- The Washington Times - Friday, August 18, 2000

LOS ANGELES Tipper Gore, a veteran political spouse comfortable in her own skin, narrated a touching montage of her own photographs at the Democratic National Convention, offering an intimate purview of a husband whose political personality has lacked a human face.

As the nation anticipated a make-or-break speech from Al Gore, the genial and talented Mrs. Gore extended the nightlong attempts to humanize her staid husband by sharing nostalgic images from her family scrapbook.

"During this campaign, you have invited Al and me into your homes and communities and talked to us about your lives, your hopes and your dreams for the future," she said, her modern blond coif set off by her crisp blue suit.

"I know, some of you are saying, please, not the family photo album. But for those of you sprinting for the doors, stay for just a little while and see the man I love in a way you may not have seen him before."

What followed were private glimpses of the birth of a family. The college courtship, the marriage, his time in Vietnam and their work together at the Nashville newspaper.

The narrated segment featured candid photos of Mr. Gore's late father, a Carthage, Tenn., farmer who rose from poverty in the Depression to become a U.S. senator. It also showed a tender portrait of Mr. Gore as father and his life with his children as he ascended the political ranks to become vice president in 1992.

"Many of you know that faith and family are at the center of Al's life," Mrs. Gore said. "Many of you know Al to be a decisive leader with strong values, deeply held convictions and an unwavering commitment to making the American dream a reality for all our people.

"But I also want you to know that as a husband, father and grandfather, Al has always been there for our family, and he will always be there for yours."

The presentation was vintage Tipper, Mr. Gore's wife of 30 years and his most trusted confidante. While Mr. Gore has struggled to connect with voters, she has breezed through crowds with an ease her husband has failed to emulate, dancing on stage before her remarks last night and kissing him passionately as he entered to make his speech.

Milking the moment and taking stock of the cheering masses, she high-fived supporters gathered on the stage, letting out a "whooo" as the crowd hoisted signs that read "Tipper Rocks."

The unconventional Mrs. Gore, an amateur rock drummer who once worked as a photojournalist and who now campaigns as an advocate for the homeless and for mental health, traded her family's memories in a nostalgic attempt to cast her husband as a real, everyday guy as she introduced him to delegates last night.

Along with rising media star and eldest daughter Karenna Gore Schiff, most agree that the vibrant and earthy Mrs. Gore, 50, and the warm and stylish Hadassah Lieberman, 52, have been enormous assets to the campaign.

The women, appearing on stump stages as a dynamic blond duo, have proved strong, competent speakers on behalf of their husbands, delivering off-the-cuff remarks like seasoned politicians perhaps with a stronger dose of sincerity than their spouses.

Both have earned master's degrees and both have worked and raised families, allowing them to project a balanced image of professional women who are at the same time traditional, a skill that has eluded first lady and New York Senate candidate Hillary Rodham Clinton.

Mrs. Lieberman, a mother of three and grandmother of two, and Mrs. Gore, a mother of four and grandmother to one, are of the same generation and knew each other in Washington, where they took the same yoga classes. The candidates' wives are also said to wield enormous influence on their political spouses.

"It's really hard to overestimate my mom's influence on my dad," Mrs. Schiff told CNN yesterday, a day after wowing convention delegates with her youthful charm as her dad was formally nominated for president.

"It's so deep that it's almost hard to describe," she said, noting that after 30 years of marriage, Mr. Gore still gets excited to chat with his wife on everything from family to important campaign decisions.

Their relationship is so close that aides disclosed that the vice president waited for Mrs. Gore's delayed plane to land for several hours so he could get her feedback before making his final decision on Mr. Lieberman as his running mate.

Friday night, before Mr. Gore wasto give his much anticipated acceptance speech, Mrs. Gore was earning a backhanded compliment from one of her husband's top advisers.

"If he's good enough for Tipper, then he's good enough for me," allowed Mr. Gore's campaign manager, Donna Brazile, an obvious fan of her boss' wife.

Mrs. Lieberman also won herself the admiration of party faithful here, pacing herself as she grew ever more emotional in a speech introducing her husband before he accepted the nomination.

Anyone who watched her send up "my Joey," as she called him Wednesday night, to hear his loving thank-you tribute for her speech, could not doubt the solidity of their 17-year marriage, a second trip to the altar for both.

For the past two days, Mrs. Gore and Mrs. Lieberman have teamed up to attend several events around town to campaign for their husbands.

On Wednesday, they attended a joint Connecticut and Tennessee caucus meeting, and yesterday, they appeared at an afternoon Working Women Vote 2000 rally at the Wilshire Grand Hotel.

There they joined Secretary of Labor Alexis M. Herman and AFL-CIO Executive Vice President Linda Chavez-Thompson and hundreds of working women to talk about health care, equal pay, education and balancing work and family.

"Working women will play a pivotal role in this year's elections and will be the deciding factor in congressional races as well as in the election of the president," Mrs. Chavez-Thompson said.

The problem is, working women are not supporting Mr. Gore, who trails George W. Bush by 40 percentage points with what pollsters describe as "white, married working moms."

Mr. Bush, concedes Democratic pollster Celinda Lake, has been able to reach out to working women, rarely talking about the issue of abortion and keying in on education from the start of his campaign.

"It's getting to the point now that Democrats have to take a step back and say 'What are we going to do?' " she said. "I've never seen a Republican understand this group as well as he does."

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