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Jewish World Review March 7, 2000 /30 Adar I, 5760

Roger Simon

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"The election campaign is going to be brutal, incredibly negative, nasty, dirty, slimy, sleazy and one of the worst in history," says Gore honcho -- LOS ANGELES -- Al Gore does not intend to go gently into that twilight period that comes between sewing up the nomination and the beginning of the general election campaign.

"The interim period is going to be very challenging for Gore," one of his senior adviser says. "There is excitement on the road, enthusiasm. How do you maintain that? It's easy to slip back. Bush will have same problem. He will have a let down, too."

The initial fear was that Gore would want to be vice president again, but that will be over his campaign chairman Tony Coelho's cold, dead body.

"He is going to keep moving around the country, keep holding town hall meetings, keep projecting his concerns and the fact he is fighting for the American people," Coelho says. "He is not going back into vice president mode."

Yet others believe there is a role for a limited, modified, veep hangout mode. "Gore has proved that he can be a candidate; he has proved that he can pander with the best of them," a senior Gore advisor says. "Now, all the sudden, he wins, he's the nominee and people are thinking, 'This is serious, this is a big deal,' and so there is an advantage to being a vice president and looking serious and contrasting that with how Bush is such a lightweight."

Contrary to pre-primary predictions that George W. Bush would have an easy time staying in the center while Gore would be forced to the left by Bill Bradley, it is Gore who now finds himself almost exactly where he wants to be, while Bush scrambles madly to assure people he barely knows Bob Jones.

"That trip to Bob Jones University may force him to pick a running mate who is Catholic just to prove he is not a bigot," a Gore advisor predicts.

The Gore camp is already war-gaming the general election and has come up with likely strategies for both sides. "Bush will say Gore is crazy, a lunatic and a far left-winger," a Gore advisor says. "He will make the classic mistake of trying to define and frighten people about Al Gore." And what will you say about Bush? I ask him.

"That he is a far right-wing lunatic," he replies.

And the general tenor of the campaign?

The new AlGore?
"The election campaign is going to be brutal, incredibly negative, nasty, dirty, slimy, sleazy and one of the worst in history," the advisor says. "It will really be something else."

At the beginning of his campaign, Bush had a line in his speech about how if he wasn't elected president it would not be the end of the world, and he would just go home and go fishing. He doesn't use that line anymore, and today he bristles when asked if he really wants the job badly enough.

Nobody has to ask Al Gore how badly he wants the job. Even when his campaign was going horribly, he seemed to vibrate with the desire, the urgency, the need to become president. And maybe that's why he was able to reinvent himself so effectively: There was no question he would do anything necessary to win; the only question was how to find out what was necessary.

"When he switched to the open-neck shirts and all the rest, the media made fun, but that's what people wanted," Coelho says. "His naturalness has now come through. Ronald Reagan was the candidate you wanted to have over for a beer and barbecue. He had the capability to be put on a pedestal, but he would not let you think he was on a pedestal.

"Al has that same capability to be on a pedestal, but after Iowa and New Hampshire, people saw the cut-up Al, the fun Al, the real Al. When Al started acting like a candidate, I knew he would win. Bill Bradley performed a great service: He forced us to campaign." quitter.

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