Gore storms back with blast at Bush

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The Independent US

Al Gore may not yet be a candidate in 2004 for the job he almost won two years ago. But he certainly sounded as if he will be when he laid into George Bush's domestic policies at a weekend meeting of Democrat activists in Florida.

Back in the state where his White House bid ended in a welter of disputed ballot papers, controversy and lawsuits, Mr Gore broke a long political silence with a broadside against Republican policies on taxes, the environment and its "blatantly dishonest" budget strategy. Using sarcasm and biting wit, he delivered a harsh attack on the links between the President's party and big business, especially the scandal-ridden Enron energy company.

The former vice-president took care not to criticise Mr Bush directly on foreign policy or his handling of the campaign against terrorism. But he was outspoken enough to have delegates shouting that Florida was still "Gore country".

Mr Gore insists he will only make up his mind about running for the presidency after the mid-term elections in November. Polls show his party deeply ambivalent at the prospect. A recent survey showed Democrats opposed to Mr Gore running again by 48 to 43 per cent. But if he were to do so, he would be the overwhelming first choice of voters, followed at a long distance by Hillary Clinton.