- The Washington Times - Friday, June 16, 2000

Tony Coelho, chief strategist of Al Gore's flagging presidential campaign, resigned Thursday because of ill health and will be replaced by Commerce Secretary William M. Daley, who will take over July 15.

In the second major shake-up of the Gore campaign in a year, Mr. Coelho's decision to step down as campaign chairman comes while Mr. Gore continues to trail George W. Bush in the polls and Democrats are complaining that his campaign is weak, unfocused and suffers from internal divisions and low morale.

The personnel move came as Mr. Gore, campaigning in the battleground state of Ohio, doubled his tax-cut plan to $500 billion over 10 years, about half what the Texas governor has proposed returning to taxpayers.

Mr. Coelho, 58, who has epilepsy, was hospitalized earlier this week for an inflamed colon. He told reporters Thursday he has had three epileptic seizures and said his doctors told him they would grow more frequent and more severe if he continued his present work pace.

"I just hit a wall, and my health comes first," Mr. Coelho said.

In a statement put out by the Gore campaign, Mr. Coelho said "My doctors have told me that I need to slow down, eat better and travel less for a period of time. Unfortunately, none of this advice is consistent with the rigors of chairing a presidential campaign."

Mr. Gore thanked Mr. Coelho for putting together the strategy that led to his easy victory over former New Jersey Sen. Bill Bradley in the primaries and said he would "call upon Tony's counsel and help just as soon as his doctors give me the word."

Mr. Daley quickly joined Mr. Gore on the campaign trail Thursday, holding a joint news conference at a produce warehouse in Cincinnati.

"I think the campaign is in very good shape. We have to implement the game plan laid out," said Mr. Daley.

But a senior Bush campaign official questioned whether Mr. Daley's selection as Mr. Gore's campaign chief signaled yet another tactical shift in the vice president's frequently changing strategy.

"We wish [Mr. Coelho] well and hope his health improves," said Mr. Bush's chief spokeswoman, Karen Hughes. "I wonder whether naming a new chairman involves yet another reinvention of the Gore campaign. Which Vice President Gore will campaign next week?"

Mr. Daley, 51, the brother of Chicago Mayor Richard M. Daley, has never run a presidential campaign, but he is known as a skillful political manager who helped President Clinton win House approval of the China trade deal earlier this month.

Mr. Clinton had wanted Mr. Daley to manage his 1996 re-election campaign but he turned down the offer, and was later named to the Commerce post.

"Al Gore got the campaign chairman that Bill Clinton wanted and that's good for his campaign," said Mary Anne Marsh, a Democratic campaign strategist.

"Bill has great interpersonal skills and well-honed political instincts. He is the brains of the Daley clan. His brother would not be mayor if it wasn't for him," said Garry South, Mr. Gore's campaign strategist in California.

There had been numerous, though unsubstantiated, reports for several weeks that Mr. Coelho would probably leave the campaign as complaints mounted from rank-and-file Democrats about the way it was being run.

Democratic insiders said that Mr. Coelho's blunt, brash management style led to internal bickering over campaign policy and grumbling from some of the Gore campaign staff that the campaign was faltering and had no compelling message.

Not only is Mr. Bush running 6 to 8 points ahead of Mr. Gore in the national polls, he is leading the vice president in more than a half-dozen states that Democrats usually take for granted including Oregon, Washington and West Virginia.

Nearly three months after clinching the Democratic presidential nomination, Mr. Gore is having trouble nailing down his party's base. Both the United Auto Workers and the Teamsters have refused to endorse him and are sending signals that they may embrace third-party candidate Ralph Nader.

John Sweeney, the AFL-CIO president who muscled through an early endorsement of Mr. Gore, issued a surprisingly biting statement.

Mr. Daley's stewardship of the North American Free Trade Agreement and the China trade bill "put him squarely on the opposite side of working families," Mr. Sweeney said.

Bret Caldwell, a spokesman for the Teamsters, called the Daley appointment a "slap in the face of labor" that wouldn't help Mr. Gore win the union's endorsement.

A growing number of the party's liberal activists have been criticizing Mr. Gore's campaign of late for being too conservative. Former Labor Secretary Robert Reich has attacked the Gore campaign for being timid and "not standing for anything."

At the same time, some of Mr. Gore's advisers were growing nervous over three government investigations into Mr. Coelho's past business dealings.

The investigations by the State Department's Office of Inspector General and two inquiries by the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission have resulted in subpoenas and could lead to possible grand jury action, officials said.

A State Department IG report last October criticized Mr. Coelho's handling of the U.S. pavilion at the 1998 World Exposition in Lisbon. It said, among other things, that he misused funds to benefit his business projects and a private foundation.

Mr. Coelho, a former congressman from California who rose to the post of party whip, was forced to leave the House in 1989 under an ethical cloud after questions were raised about a sweetheart junk-bond deal from which he benefited.

He made a political comeback in 1994 to oversee the Democrats' congressional campaigns, but that ended in failure when the Republicans won control of the House for the first time in 40 years.

Mr. Gore had originally wanted Mr. Daley to be his campaign manager last year but he turned down the offer and Mr. Coelho took the job at a time when the campaign was in disarray.

Mr. Gore shook up his campaign last year when it appeared that Mr. Bradley was gaining on him and moved the entire operation to Nashville, Tenn. Mr. Coelho was given full control of the campaign that led to Mr. Gore loosening up his stiff style, wearing more casual clothes, and participating in more-informal events with voters.

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