Vice President Al Gore arrived in Minnesota July 29 to raise money and deliver a policy speech. Many of the DFL's top leaders showed up at the evening fund-raiser . . . but other Democrats say they're looking for an alternative to Gore in 2000. Minnesota Public Radio's Martin Kaste reports:
THE VICE PRESIDENT met with a friendly crowd of businesspeople and party regulars last night at the Minneapolis Club, an ivy-clad, old-money hangout in the heart of downtown. Most of the guests paid $1,000 for the privilege of seeing Gore - adding an estimated $250,000 to the seventeen and a half million he's raised so far.
For their money, contributors got to hear a speech that seemed to echo the "Bridge to the 21st century" theme of the 1996 Clinton-Gore campaign.
Gore: We have the capacity to make progres in the future that's just as inspiring as the progress we made in our long, difficult but inspiring history. I want to work with you to help the families in Minnesota be strong, to help the communities be more livable, to help our country be the way it should be - that's why I want to be your president, God bless.
Gore pledged to build on President Clinton's economic record and to resist the Republican tax-cut plan, which he calls "a risky scheme"; he also promised what he called "revolutionary changes" in public schooling and increased access to medical insurance. He didn't offer anything much more specific than that, and his handlers didn't allow reporters close enough to ask him to elaborate.
Democrats at the event seemed pleased with the Gore message. Former attorney general and gubernatorial candidate Skip Humphrey says Gore is the right man for the party in 2000.
Humphrey: He served country well; this guy is not looking backwards, he's looking to the future, and he knows those issues and isn't afraid to talk about them.
But other Democrats are grumbling about what they perceive as a lack of options in this nominating race. Senator Paul Wellstone made waves in the Minnesota DFL by endorsing Bill Bradley for president earlier this year, and some party members are following his lead. Former St Paul mayor George Latimer is helping to organize the Bradley effort in Minnesota - he says many people simply want some competition.
Latimer: I don't believe there's a strong anti-Gore feeling, but there's an unease over either party settling on any candidate this early in the race. I think it's very healthy for Democrats to have an alternative to look to, and if I were a Republican I'd feel the same way.
Still, Bradley's supporters have hardly mounted a credible insurgency, yet. The campaign doesn't have a state chairman yet, and a planned organizing meeting for the Bradley campaign is still a month and a half away. Meanwhile, DFL Party Chairman Mike Erlandson says Gore has lined up an impressive list of top DFLers.
Erlandson: Al Gore, the VP, has the support of much of the congressional delegation - including Bruce Vento, Sabo, Luther - that certainly has a big counter to Wellstone's support, and also legislative support, including Pugh. . . . So I think the elected-official thing has relatively evened itself out.
Some DFL activists believe Wellstone's support for Bradley may have spurred Gore to start raising money here earlier than he'd planned, to make sure he gets his share of political money available in this state. Also, since many wealthy donors give to both parties, Gore faces early fund-raising competition from Republican presidential candidate George W. Bush, who visited Minnesota last week and vacuumed up an estimated half-million dollars in local contributions.
As the vice president climbed into his armor-plated limo last night, one reporter managed to shout a question to him from across the barriers, asking if he thought the campaign was starting too early. Gore shrugged and said, "It starts when it starts."