Gore Adds Staff for Primaries
WASHINGTON (AP) _ Al Gore, bracing for stiff competition in the Democratic presidential primaries, is adding several new faces to his inner circle including respected consultant Carter Eskew.
Advisers say the vice president is not shaking up his staff, but he is dramatically refining his political team for the long haul.
``We are defining roles and responsibilities and we’re adding strong members to the team when appropriate,″ campaign chairman Tony Coelho said in a telephone interview when told that Democratic officials were privately leaking word of Eskew’s hiring.
He confirmed the addition of Eskew and policy coordinator Lauren Choy, saying several more new advisers will soon be hired. Denying reports that he plans to clean house, Coelho said, ``There will be no dismissals.″
But the addition of Eskew adds an awkward personal dynamic to Gore’s inner circle. He and the vice president’s current top strategist, Bob Squier, are former partners who had a bitter falling out.
There is no evidence that their relationship has mended, but Coelho said that doesn’t matter.
``The one thing that I’m interested in is that they both share with me one common desire and that is to get Al Gore elected,″ the former California lawmaker said.
As word of the reorganization spread throughout the Gore campaign, aides became fearful that they would lose their jobs or chunks of their responsibilities.
Though nobody will be fired, some staff members face significant changes in their job descriptions. ``Every presidential campaign puts together a media team and we’re in the process of building one now,″ Coelho said.
Eskew’s hiring is a big piece of that process.
Squier, who has been Gore’s primary media strategist, is expected now to focus now on his specialty _ political advertising. Eskew will try to refine Gore’s message.
``Bob is a key strategist, adviser and friend of Al Gore’s. He’s been that for years and he will remain that,″ Coelho said.
Eskew, in his mid-40s, is a longtime confidant of Gore and worked on Clinton’s 1992 campaign. He is a partner in the issues advocacy firm of Bozell Eskew. His clients include pharmaceutical manufacturers, a life insurance foundation and Empire Blue Cross/Blue Shield, New York state’s largest health care company.
He also produced a multimillion dollar advertising campaign for the tobacco industry that is credited with helping kill the Senate’s tobacco bill.
Squier was quoted by The Washington Post as saying, ``He certainly would not have been allowed to represent a client like this inside our company.″
Coelho said he’s prepared to settle any strategy disputes between the pair. ``Ultimately these media decisions will end up in the lap of the general chairman and I’ll have to make decisions,″ Coelho said. ``My reputation is I’ve been able to bring different elements of the party together to work as a team.″
He said Gore is not worried about establishing warring factions within the campaign.
``What this says about Al Gore is he’s not afraid to go outside the box and bring in people with different views,″ the adviser said.
The move also suggests that Coelho, little more than a month into his tenure, is moving quickly to get the campaign on track.
Gore holds a wide lead over Bill Bradley in polls of Democratic voters, but the former New Jersey senator has raised a surprising amount of money to ensure that he can challenge Gore throughout the primary season.
Republican front-runner George W. Bush is casting a long shadow, raising twice as much money as Gore and beating him in head-to-head polls.
Gore has struggled to gain his footing politically. He was criticized for appearing to suggest that he invented the Internet. President Clinton, a staunch defender of the vice president, appeared to raise questions in public about the campaign’s effectiveness early on.
Eskew and Squier did not return telephone calls.