Gore abandons Washington to revive campaign

IN A SIGN of growing panic, Al Gore, the leading White House candidate for the Democratic party, has moved his tents out of Washington and challenged his chief rival to debate.

Bill Bradley, the slow-spoken former Senator from New Jersey, is giving Mr Gore a stiff run for his money. The vice-president's closeness to Bill Clinton seems to be hurting him, and his campaign team has often seemed to be poorly co-ordinated and reactive.

"It's a brand new campaign. It is a competitive, hard fought battle for the Democratic nomination," Mr Gore said in an attempt to reinject some life into the flagging effort.

Mr Gore said he was moving "the whole campaign lock, stock and barrel to Nashville so we can get closer to the American people, closer to the grass-roots, out of the beltway and into the heartland". Mr Gore's family ties are to Tennessee, although he has lived most of his life in Washington.

But it is not just the idea of the "beltway" - the road that encircles the capital, which many Americans feel cuts the city off from the real world - which is the problem.

"Every election I have won has been headquartered in Tennessee," he said. "Fourteen times I have gone to the voters of Tennessee." In an effort to improve his performance and cut costs, his staff will also be cut. His campaign chairman Tony Coelho and chief strategist Carter Eskew will move to Nashville; many others will not.

It is still very early in the campaign, but Mr Gore is doing much less well than a national figure and high elected official might expect. Recent polls show Mr Bradley leading Mr Gore in the early primary state of New Hampshire, and almost level with him in New York and Rhode Island, a solidly Democratic state.

Pat Moynihan, a senator from New York state, has backed Mr Bradley, and with a crushing put-down of the vice-president. "Nothing is the matter with Mr Gore except that he can't be elected president," he said. Mr Bradley has picked up plenty of other high-profile endorsements and fund-raising figures released this week may well show him closing the financial gap on Mr Gore.

But the unmentionable problem for Mr Gore may be closer to home than New York or Rhode Island. The president still commands a very high approval rating, but in opinion polls voters seem to be expressing a degree of "Clinton fatigue." Even if that is not true, Mr Gore is clearly seeking to distance himself from Mr Clinton's presidency.

If the move to the country was intended to show decisiveness, it may equally show panic. And it remains to be seen how Mr Gore appears when set against Nashville, the country music capital of America. He is widely seen as more of a string quartet man than a line dancer.

The debates, too, are risky. Mr Gore is smart on the issues, and clearly hopes he can outflank his opponent. But Mr Bradley will go into the debates as the underdog. Mr Bradley's staff said he would respond soon to the debate challenge. "I know Bill very well. I have a feeling he will accept this challenge," Mr Gore said.

Mr Bradley is a media favourite; reporters in Washington, however, are tired of Mr Gore and his staff. Time magazine featured Mr Bradley as "The Man Who Could Beat Gore" - as much a warning to the vice-president from the media elite as a forecast.

Mr Bradley can also be tough on the issues: earlier this week, he came up with a new health care plan, striding boldly into an area where the Mr Clinton has clearly failed. "There is no better example of the difference between the kinds of presidencies that we would lead than that comparison," said Mr Bradley. "I think that what he [Gore] proposed is definitely timid compared to what we have proposed."

But Mr Bradley is still cautious and realistic about his campaign. "Do I believe we have momentum?" he said recently. "No, I think we have a little traction."

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksA special investigation by Andy McSmith
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Bookkeeper / Office Co-ordinator

£9 per hour: Recruitment Genius: This role is based within a small family run ...

Recruitment Genius: Designer - Print & Digital

£28000 - £32000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This Design and marketing agenc...

Recruitment Genius: Quantity Surveyor

£46000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This property investment firm are lookin...

Recruitment Genius: Telesales / Telemarketing Executive - OTE £30k / £35k plus

£18000 - £35000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This company specialises provid...

Day In a Page

War with Isis: Fears that the looming battle for Mosul will unleash 'a million refugees'

The battle for Mosul will unleash 'a million refugees'

Aid agencies prepare for vast exodus following planned Iraqi offensive against the Isis-held city, reports Patrick Cockburn
Yvette Cooper: We can't lose the election. There's too much on the line

Yvette Cooper: We can't lose the election. There's too much on the line

The shadow Home Secretary on fighting radical Islam, protecting children, and why anyone in Labour who's thinking beyond May must 'sort themselves out'
A bad week for the Greens: Leader Natalie Bennett's 'car crash' radio interview is followed by Brighton council's failure to set a budget due to infighting

It's not easy being Green

After a bad week in which its leader had a public meltdown and its only city council couldn't agree on a budget vote, what next for the alternative party? It's over to Caroline Lucas to find out
Gorillas nearly missed: BBC producers didn't want to broadcast Sir David Attenborough's famed Rwandan encounter

Gorillas nearly missed

BBC producers didn't want to broadcast Sir David Attenborough's famed Rwandan encounter
Downton Abbey effect sees impoverished Italian nobles inspired to open their doors to paying guests for up to €650 a night

The Downton Abbey effect

Impoverished Italian nobles are opening their doors to paying guests, inspired by the TV drama
China's wild panda numbers have increased by 17% since 2003, new census reveals

China's wild panda numbers on the up

New census reveals 17% since 2003
Barbara Woodward: Britain's first female ambassador to China intends to forge strong links with the growing economic superpower

Our woman in Beijing builds a new relationship

Britain's first female ambassador to China intends to forge strong links with growing economic power
Courage is rare. True humility is even rarer. But the only British soldier to be awarded the Victoria Cross in Afghanistan has both

Courage is rare. True humility is even rarer

Beware of imitations, but the words of the soldier awarded the Victoria Cross were the real thing, says DJ Taylor
Alexander McQueen: The catwalk was a stage for the designer's astonishing and troubling vision

Alexander McQueen's astonishing vision

Ahead of a major retrospective, Alexander Fury talks to the collaborators who helped create the late designer's notorious spectacle
New BBC series savours half a century of food in Britain, from Vesta curries to nouvelle cuisine

Dinner through the decades

A new BBC series challenged Brandon Robshaw and his family to eat their way from the 1950s to the 1990s
Philippa Perry interview: The psychotherapist on McDonald's, fancy specs and meeting Grayson Perry on an evening course

Philippa Perry interview

The psychotherapist on McDonald's, fancy specs and meeting Grayson Perry on an evening course
Bill Granger recipes: Our chef recreates the exoticism of the Indonesian stir-fry

Bill Granger's Indonesian stir-fry recipes

Our chef was inspired by the south-east Asian cuisine he encountered as a teenager
Chelsea vs Tottenham: Harry Kane was at Wembley to see Spurs beat the Blues and win the Capital One Cup - now he's their great hope

Harry Kane interview

The striker was at Wembley to see Spurs beat the Blues and win the Capital One Cup - now he's their great hope
The Last Word: For the good of the game: why on earth don’t we leave Fifa?

Michael Calvin's Last Word

For the good of the game: why on earth don’t we leave Fifa?
HIV pill: Scientists hail discovery of 'game-changer' that cuts the risk of infection among gay men by 86%

Scientists hail daily pill that protects against HIV infection

Breakthrough in battle against global scourge – but will the NHS pay for it?