- The Washington Times - Monday, July 10, 2000

Some Democratic state chairmen are urging President Clinton not to overshadow Vice President Al Gore next month at the Democratic National Convention.

"I don't think he should be taking a very visible role because this is about Al Gore," said David Leland, chairman of the Ohio Democratic Party. "We need to be spending those four days telling folks who Al Gore is."

Democratic officials believe the convention in Los Angeles Aug. 14-17 is Mr. Gore's best opportunity to emerge from Mr. Clinton's shadow.

The Democrats expect 15,000 members of the media to attend the party's first Los Angeles convention since 1960, when delegates nominated John F. Kennedy.

Thomas Giblin, chairman of the New Jersey Democratic Party, hopes Mr. Clinton will "take a little more of a back seat, politically," during the convention.

But he added that Mr. Clinton could help Mr. Gore in the fall and should not be relegated "to the bleachers for the campaign."

White House spokesman Jake Siewert said "we obviously expect [Mr. Clinton] to attend" the convention, but the president has not set his schedule.

Mr. Siewert declined to discuss the effect Mr. Clinton might have on Mr. Gore at the convention.

"I could speculate," he said, "but I'll leave that to the state party chairmen."

Mr. Gore, interviewed by the Associated Press last month, tersely declined to discuss the role he envisioned for Mr. Clinton at the convention.

It will be "a very positive one," Mr. Gore said.

Mr. Clinton's role at the convention is a touchy issue for the Democrats. The president remains popular he mustered a 66 percent job-approval rating in a Fox News/ Opinion Dynamics poll conducted June 28-29.

Mr. Gore has touted the Clinton administration's economic stewardship during his "prosperity and progress" tour. But Mr. Gore sees the convention as his opportunity to emerge, and some Democrats fear Mr. Clinton would suck the oxygen from the room.

Mr. Giblin, the New Jersey Democratic chairman, expects Mr. Clinton to deliver his valedictory address on the convention's first night Monday, Aug. 14.

But ABC plans to air a preseason football game that night, which could lead Mr. Clinton to delay his address and prolong his appearance in Los Angeles.

"I think the president will try to adhere to past practice as far as trying to give an opportunity for the Democratic candidate to shine," Mr. Giblin said.

In August 1988, President Reagan addressed Republican delegates at the Louisiana Superdome on the first night of the party's convention and left New Orleans the next day.

Vice President George Bush arrived on Tuesday, just in time to see Mr. Reagan off in a brief meeting at Belle Chasse Naval Air Station.

Mr. Bush, the spotlight to himself, announced that afternoon he had picked Indiana Sen. Dan Quayle as his running mate. Delegates nominated Mr. Bush on Wednesday and he delivered his acceptance address Thursday night.

Democratic operatives stress that Mr. Clinton would be a strong asset for Mr. Gore during the fall campaign as long as he cedes the spotlight in Los Angeles.

"I think the president is probably one of the smartest political strategists the Democrats have," said Mr. Leland, chairman of the Ohio Democratic Party.

"He understands how to convey a message better than anyone I've ever heard or seen. I'd certainly like to have him in Columbus, Ohio, or anywhere in Ohio."

The president "brings a lot to the table," Mr. Giblin added. "He's months away from completing his second term," and has "remarkable" job-approval ratings.

In Los Angeles, Mr. Clinton is likely to echo Mr. Reagan's tribute to his own vice president as a tested leader schooled in foreign relations.

"None of our accomplishments happened by accident," Mr. Reagan said then.

"Without George Bush to build on those policies, everything we have achieved will be at risk."

He added: "This is no time to gamble with on-the-job training."

To a lesser degree, Texas Gov. George W. Bush, the presumptive Republican presidential nominee, also faces a delicate balancing act at the Republican National Convention, which begins July 31 in Philadelphia.

Republicans want to honor the Texas governor's father the most recent Republican president without diminishing the Texas governor's stature.

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