- The Washington Times - Friday, September 8, 2000

NEW ORLEANS Just one month after Democrats were accusing Republicans of overconfidence in the presidential race, Vice President Gore and his campaign are brimming with an unmistakable self-assurance that seems to grow stronger each day.

Buoyed by encouraging poll numbers, enthusiastic crowds along the campaign trail and a late endorsement from the Teamsters, Mr. Gore has a noticeable spring in his step and even a bit of a swagger in his walk. He lingers longer with supporters, joshes more with journalists and bolts more often from his limousine to spontaneously pump the hands of startled barflies and pizza-parlor patrons.

Smelling blood in Texas, where a federal judge last week criticized Gov. George W. Bush's child health care system, Mr. Gore last night dispatched his running mate, Sen. Joseph I. Lieberman of Connecticut, to Houston with instructions to assail Mr. Bush on his home turf today.

Although Mr. Gore is careful not to gloat or appear cocky about the recent reversal of his political fortunes, aides can't help but absorb and amplify their boss' new expansiveness. They have taken to serenading reporters on Air Force Two with a new song each day, employing lyrics that can be described only as supremely confident.

Late Wednesday, for example, senior Gore adviser Greg Simon belted out the following ditty to the tune of "Don't Cry for Me Argentina," from Andrew Lloyd Webber's musical "Evita."

Don't cry for Al Gore and Joe Lieberman.

The polls show we've got momentum.

From California to New York City

And in Missouri don't count out Florida.

What happened to Bush and Dick Cheney?

The last eight months they've squandered.

Without a health plan their campaign floundered.

Where is their drug plan? The nation wondered.

Despite Mr. Simon's boast that "polls show we've got momentum," Mr. Gore yesterday professed ignorance of new public opinion surveys that show him leading Mr. Bush.

"You know, I don't pay any attention to the polls," he insisted during a campaign stop in Carbondale, Penn. "What I am hearing is that the American people want to continue our prosperity but do even better."

His aides are less successful at muting their glee. After months of glumly trudging from one campaign stop to another while Mr. Bush surged in the polls, they are exhibiting an exuberance long absent from the Gore campaign.

"We're very confident about Al Gore on the issues, vis-a-vis George W. Bush," enthused Gore spokesman Chris Lehane.

But when asked whether the campaign was beginning to show signs of overconfidence in the outcome of the election itself, Mr. Lehane replied: "No way."

"Campaigns are roller coasters you go up and you go down, you go up and you go down," he said.

"And so you approach this all with a studied nonchalance, an equanimity," Mr. Lehane added.

But "studied nonchalance" does not exactly capture Mr. Gore's demeanor as he clowns and jokes with reporters aboard Air Force Two. On Wednesday, he lampooned his bodyguards for failing to flinch when members of the Detroit Tigers effortlessly batted away baseballs that were pitched by Mr. Gore.

"When that line drive just barely missed my head, I was a little uncertain about the lackadaisical attitude of the Secret Service," he wisecracked. "I mean, you know, I thought they would come out and tackle the batter."

Mr. Gore then was asked by The Washington Times why voters should believe they will receive the middle-class tax cuts he is promising in his book released this week, "Prosperity for America's Families," when they didn't get the middle-class tax cuts he and Bill Clinton promised in their 1992 book, "Putting People First."

"You know, people are better off after eight years," Mr. Gore replied. "And I think that with the surpluses now, we can have … middle-class tax cuts."

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