- The Washington Times - Thursday, August 16, 2001

Al Gore is going to have a tougher time winning his party's presidential nomination if he runs again in 2004 because a larger, stronger lineup of candidates will be opposing him, Democratic officials said yesterday.
Despite the closeness of the 2000 presidential election, in which Mr. Gore narrowly won in the popular vote but lost in the electoral vote count, those Democrats say that the race for their party's nomination is up for grabs, and that the former vice president is going to have to sell himself all over again to his party, one speech at a time.
"It's wide open. There's a lot of people testing the waters. People are waiting to see who is interested. I don't think anybody's got it locked up," said David J. Leland, chairman of the Ohio Democratic Party.
"There's a lot of people testing the waters. In 1968, Richard Nixon, who had been the vice president and lost the presidency in 1960, had to go out there and do all of those chicken dinner speeches again. You have to go out there and ask them to vote," Mr. Leland said.
Mr. Gore is going to have to do "the same thing," he said.
"I think he will have more Democrats [opposing him] the second time around. There will be more Democrats running for president in 2004 than were running in 2000. I don't know if he'll be one of them," he said.
"Historically, it has been tougher to run a second time around," Mr. Leland added.
"Whether Gore runs or doesn't run, he will not have the almost clear field that he had last time," said Donald Fowler, the former chairman of the Democratic National Committee under the Clinton-Gore administration. "And whether he runs or not will not make a material difference in whether there will be others running."
Mr. Gore, who disappeared from the political arena after the legal debacle in last year's disputed election in Florida, has decided to re-emerge next month when he will be the keynote speaker at the Iowa Democratic Party's annual Jefferson-Jackson Day Dinner on Sept. 29. The event, in a state that holds the first delegate-selection caucuses of the primary season, was seen by some as the first signal that Mr. Gore was getting ready to begin another campaign for the presidency.
However, the Democratic officials cautioned yesterday that while Mr. Gore must be considered the front-runner right now, the road to the nomination would not only be crowded but could include some of the party's biggest political heavyweights.
Indeed, the growing field of prospective candidates already includes House Democratic Leader Richard A. Gephardt of Missouri, Senate Democratic Leader Tom Daschle of South Dakota, Sen. John Edwards of North Carolina and Sen. John Kerry of Massachusetts. Sen. Joseph I. Lieberman of Connecticut, Mr. Gore's running mate, has expressed strong interest in his own bid for the presidential nomination but has said he would not run if Mr. Gore becomes a candidate.
Some of these Democrats have already made appearances in early primary season states or have plans to in the coming months. Mr. Edwards, a rising star in his party, has been invited to speak at the Ohio Democratic Dinner later this year and has been talking to prospective donors about a possible presidential candidacy.
Asked about the significance of Mr. Gore's decision to address the Iowa dinner, Mr. Leland said he sees little. "It's not like he's introducing himself in the state of Iowa. They already know him."

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