- The Washington Times - Sunday, June 18, 2000

With the replacement of controversial campaign chairman Tony Coelho with Commerce Secretary William Daley less than five months before the general election, Vice President Al Gore's unfocused, sputtering presidential campaign has undergone its second major shakeup in less than nine months.

Last September, when the challenge by former Sen. Bill Bradley proved to be far more formidable than anticipated, Mr. Gore beat a hasty retreat for Nashville, attempting to disassociate himself from the Washington persona he had spent a lifetime fashioning. Subsequently, the trademark slash-and-burn tactics, for which the crowd that surrounds Mr. Gore is notoriously known, easily beat back Mr. Bradley in the Democratic primaries. But the Gore campaign never refocused itself toward the general election. This prompted Democrats across the country who will be forced to share the ballot with Mr. Gore to complain about the questionable post-primary tactics of their party's standard-bearer. Meanwhile, within the campaign, Mr. Coelho's authoritarian style encouraged his colleagues to unsheath their knives.

While Mr. Coelho's abrupt resignation was attributed to legitimate health problems, his departure was widely expected sooner or later. Apart from the turmoil caused by his dictatorial style, his highly questionable business dealings had become the subject of intensifying investigations by the Justice Department and the State Department's inspector general, much to the delight of his colleagues. Indeed, the internal dynamics within the Gore campaign had become so contentious that Mr. Coelho had been telling friends, according to Newsweek, that his goal was to get the campaign in shape by the August convention so that he could depart then. That says a lot about the status of the Gore campaign: Its chairman was preparing to leave just as the fall campaign began in earnest.

Confirming the teetering condition of Mr. Gore's campaign the day after he announced Mr. Daley's arrival, the Los Angeles Times released its latest poll, which revealed Mr. Bush's national lead has expanded to 10 points, 50 percent to 40 percent. Beyond delivering the crucial votes from the graveyards throughout Chicago's precincts as his father, then-Mayor Richard Daley, had done for Jack Kennedy 40 years ago and as his brother, Richard, Chicago's current mayor, could be counted on providing in any event it remains to be seen whether Mr. Daley can reassemble the other segments of the fragmenting Democratic coalition. According to the Times poll, Mr. Gore is the choice of only seven out of 10 Democrats. Mr. Bush is attracting nearly 20 percent of the Democratic vote, triple the percentage of Republicans supporting Mr. Gore. Moreover, Mr. Bush is running even with Mr. Gore among voters earning less than $40,000 a year, while leading the vice president by 15 points among voters earning more than $40,000. Mr. Bush also leads among women, 46 percent to 43 percent.

Mr. Gore's relative appeal among traditional Democratic blocs is perhaps most precarious within union households. As Donald Lambro of The Washington Times reported recently, Mr. Gore leads Mr. Bush among union household voters by a mere 7 percentage points, according to a recent Zogby poll. The vice president trails Mr. Bush in the pivotal industrial states of Ohio, Michigan and Pennsylvania, where the union vote is most concentrated. Teamsters and auto workers, who comprise 60 percent of the union vote in Michigan, have refused to endorse Mr. Gore and have even threatened to support Ralph Nader of the Green Party.

Mr. Daley's arrival surely won't help mollify labor's dissatisfaction with Mr. Gore. Indeed, Big Labor despises Mr. Daley, who shepherded the North American Free Trade Agreement through Congress in 1993 and Permanent Normal Trade Relations with China through the House last month. Even before Mr. Gore recruited him to chair his campaign, AFL-CIO Secretary-Treasurer Richard Trumka, upset with Mr. Gore's support for the China deal, said "our guys" could "decide to stay home" in November. Despite the AFL-CIO's enthusiastic endorsement of the vice president last year, AFL-CIO President John Sweeney, who was the first person Mr. Gore called after Mr. Daley joined the campaign, bitterly criticized the appointment, declaring Mr. Daley to be "squarely on the opposite side of working families." A spokesman for the Teamsters called the appointment "a slap in the face of labor."

And these are the reactions of two of the Democratic Party's most important and powerful allies during the Clinton-Gore administration. Meanwhile, the Los Angeles Times reported Mr. Bush's lead has increased to double digits in the crucial Midwest, making Mr. Daley's graveyard canvassing all the more challenging.

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