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Keeping Up with the Venturas
By Amy Radil
June 22, 2000
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Vice President Al Gore's social call on Governor Jesse Ventura mixed some business with pleasure Wednesday when Gore stopped off at a St. Paul diner to rally DFL stalwarts and visited striking hotel workers in Bloomington. Then Gore and his wife Tipper joined the Venturas at a horse show where their daughter Jade was competing. The Gores also spent the night at the Governor's mansion. Gore made no public statements or speeches, but that didn't stop speculation about the political overtones of his visit.

Vice President Al Gore, Governor Jesse Ventura, and their wives stop to look at horses outside of the state fair coliseum Wednesday. They were there to watch Ventura's daughter Jade compete in a horse show.
Photo: Amy Radil
WITHIN MINUTES OF LANDING in the Twin Cities, Gore was shaking hands with strikers on the picket line of the Thunderbird Hotel in Bloomington. A quick dash across town took him to the St. Clair Broiler in St. Paul, after DFL activists made it known they wanted the presumed presidential nominee to spend some time with members of his own party and not just Jesse Ventura. Gore chatted with diners at the cafe and spoke privately with a group of DFL activists and delegates to the national convention, along with party contributors and labor leaders. Rick Stafford, chair of the Minnesota Gore campaign, says Gore elaborated on policy differences between himself and Texas Governor George W. Bush, including different plans to preserve social security.

"He talked about what his program is for the American people if elected president in terms of protecting social security, but also encouraging investment with his proposal to take a certain percentage to do in private investments that you could use eventually to pay for college or for a home," Stafford said.

Outside the diner, Gore avoided a cluster of Bush supporters, who chanted "no more Clinton Gore." While greeting and shaking hands with the public, he then faced a question about whether his search for a running mate brought him to Minnesota.

"Are you going to ask Jesse Ventura to be Vice President?" the Vice President was asked. "I'm not discussing that search," Gore replied.

Tipper Gore spent time with Terry Ventura at the Venturas' ranch in Maple Grove, then the two couples met up for a horse show and competition in the coliseum on the state fairgrounds, where the Venturas' 16-year-old daughter competed. As the riders circled the stadium in formal coats, vests and ties, the Venturas and Gores applauded enthusiastically, and Terry shouted instruction and encouragement to her daughter.

"And they seem to have struck up a very good relationship, a camaraderie where both couples seem to enjoy each other and Jesse has been pretty frank in his comments that 'I'm not endorsing anybody but boy I like Al Gore.' "

- Mike Erlandson, DFL party chair
After the show the Gores and Venturas posed for photos in the horse barn. Altogether it was a day bigger on photo opportunities than substance, but that could change today when Gore and Ventura appear together on NBC's Today Show and then spend the morning at a Hopkins school. And state DFL party chair Mike Erlandson says the friendship between the two couples, initiated when the Venturas visited the Gores in Washington last month, is a way for the Gore campaign to tap Ventura's popularity.

"And they seem to have struck up a very good relationship, a camaraderie where both couples seem to enjoy each other and Jesse has been pretty frank in his comments that 'I'm not endorsing anybody but boy I like Al Gore,'" Erlandson said.

Republicans, however, are also taking encouragement from Gore's visit, combined with President Bill Clinton's three recent visits to Minnesota. State Republican party chair Ron Eibensteiner points to recent polls showing Bush and Gore tied among Minnesota voters, and says the fact that Al Gore is not taking Minnesota for granted now means George W. Bush is not either.

"Based on recent polls they're re-evaluating that strategy, they did not expect to be in a dead heat with Al Gore here in the state and so now they're thinking maybe we should be spending some time in Minnesota because we do have a chance to carry Minnesota," Eibensteiner said.

Eibensteiner predicts Bush will make a visit to the state after the national Republican convention, possibly sometime in August. Gore wraps up his trip tonight, but first he and Ventura will spend the morning at Hopkins North Junior High School, to focus on federal funding in special education.