- The Washington Times - Friday, November 1, 2002

Furious campaigning by former President Bill Clinton, former Vice President Al Gore and Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton has turned the midterm elections into as much of a referendum on the old Clinton-Gore platform as one on President Bush, analysts say.
"It's a referendum on the Democratic Party that Clinton and Gore left behind and there's not much there," said Republican political strategist Rich Galen, publisher of mullings.com. "This is still the Democratic Party that Bill Clinton built and that Al Gore wants to wrest away from him and that Hillary is trying to prevent Gore from wresting away."
Mr. Clinton will have campaigned in 20 states, including Hawaii, by Election Day. Mr. Gore also was keeping a busy campaign schedule and appeared yesterday at a rally for Maryland gubernatorial candidate Kathleen Kennedy Townsend.
The former vice president spent the entire afternoon with Mrs. Townsend, running the gamut from black students at Bowie State University to Jewish senior citizens in Rockville to a women's group in Chevy Chase.
Mr. Gore played stand-up comedian and turnout booster to a mostly black audience of several hundred at Bowie State.
"I am Al Gore. I used to be the next president of America," Mr. Gore told the audience, which could not stop laughing during his speech.
He told the audience about unemployment having gone up after he and Mr. Clinton left office: "I should know. I was one of the first laid off in January."
In his more-serious moments, Mr. Gore repeatedly told his audiences how important it was to increase turnout. "Everything depends on turnout, and turnout depends on you," he said.
Mr. Gore was part of a lineup whipped together by the Townsend campaign just five days before the election.
Sen. Edward M. Kennedy, Massachusetts Democrat and Mrs. Townsend's uncle; Sens. Barbara A. Mikulski and Paul S. Sarbanes; Reps. Steny H. Hoyer and Albert R. Wynn; and Martin Luther King III were among those who lauded Mrs. Townsend yesterday and urged the audience to get out the vote. The Democratic lieutenant governor is running against Rep. Robert L. Ehrlich Jr. in a race that polls show could be a tossup.
Mr. Gore also has campaigned this year for Rep. Jim Maloney of Connecticut, Massachusetts gubernatorial candidate Shannon O'Brien and Gloria Tristani, who is running for U.S. Senate in New Mexico.
Mr. Clinton has campaigned for Democratic gubernatorial candidates H. Carl McCall in New York, Mrs. O'Brien in Massachusetts and Jennifer Granholm in Michigan. He heads to Florida this weekend to campaign for state legislative candidates.
Democrats who have received campaign visits from the former first lady include challenger Chellie Pingree in the Senate race in Maine and Rep. Patrick J. Kennedy of Rhode Island. Mrs. Clinton told supporters of Sen. Jean Carnahan, Missouri Democrat, that the president was "selected," not elected.
Celebrities on both sides have lined up to campaign in Maryland. Mr. Ehrlich has brought in President Bush and is expected to rally with former New York Mayor Rudolph W. Giuliani on Sunday.
The Clintons also have campaigned for Mrs. Townsend, and the former president is expected to join her again this evening at an event in Lanham.
During a reception after an Oct. 18 rally at Coppin State College in Baltimore, Mr. Clinton raised $750,000 for Mrs. Townsend's coffers. The luncheon with Mr. Gore yesterday brought in $100,000 for her campaign.
The combined appearances of the Clintons and Mr. Gore rival the president's frenetic stumping schedule in the final days before the elections.
"Yes, but being an ex-president and an ex-presidential candidate can't compare to being the president of the United States," lamented Democratic strategist Mary Anne Marsh.
Like many Democrats, Miss Marsh is trying to lower expectations for her party's performance next week.
By historical standards, Democrats would be likely to pick up dozens of House seats and two or three Senate seats. But most analysts on both sides of the aisle predict that Republicans will retain their advantage of a half-dozen seats in the House and keep control of their 49 Senate seats.
If that happens, Democratic leaders may be in for recriminations from rank-and-file party members and officeholders. Some have speculated that Terry McAuliffe, chairman of the Democratic National Committee, may be asked to step down.
Mr. Galen said Mr. McAuliffe was handpicked to lead the Democrats by his friend Mr. Clinton. Thus, a poor performance by Mr. McAuliffe may reflect poorly on the former president.
"I'm not sure you'll be able to blame Clinton and Gore for Democratic defeats next week, but you'll certainly be able to say their day has come and gone," Mr. Galen said.
Democrats in tight races in the South and even in his native Arkansas have kept Mr. Clinton at a distance.
When the former president went home in August to headline a rally for Democratic candidates, U.S. Senate candidate Mark Pryor did not participate. "I was doing debate prep," Mr. Pryor said.
When the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee began arranging campaign appearances by Mr. Clinton, Sen. Max Cleland of Georgia declined. "I plan to campaign on my own record," Mr. Cleland said.
Even some of his presidential advisers have avoided his embrace. Former Chief of Staff Erskine Bowles did not seek his help in the U.S. Senate race in North Carolina, and former Attorney General Janet Reno avoided him until the week before the Democratic primary.
But Miss Marsh said Democrats will be able to hold their heads high if "it's not an overwhelming defeat for the Democrats and an overwhelming victory for President Bush."
She added: "If the Democrats retain the Senate and pick up a number of governor's races, the question becomes: What does that say about the president and his emphasis on foreign policy versus people's concerns about their pocketbook?"

LOAD COMMENTS ()

 

Click to Read More

Click to Hide