Gore Campaign Boss: Nader Can Hurt Us

Al Gore’s new campaign chairman hopes to use next month’s Democratic National Convention to shatter any public perception of the vice president as “just a boring stiff.”

In an interview Tuesday with The Associated Press, William Daley also conceded that Green Party candidate Ralph Nader threatens to siphon support from Gore. Allies inside and outside the Gore campaign have made informal overtures to Nader supporters, Daley said.

“There’s been some discussions but kind of just, What is this? Why are you over there? ƒ Nothing official where we’ve approached the candidate.”

Secretary Daley spoke from his office in the Commerce Department, which he leaves this week to replace Tony Coelho, who resigned last month for health reasons.

The Goal

Intimately involved with planning for the Aug. 14-17 convention in Los Angeles, Daley said his major goal is to introduce Gore to Americans as “the potential next president” and chip away at a stereotype.

“Obviously, it would be great for those people who have been convinced for eight years that he’s just a boring stiff, an unable-to-speak guy — that he comes through as a real person,” Daley said.

Gore is already focused on his performance, strategists said, and has, for weeks now, been tossing ideas to his speech writers and working more with a TelePromTer.

President Clinton will provide “lift-off” in prime time on the first night. “It’s going to be a rock ‘em, sock ‘em night — a thank-you to him — but when he leaves, it’s Al Gore’s nomination that takes place and Al Gore’s convention and campaign,” Daley said.

How About Hillary?

Party sources say first lady Hillary Rodham Clinton, a candidate for Senate from New York, is tentatively slated to speak the same night as her husband, leaving the spotlight to Gore after that.

Daley said Mrs. Clinton will land “a prominent role,” though her campaign and Gore’s team have not settled the details.

The vice president knows it won’t be easy stepping outside Clinton’s shadow.

“That’s just a given,” Daley said. “The presidents overshadow everyone ƒ when they stand alone like that and that is his night, as it should be after eight years.”

Unsafe in Any Race?

Nader, who gained national attention as a consumer advocate, is supported by about 6 percent of people polled in most national surveys, slightly higher in a handful of battleground states. Polls suggest that most of his support comes from Democrats. Daley predicted “a drop off” in those numbers.

“The majority of people who would be supportive of a Nader would be much more inclined to be for Al Gore than for George Bush,” said Daley. But, he added, “People, at the end, vote for the one of two people they think will win.”

Daley said Pat Buchanan, the former Republican likely to win the Reform Party nomination, will hurt presumptive Republican nominee Bush after he wins the third-party nomination and the $12 million in federal aid that comes with it.

Plan of Attack

Daley also said:

House Minority Leader Richard Gephardt is “extremely attractive” and “very well qualified” to be vice president and his efforts to win back control of the House for Democrats would not preclude Gore from picking him as running mate. Daley did not confirm that the Missouri lawmaker is under consideration.

Indiana Sen. Evan Bayh, another potential running mate, supports abortion rights and is not damaged in Gore’s eyes by opposition from some women’s activists, who objected to Bayh’s support for a ban on what is known as partial-birth abortion.

Gore will likely remain even or slightly behind Bush in the polls until voters start paying more attention after Labor Day. “Whatever happens in October, whether it’s the debates, the process starts and will begin to force people to deal with ‘Oh, I’ve got to vote in three weeks, and now what am I going to do?“‘

Daley, who organized the 1996 convention for Clinton, said neither campaign will enjoy a major jump in the polls after their conventions because the TV networks are scaling back coverage and mainstream voters will pay little attention.

“I think the people who sit and watch this stuff are people who are all for you already, especially today in the climate of nobody-gives-a-hoot about this campaign season yet, and they’re really tuned out just in general,” he said.