- The Washington Times - Thursday, July 27, 2000

Vice President Al Gore's campaign has asked for Sen. John Kerry's tax records amid new signals that the Massachusetts Democrat has moved up the shrinking list of names Mr. Gore is considering for his running mate.

Former Secretary of State Warren Christopher, who is conducting the vetting process for Mr. Gore, has asked Mr. Kerry to supply the campaign with his income tax returns, said a Democratic strategist close to the senator.

Mr. Kerry, 56, has said that he will accept the No. 2 spot on the ticket if it is offered to him.

The Vietnam War veteran, who sits on the prestigious Senate Foreign Relations Committee, is one of perhaps four or five names that remain on the list of vice presidential contenders that Mr. Gore says he has been "narrowing down" in the last few days.

The list also is said to include Sens. Tom Harkin of Iowa, who had a second meeting with Mr. Christopher this week, Bob Graham of Florida, Evan Bayh of Indiana, and former Senate Democratic Leader George Mitchell of Maine.

Aides to Mr. Kerry said that the senator has been keeping "a low profile" about the selection process and would not confirm what he has provided to the Gore campaign. "He doesn't want to say what he has been asked for," a spokesman said.

But Gore campaign officials were busy calling reporters earlier this week to make sure they knew Mr. Kerry was holding a fund-raising dinner for Mr. Gore here Tuesday night.

Meanwhile, Kerry supporters were equally busy yesterday making the case that George W. Bush's choice of former Defense Secretary Richard B. Cheney as his running mate strengthens Mr. Kerry.

"It helps Kerry because of Cheney's foreign policy credentials. Kerry is on Foreign Relations and has substantial experience in this area," said Mary Anne Marsh, a longtime Kerry political adviser.

"He conveys a youthful, energetic image, is a good campaigner and is good in debates. He's the complete package," she said.

"Cheney's selection means that Gore will be looking for a national candidate who will strike a more vigorous, telegenic contrast" to the gray-haired Mr. Cheney, 59, said another Kerry adviser.

At the same time, speculation increased that Mr. Gore's interest in Mr. Harkin signaled worry within the Gore camp that they needed to boost sagging support at the party's base, especially in the Midwestern battleground states.

Mr. Harkin, a veteran liberal Democrat who ran for president in 1992, is popular among Midwest farmers and union members. Mr. Gore is losing 40 percent of union household voters to Mr. Bush, according to recent polls.

"If Gore chooses Harkin that will be all about solidifying his base, not about reaching out to independents," said a Democratic campaign strategist.

There have been troubling signs for Mr. Gore in many traditionally Democratic states.

He is trailing in Oregon, Washington and West Virginia, struggling in Michigan, Wisconsin and Minnesota, and is in a dead heat in Maryland, where Democrats outnumber Republicans by 2-to-1.

However, while Mr. Harkin had strong support among unions for the No. 2 spot on the ticket, some Democrats say he does not represent the future-oriented, new-generation image Mr. Gore wants.

Others on Mr. Gore's list also came with their own liabilities.

Mr. Graham might be able to tip Florida into Mr. Gore's column, but he was seen by some Democratic leaders as a regional or "one-state candidate" who would not do much for the party nationally.

Mr. Bayh has been hurt by the party's pro-choice feminists because of his support for the partial-birth abortion ban. And Mr. Mitchell "has been out of politics for so long that he would really represent our party's past," said a Democratic official.

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