Al Gore
Gore's Plunge in the Polls
By Sara McPeak
April 1999

Al Gore is lagging behind this month in the presidential contender polls. The spin from Gore's camp blames the historical lame-duck doldrums, which they say occur halfway through any second-term administration and relate to both the prez and veep. But doesn't their March spin conflict with the February high approval rating spin that convinced Democrat Senators to vote an acquittal for Bill Clinton? And wouldn't the supposed high approval rating for this administration relate to both the prez and the veep?

A more obvious and much more logical reason for Gore's lag in the presidential contender polls relates to public perception of his agenda and of Gore himself. This perception has been formed over the last six years as the public watched a myriad of mistakes, inconsistencies and abuses by the Clinton administration, which by definition includes Al Gore. And Gore assumed a very solid part in these exploits (remember it's not about sex) by defending Clinton's actions as well as his own throughout this erratic term.

Gore is lagging in the polls because both his upcoming agenda and he, himself, are large targets for Republican candidates who can support their own potentially workable agenda items by merely contrasting them with Clinton/Gore shortcomings. Dan Quayle, a candidate whose popularity is on the rise, and Bill Kristol, his former domestic affairs advisor and chief of staff, recently found that when targeting Gore, the slings and arrows actually stick!

On March 17 Quayle shot a hole through Gore's record on crop insurance and risk management tools for farmers: "Although they have repeatedly promised to address this agriculture crisis, Bill Clinton and Al Gore have failed to make any real effort to protect farmers from devastating crop losses. We all know Al Gore puts 'global warming' ahead of agriculture, and including 100 million dollars for global warming and nothing for crop insurance proves it." Quayle struck at the modus operandi of this administration, i.e., the constant broken promises and placement of personally important issues ahead of the public good. This strengthens Quayle's image at the same time that it denotes his agenda and reveals Gore's inconsistencies.

The same day Quayle made his attack on behalf of American farmers, Gore was suggesting to Iowa farmers that he spent his youth in the same types of fields and confinement lots the farmers know so well. Is this the same Al Gore who grew up in Washington? Also that same day, Alvin Woodward of the AP quoted Kristol's reaction to Gore's belief that he created the internet: "Earnest boastfulness does not play well... certain gaffes hurt when they fit a stereotype... I think Gore's comment taking credit for the internet is an example of that. I think it's a damaging gaffe because it reinforces something out there." Could that "something out there" be that Gore is prone to lying? Is he mimicking Clinton's behavior? And is it possible that Americans are refusing to continue to condone this behavior?

The polls certainly could be a sign that the electorate is very concerned about the formulation of a viable international policy for the year 2000. The Clinton administration has fallen flat on this aspect of their agenda. The issue regarding China has recently become a potential thorn in the side in what Gore calls his campaign "vision." Republican candidates will find the China question an easy target in Gore's upcoming vision. The emerging story that this administration tried to prevent Congress from learning about Chinese espionage is a frightening saga on Clinton/Gore credibility in the areas of security and defense.

The crux of the China matter hinges on the trade issue vs. national security, morality and possible communist aggression. Republican candidates can quickly shed their outdated mantle of big business enthusiasts by offering a contrast to Clinton's Chinese policy -- a policy founded upon potential business and campaign contribution profitability. Republicans can turn instead to restricting trade with China based on security and moral issues.

Gore will continue to sink in the polls as long as responsible policies of Republican candidates, such as Quayle's, are juxtaposed with the obvious failures of the Clinton/Gore term.

This article copyright © 1999 by Sara McPeak, and may not be reproduced in any form without the express written consent of its author. All rights reserved.

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