- The Washington Times - Friday, August 18, 2000

LOS ANGELES Donna Brazile, campaign manager for Al Gore and his vice-presidential running mate, Joseph I. Lieberman, spent the final harried hours of the Democratic National Convention trying to galvanize the grass-roots constituencies considered critical to the ticket's success.
Attempting to counter fears about the tough presidential race ahead, Ms. Brazile tried to reassure several delegations that the Democratic ticket still has a chance to win, despite the latest polls that show their Republican opponents ahead.
She pleaded with the audience at a Congressional Black Caucus forum and with the members in the "two delegations that gave me my political birth," Louisiana and the District of Columbia.
While thanking them for their support, she also asked them to give the presidential ticket an all-out effort, arguing that Democrats can win because "the issues are on our side."
Ms. Brazile and other black leaders are keenly aware the Democratic ticket has not caught on in the black community as well as they would have liked. Earlier this week, Mr. Lieberman met with caucus members to demonstrate his commitment to affirmative action.
Since then, black leaders have tried to present a united front. Yesterday, they began a media blitz with black-owned media outlets to get their constituencies on board. Many believe the Democrats cannot win without as strong a black turnout for Mr. Gore as President Clinton had in 1992 and 1996.
Ms. Brazile, in fact, accompanied Mr. Lieberman during Thursday's broadcast of the syndicated black radio program "The Tom Joyner Morning Show."
Talking "straight from the hip," Ms. Brazile appeared to be weary, wary and frustrated by the lack of enthusiasm the Gore campaign is generating.
Slipping into her activist mode, Ms. Brazile told delegates they must "go talk to Miss Bertha in the beauty shop or Uncle Bob in the barber shop" because they can get people to the polls.
Ms. Brazile repeatedly stressed the difference in the candidacies of Mr. Gore and Mr. Lieberman and Republican presidential nominee George W. Bush and vice-presidential nominee Richard B. Cheney in terms she thought would resonate with minorities.
For example, she warned the crowd about expected nominations to the U.S. Supreme Court the next president will likely make, saying Mr. Gore would choose justices who "look like Thurgood Marshall, not Clarence Thomas."
Ms. Brazile has been a senior member of the Gore campaign for approximately 19 months, but some observers have questioned her role and power within the campaign.
"Thank God I'm versatile," Ms. Brazile said, adding that she is not limited by the traditional definition of a campaign manager. She was particularly proud of being able to keep the campaign afloat with limited funds when their opponent was outspending them 3-to-1.
Ms. Brazile is on leave from the staff of D.C. Delegate Eleanor Holmes Norton, a Democrat and the city's non-voting member of Congress.
"Don't underestimate her power. It's quite exciting that Donna's in the throes of this campaign," said Mrs. Norton. She pointed out that not since the late Ronald H. Brown, the former commerce secretary, has a black person been in the close inner circle of a presidential candidate.
Getting affirmative action into Mr. Lieberman's speech is just one instance of her influence in the campaign. "If they didn't have a real commitment to affirmative action, I would not be the campaign manager."

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