- The Washington Times - Wednesday, July 19, 2000

Vice President Al Gore is nearing a pivotal running-mate decision that presents him with two options: pick a regional candidate who can help him carry a key state or a national Democratic figure who can reach out to a larger electorate.

While Mr. Gore is getting advice on both sides of this political question, there appears to be a growing consensus that he choose someone with broader, political appeal who can help him energize and unite the party's base.

Mr. Gore appears to be leaning toward the national-candidate strategy, party insiders with close ties to the Gore campaign said yesterday.

"My choice would be to pick someone from the list of national candidates that does not rely on a single-state candidacy," California Democratic Chairman Art Torres told The Washington Times yesterday.

Mr. Torres and other party officials and campaign strategists want Mr. Gore to follow Bill Clinton's campaign playbook when he chose the Tennessee senator as his running mate in 1992. Both men were close to each other generationally and Mr. Gore had wide appeal among the party's varying constituencies outside his native South.

"It worked for us in 1992 with Clinton and Gore, and I think that can work now for the vice president if he chooses someone who has good chemistry with him and can give people a sense of confidence in the team," said Mr. Torres.

As the list is being whittled down by Mr. Gore and his advisers, the most prominently mentioned vice presidential candidates fall into two categories:

Sens. Bob Graham of Florida and Richard J. Durbin of Illinois both from pivotal states Mr. Gore must carry if he is to beat Texas Gov. George W. Bush, the presumptive Republican nominee are at the top of Mr. Gore's geographical list of candidates.

Sens. Evan Bayh of Indiana and John F. Kerry of Massachusetts, and House Minority Leader Richard A. Gephardt of Missouri, are among the names on Mr. Gore's national-candidates list.

"Kerry, Bayh and Gephardt fits the mold of a national candidate," Mr. Torres said.

"You need to make a larger case for yourself through your vice presidential pick than just winning one particular state," said Garry South, Mr. Gore's strategist in California and chief political adviser to Gov. Gray Davis.

Both Mr. Graham, a popular former governor and three-term senator, could make Florida more competitive, as could Mr. Durbin in Illinois, although he is only a first-term senator. Both states are considered tossups.

But Democrats interviewed yesterday suggested that neither of these two men had any national appeal.

Mr. Bayh, on the other hand, an articulate and telegenic former two-term governor and freshman senator, was seen by Democrats as someone who could be an effective campaigner nationally, particularly in the Midwest battleground states.

Similarly, Mr. Kerry, a former state lieutenant governor and three-term senator who served in the Vietnam War as a Navy officer, has strong appeal to swing Democrats and independents, Democratic strategists said. Mr. Kerry returned to the United States and became a prominent anti-war protester.

"For Democrats, the road to the White House rests with getting votes from Democrats, independents and women, and no one is better doing that than John Kerry," said Mary Anne Marsh, a Democratic adviser to the senator.

"It's not about geography anymore. It's about generational compatibility and who can help make the strongest case for Gore as president," she said.

Mr. Gephardt said yesterday he did not want to run as the vice presidential candidate so he could concentrate on helping Democrats regain control of the House.

"I'm otherwise occupied, and that's the only reason I wouldn't have a different thought," Mr. Gephardt told reporters. He declined to say flatly that he would refuse if asked.

"I've said I don't want to do that and I hope and believe they'll find someone to do that other than me," he said.

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