussions here.
Hosted by Gore's political action committee, the event appeared aimed at countering criticism that Gore's fund raising and political support has eroded because many of his past supporters were looking for someone new to run in 2004. It was also a way for Gore to reconnect with some of his most loyal followers, who have been eager for him to reach out more effectively to his 2000 network and to demonstrate his interest in another presidential campaign.
Sen. John Edwards, D-N.C., is holding his own retreat this weekend with donors and supporters, which features several former Clinton administration policy advisers, as he prepares for a possible 2004 campaign. House Minority Leader Richard A. Gephardt, D-Mo., and Democratic Sens. Joseph I. Lieberman, Conn., and John F. Kerry, Mass., have also been preparing for possible campaigns.
One top Democrat said some former Gore donors are reluctant to sign up again because they believe the party's best chance in 2004 lies in finding a fresh face to run against Bush.
But another strategist conceded that the Memphis guest list was a sign that the core of Gore's fund-raising team has remained loyal. "The fact that (several of) his biggest fund-raisers are still with him is a good sign," the strategist said.
Robert Zimmerman, the Democratic National Committeeman from New York and a Gore loyalist, told reporters that he hopes Gore runs again, adding: "This gathering shows the strength he has on the finance potential. If he gets into the race, he'll have a very strong showing on the financial front."
Gore's allies spent much of Saturday in private meetings, focused on this year's midterm elections and the role Gore should play between now and November. In his speeches, Gore has been sharpening his criticism of the administration.
At a Democratic dinner here Saturday night, Gore sharply challenged the success of Bush's war on terrorism, noting that "they haven't gotten Osama bin Laden or the al-Qaida operation." He also accused the president of allowing his political team "to use the war as a political wedge to divide America."
On domestic issues, he accused the administration of lying about the budget and described the Bush economic policies as "a total catastrophe for our country." He said the administration has recruited "the hungriest fox" to be in charge of "every federal government chicken coop."
Recalling his 2000 campaign rhetoric, he said the administration is "fighting for the powerful, and they have turned their back on the people that need some protection."
Even as Gore's fund-raisers were arriving this weekend, Tipper Gore sought to dampen speculation that she opposes the idea of her husband running in 2004. She told the Memphis Commercial Appeal on Friday that the prospect of another campaign was "very exciting" for her because of her frustration with the Bush administration's policies. "I'm actually very, very angry about what's going on. So, yes, I would love to see my husband run again," she said. "If he chooses to do that, I am right there."
Karenna Gore Schiff said Saturday she favors another presidential bid. "It makes your heart sick about what he could do if he were in that job and makes me think he should go for it again," she said.
The Republican National Committee sought to tweak Gore and Edwards this weekend by releasing polls taken in Tennessee, North Carolina and Georgia showing that Bush would beat either of the two Democrats handily in a 2004 race.

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