By Hillel Aron
By Joseph Tsidulko
By Patrick Range McDonald
By David Futch
By Hillel Aron
By Dennis Romero
By Jill Stewart
By Dennis Romero
Gore, meanwhile, has, after a period of drift, been avidly changing his spots, his clothes and the way he struts his stuff. The campaigns of incumbent vice presidents are by necessity the least adventurous of any presidential candidates': Nixon in '60, Humphrey in '68 and Bush in '88 were all candidates of continuity, and so is Gore. But an odd kind of somnolence had also fallen over the Gore campaign in the first half of last year: None of the big-name lobbyists and operators whom Gore had on staff seemed able to convey any sense of purpose to his candidacy whatever, and few brought any sense of urgency to the job of selling their boss. As Warren Harding, in the last days of his presidency, had complained to William Allen White that he had no one who could save him from his friends, so Gore was surrounded by high-dollar, seat-warming buddies of long standing and no discernible desire to do the hard scutwork of a presidential campaign.
Gore's solution was to hire one of the least savory figures in Democratic politics to serve as his hatchet man. In the '80s, Tony Coelho, who headed the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, transformed the party by finding new funding sources for its candidates: corporate and industry PACs that, with Coelho's encouragement, wrote fat checks to the Democrats and that, with Coelho's encouragement, expected fat favors in return. In the late '80s, Coelho resigned from Congress to avoid charges of ethical improprieties. But Coelho had one quality Gore was badly in need of -- ruthlessness -- and by late summer, the Coelho touch had begun to turn the campaign around.
In short order, the nonperforming friends were gone. Gore adopted a loos- er style, moved his headquarters to Nashville, shucked his ties, dropped his g's, and changed into earthen-colored clothes. More important, he began attacking Bradley from every direction possible: Bradley was too ambitious, he was threatening existing programs, endangering Social Security, Medicaid and Medicare; he was not proposing enough for kids or defending enough for seniors. Gore dredged up Bradley's questionable votes, and tried to taint some not-very-questionable ones. Coelho had assembled, as Bradley had not, an impressive array of attack technicians (consultants Carter Eskew and Robert Shrum most particularly), and as debate followed debate, those technicians took their toll.
There's some reason to doubt that Bradley's people ever thought they could really make very deep inroads within the Democrats' core constituencies: In various states, their campaigns have been concentrated in the more upscale urban or suburban precincts. But for Bradley to counter the weight of Gore's institutional support and entrenched national connections -- absent the assistance of any other candidates who could loosen Gore's hold on this constituency or that -- he needs to fairly flood the process with enthusiasts, with voters who aren't the usual suspects, with committed progressives and zealous kids. And while there are signs that just such a political awakening may be dawning, that concern over our widening inequalities is on the rise (and in Seattle, in the streets), Bradley has been largely unable to tap into it, to mobilize the hundreds of thousands of voters he needs to propel himself past Gore. His is the voice of egalitarianism in Campaign 2000 -- a voice missing from national politics for some time now -- but it is a halting voice, limited in its appeal by the elitist implications of his global economics, limited in its impact by his contemptuous dismissal of Gore's attacks. In Iowa, Bradley's true believers were swamped by Gore's -- and labor's -- organization. Bradley gets one more shot to connect with his potential base: next Tuesday in New Hampshire. If he wins, he buys himself a month, and some momentum, to reach an audience he has not yet discovered how to move his way. If he loses, this may be a very short primary indeed.
In a sense, Gore and Bradley are running mirror-image campaigns. Gore has grown as a campaigner, able now to connect with an audience and cut up an opponent, even as he has shrunk as an advocate of good public policy. Bradley has grown as a public-policy advocate, emerging as the champion of causes that even liberals thought it politic to shelve, while going nowhere at all as a campaigner. The two tall centrists are distinguishable now. Yin and yin have become yin and yang after all.