Gore, Lieberman Launch Campaign
NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) _ Al Gore showed off his new running mate Tuesday and said that he and Jewish Sen. Joseph Lieberman will offer the nation a chance ``to tear down a mighty wall of division″ just as voters did in electing John Kennedy as the first Catholic president in 1960.
In remarks prepared for delivery at a sunny campaign rally, Gore said he was making history by picking a Jewish running mate.
``Joe and I come from different regions and different faiths,″ said Gore. ``But we believe in a common set of ideals.″
Their team now formed, the two met for a two-hour dinner Monday night before their initial campaign appearances. After Nashville, they were quickly headed for a nostalgic swing through Gore’s home town and Lieberman’s home state of Connecticut. They will be officially nominated at the Democratic National Convention in Los Angeles next week.
With his decision, Gore drew clear distinctions with President Clinton by picking one of the president’s sharpest Democratic critics.
In his remarks Monday, Gore underscored his long relationship with Lieberman, both as a member of the Senate and as vice president.
``I’ve known Joe Lieberman for 15 years now,″ said Gore. ``We have stood together again and again for policies and principles to bring a new time of prosperity and progress.″
Though differences have been noted in their stances on some issues, Gore said the real gap is between them and the Republicans.
``It comes down to this _ Joe and I are fighting to see to it that our prosperity benefits working families and not just the few,″ Gore said.
He noted that the last time Democrats held a convention in Los Angeles, they nominated Kennedy and shattered a religious barrier.
``That year we voted with our hearts to tear down a mighty wall of division,″ said Gore. ``We made history. And when we nominate Joe Lieberman for vice president, we will do it again.″
One benefit the Democrats see in choosing Lieberman is in his reputation for moral stances, including his criticism of Clinton in the Monica Lewinsky affair.
Lieberman also brings the first Jewish running mate to a major party ticket in history.
``If you look at the two, you can see a natural bonding that occurred,′ said Gore spokesman Chris Lehane. ``They are both very, very strong family men. They are two people who feel faith should play an important part of their lives.″
Republicans quickly sought to find differences they can exploit between Gore and Lieberman, differences on issues like Social Security and school vouchers that both Democrats dismissed.
For his part, Gore said he wanted to wait for his formal announcement before talking about the fine points. ``You’ll have a chance to discuss specific details in some detail.″
Lieberman found more similarities than differences.
``Al Gore and I have pretty much walked the same path and when we’ve had disagreements they’ve been good-faith disagreements, never disagreements that touch our values,″ said Lieberman.
Interviewed Tuesday on NBC, Gore said his selection was telling because it signaled how his administration would be shaped. He cited his own ``productive partnership″ with President Clinton, saying it has brought him unprecedented responsibilities, saying Lieberman would play a similar role.
With his selection, Gore picked a moderate Democrat from a reliably Democratic state. Most polls have shown Republican rival George W. Bush building a lead in the wake of the Republican National Convention, and Gore is hoping to seize attention and galvanize support heading into next week’s Democratic convention.
Republicans have also sought to tie Gore to Clinton, particularly Clinton’s relationship with a White House intern. Lieberman was one of the earliest and sharpest Democratic critics of Clinton’s behavior.
He’s also been a sharp critic of Clinton-Gore fund-raising tactics and has teamed up with conservative Republicans to criticize sex and violence in the entertainment industry.
Analysts were split on whether Gore’s tactic would work, as Gore walks a tightrope facing every vice president running on his own _ breaking with the boss.
California-based Democratic consultant Bill Carrick said Republicans are certain to remind voters of Clinton’s actions and Lieberman can at least distance Gore from the controversy.
If Clinton was unhappy with the choice, there was no public evidence.
``I think it’s wonderful,″ said Clinton. ``He’s been a wonderful friend to me.″
Gore and Lieberman planned a tour of Midwestern battleground states before heading to the convention in Los Angeles next week for a ceremonial passing of the torch from Clinton, who is scheduled to speak Monday and leave town before the new team arrives. Gore hoped to capture campaign attention and magnify a poll ``bounce″ from his convention.