Stormy waters ahead for Gore

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The Independent Online
THERE IS still a year to go before the candidates are chosen, but Al Gore, Vice-President and the Democratic front-runner, is hitting problems. Mr Gore has had trouble separating himself from the President, and now Bill Bradley, his only opponent for the Democratic candidacy, is putting on a strong show of raising funds.

Tensions between Mr Gore's team and advisers to President Bill Clinton are getting out of hand, according to newspaper reports over the weekend. And the problem is becoming more personal: the President has been offended by the way that Mr Gore is to distance himself from the personal scandals of last year. Mr Clinton has "bridled at how freely Gore has spoken publicly recently of his displeasure about the president's relationship with former intern Monica Lewinsky", the Washington Post reported yesterday. The New York Times said on Saturday that Mr Clinton was "hurt" and "very upset".

"I felt what the President did, especially as a parent, was inexcusable," Mr Gore told journalists just before he declared his candidacy earlier this month. For their part, the Vice-President's advisers want more space to set out their own store. "Gore has his own set of advisers and his own message" a Gore aide told the Post. "At the end of the day it's what Vice-President Gore stands for and what he wants to do for the country."

It is possible that the split has been created to help differentiate Mr Gore from his boss. But if it is a conspiracy, it is not a very good one: the newspaper reports are making the Vice-President and his team look a bit of a shambles.

The Gore camp is also rumoured to be set for a shake-up because of its disappointing performance so far. Tony Coelho, the campaign chairman, reportedly has a "hit-list" and there may be a "housecleaning" this summer, the reports said.

Mr Gore is just one of two people in the White House preparing for a campaign. Hillary Clinton, the first lady, will launch her attempt to win a New York Senate seat next month. There have also been tensions reported between Mr Gore and Mrs Clinton's advisers.

Mr Gore has had a successful year of fund-raising, and looks set to raise between $15m (pounds 9.5m) and $18m by the end of this month. But the biggest surprise of the year is that Bill Bradley, his only opponent for the Democratic candidacy, may have raised over $10m.

Mr Bradley, who is seen as to the left of Mr Gore, is a former senator and basketball star. Though he is hardly the most exciting campaigner in the United States, by contrast with the wooden Vice-President he seems positively zippy.

But the real leader in terms of money is George W Bush, the Governor of Texas and son of the former president. The most likely Republican candidate, he is set to raise more than $23m by the end of this month, even more than had been expected. Mr Bush held the most successful fund-raiser in history in Washington last week, raising $2m in one evening alone.

The other Republicans lag way behind. John McCain, Senator from Arizona, has raised about $6.3m, and Elizabeth Dole $3m. The billionaire Steve Forbes is funding his own campaign and effectively raises as much as he wants to. The other candidates lag behind, and some may soon drop out.

For his part, President Clinton is making every effort to show that he is not a lame duck and has no intention of slowing down. On Saturday, he released an extra $1.2bn for new teachers, and this week he will put forward new plans to reform America's system for giving health care to retired people. Now that the war in Kosovo is over, he wants to put more emphasis on domestic affairs.