Gore Closer to VP Decision

ByABC News

Aug. 7, 2000 -- Democratic presidential candidate Al Gore, close to choosing his running mate, could make his decision known as early as today.

Gore campaign officials told ABCNEWS Sunday evening that the vice president would sleep on his choices. But Gore himself said earlier in the day that he has not yet selected a candidate.

“I have not decided yet — but I will, and shortly,” Gore tolda Democratic Party fundraising audience in Southampton, N.Y.

Gore flew to Nashville Sunday afternoon to meet with Warren Christopher, the head of his vice-presidential search committee, leading to speculation he had made a decision. But Gore campaign spokesman Chris Lehane told reporters that would not be the case.

“He has not made the decision yet,” said Lehane. “He will not make it today. He will likely make it tomorrow.”

Christopher said the decision was close.

“We’re coming to the end of the road,” Christopher told reporters.

Gore has said he would make the formal announcement on Tuesday in Nashville, something campaign manager William Daley confirmed Sunday on ABCNEWS’ This Week.

Senators in the Running

Among the leading contenders on Gore’s short list of a half-dozen candidates plus at least one unnamed “wild card” are senators John Edwards of North Carolina and John Kerry of Massachusetts.

In recent days, Democrats close to Gore have talked more about the positive attributes of Edwards than of the other contenders. Some of Gore’s key advisers, including strategist Bob Shrum, also have ties to Edwards, having worked on his successful 1998 Senate campaign.

Edwards had no comment, while Kerry told reporters on Saturday he had not talked to members of the Gore campaign in recent days.

Other contenders include senators Joseph Lieberman of Connecticut and Evan Bayh of Indiana, New Hampshire Gov. Jeanne Shaheen, and House Minority Leader Richard Gephardt of Missouri, plus one unknown candidate.

Low-Key Search

Throughout the process, Gore has repeatedly expressed a desire to keep his search process out of the public eye. Last week he told reporters it was “only fair” to do so, adding, “I’ve been through this process myself on the other side,” alluding to his selection by Bill Clinton in 1992.

As a result, the vice president has consistently avoided talking about specific vice-presidential candidates, their likelihood of being chosen, or potential issues that may affect their chances. Questions have been raised about whether Edwards — first elected less than two years ago — would be able to fulfill Gore’s oft-cited prime criterion for the job, “to become president at a moment’s notice.”

However, in an interview with ABCNEWS, Gore dismissed lack of experience in public office as a potential stumbling block (see related story).

“I don’t think Washington experience is the only experience that’s relevant to leadership and to this country,” Gore said.

Kerry, by contrast, was first elected to the Senate in 1984. Lieberman is a two-term senator and Bayh served two terms as Indiana’s governor before joining the Senate in 1998.

Gore has also made it clear that lawyers have vetted all the candidates he is considering, telling reporters on Friday to “assume that that process is over with.”

Earlier this week, Democrats knowledgeable about the vice-presidential search process said that they had vetted fewer than 10 potential running mates.

ABCNEWS’ Linda Douglass, Dana Hill, Mark Halperin, and Terry Moran and the Associated Press contributed to this report.

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