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Gore's Speech Reaffirms the Democratic Platform
By Michael Khoo
August 18, 2000
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Vice President Al Gore and running mate Joseph Lieberman began their day on August 18 in La Crosse, Wisconsin. They're starting a campaign boat trip down the Mississippi River and through several key swing states. Minnesota delegates are also on their way home after the final curtain came down on the Democratic National Convention. They say they're energized by Gore's acceptance speech, but state DFLers admit the campaign won't be easy.

GORE USED HIS speech last night to walk the same thin line the convention has heeled all week, trying to shore up the Democrats' traditional liberal base and attract the newly-popular "independent voter." Gore mixed the message of health care, education and retirement security with the common Republican theme of tax cuts and family values.

Delegate Bill English of Plymouth says the combination hit the right chord.

"The man needed to define himself for Americans and he did that. So he showed that he's got a balanced approach, but clearly he's a Democrat from the old-fashioned Democrats: progressive, moving ahead, and for working class people. I needed to hear that."

Some progressive Democrats have expressed concern that the Gore-Lieberman ticket is too moderate and risks alienating the party's activist base.

Senator Paul Wellstone says he'll continue to prod Gore on labor issues and the country's growing income gap. He also said he was glad to hear the vice president extend a hand to so-called "working families."

"Anytime you can really zero in on the work-a-day majority issues that are health care, education, jobs, good wages, that's what the Democrats are about," Wellstone said. "I think the highlight of the speech was the emphatic way he talked about reform, getting money out of politics. I'm committed to it; I'll fight for it. That's the part I liked the best."

Recent polls have put Gore behind or at best, neck-and-neck with Republican nominee George W. Bush. A survey of likely Minnesota voters showed the two in a statistical dead heat. The Bush camp says that's a sign of Gore's vulnerability. They point out Minnesota has not voted Republican since Richard Nixon's 1972 victory.

Minneapolis Mayor Sharon Sayles Belton led the state delegation to Los Angeles. She says she's not worried about Bush taking Minnesota, although she admits the latest poll results could be better.

"I think people want him to be doing better and they want him to be ahead of the polls because Minnesota is such a progressive state. I think one of the things that we have to pay attention to in Minnesota is that we have a whole block of people who are independent. The independent voter is not just going to side with Gore or Bush just because they're saying all of the right things. They want to have a chance to talk to the candidate and know the candidate is speaking to their issues."

That outreach to the broad middle has brought Gore to Minnesota twice since March. Once for an extended visit with the famously independent Governor Jesse Ventura. In fact, Ventura was featured prominently during Sayles-Belton's introduction of the state during the nominating roll call. Sixth District Congressman Bill Luther spoke warmly of the governor during his time at the podium yesterday. Good relations with Ventura and the swing voters who support him could be important in what many predict will be a knock-down, drag-out fight.

Gore's Minnesota campaign director Buck Humphrey, grandson of Hubert H., says DFLers should be prepared for a bare-knuckles contest.

"You know, this is going to be an eye-scratching, cat-clawing, dog-biting campaign," Humphrey said. "Don't kid yourself with this compassionate conservatism. Because it's really just a bunch of fluff and if you look, they spread lies, they'll call names, they'll do other things. This is not going to be a friendly thing. We've got to rise above that."

Party leaders say Gore's river trip is the first step in securing key midwestern states. They say they hope either Gore, Lieberman or both will make another swing into Minnesota before the November election.