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The notion’s sheer improbability has the Washington Post invoking it over and over, savoring the very counterintuitiveness of it all: Seems that the son of a senator, who grew up in a Washington hotel and is running for president, is a regular guy.
It’s one thing for Vice President Al Gore to change into a pair of stage Dockers in plain sight at the beginning of October. (Presidential politics is embarrassing to watch that way.) But it’s quite another thing for the Post to watch him do it—and then cover him as if the make-over made a difference. C’mon, guys: Politics is cynical enough without pretending that some sort of genuine transformation is under way.
This is what happens when you cover an election with your nose pressed up against the candidate’s fanny. You become too close to notice the ludicrousness of his flailing about and act as if he’s now suddenly capable of imitating a human being. “Hey, Al’s baring his soul out there,” the consultant will say to Post political reporters. And Ceci Connolly or Dan Balz will dutifully write it up.
The average American—the guy Gore is frantically trying to imitate—could tell you that the vice president would wear nipple rings and a feather boa if he thought it might help him attain the office he so baldly desires. Al Gore is not, and never will be, one of us. The St. Alban’s alum defines privilege; he is a hothouse by-product of Beltway gases who may or may not be qualified to run the free world. We know that Gore is a human robot who has merely been reprogrammed courtesy of a new CD-ROM with Joe Six-Pack tutorials. And before Ceci and Dan talk him into donning Lamar Alexander’s now available lumberjack shirt, can we point out that they are the only people in America—including those involved in the campaign—who buy the new Al?
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“I thought politics was the absolute last thing I would ever do with my life,” he now tells voters.
—Ceci Connolly, Oct. 1, 1999
Gore and his advisers believe he has become a more comfortable and appealing candidate, but there is still work to be done.
—Dan Balz, Oct. 3, 1999
Sporting a knit shirt, cowboy boots and a Palm Pilot clipped on his khakis, Vice President Gore cut the ribbon on a campaign headquarters based not on K Street, but in the state he calls home. It was the new Al Gore. He ditched the note cards, blue suit and even the title in front of his name.
And most significantly, he was talking about himself.
Oct. 7, 1999
Gore sprang to life tonight, delivering one of his feistiest performances of the year as his Iowa campaign team put on a show of force designed to send the signal that he had gotten a wake up call after months of lackluster campaigning.
—Dan Balz and Ceci Connolly,
Oct. 10, 1999
“The feeling of the campaign is different,” said Gore, dressed in one of his crisp, new three-button suits. “If you don’t feel it yet, you will.”
During the luncheon interview and in a lengthy hand-shaking session in the newsroom afterward, Gore for the most part displayed the looser, more relaxed side of himself that few Americans get to see.
—Ceci Connolly, Oct. 16, 1999
“The kind of campaigning he’s doing now will make people realize he is a normal guy,” said Jim Demers, a Concord lobbyist advising the Gore camp.
At several stops in recent days, voters have remarked with some surprise that Gore is now walking local streets and lingering at open meetings until the lights are turned off, and is far more accessible and personable than his stand-offish persona.
His motorcades are shorter, the staff is leaner and two new commercials portray Gore as a man who “fights for what he believes in…”
At times joking, at times choked with emotion, Gore worked hard to find common ground with his questioners. To high school students he spoke of the terms “diss” and “clique” and to a blind woman he recounted the story of his blind Aunt Thelma. —Ceci Connolly, Oct. 26, 1999