If nothing else comes out of the election of 2002 it is the knowledge that Al Gore is completely obsessed with his defeat in 2000, and that he is dragging his Democratic Party into whatever dark hole his mind resides in.
Take what happened this past week in Maryland, when Gore stumped with that state’s gubernatorial candidate Kathleen Kennedy Townsend. Understand that Townsend is perhaps, next to California’s Bill Simon, the worst campaigner this year. By all rights, she should be down ten, no 15 points in the polls. But in a Democratically controlled state, she was lucky on Wednesday to be up by one or two points against Republican Bob Ehrlich.
Then Al hit the road with her. His campaign speeches focused almost exclusively on his loss in 2000, with barely a mention of Townsend. Gore’s speech received major play across the state. And a day later, Democratic tracking polls showed Townsend had lost three points in the polls and trailed Ehrlich going into today.
“Someone is going to have to look at how many candidates Gore campaigned for in the last week of the election and how many of them lost,” says a Democratic National Committee staffer. “He was just a disaster. Whoever was supposed to prep him did an awful job. All he talked about was himself. No upbeat message, no rallying cry for the candidates. Just him.”
In fact Gore’s performance was so bad that Democrats immediately sent out an SOS and brought Bill Clinton into Maryland to campaign for Townsend in one last attempt to save her political career.
“That just has to burn Gore up,” says the DNCer. “And if it doesn’t it just shows how detached Gore is about the mess he’s in.”
Last Friday night, Democratic National Committee advisers working with remnants of the Paul Wellstone campaign and with Walter Mondale‘s advisers were debating among themselves whether to go ahead with a public debate between their last minute candidate and Republican Norm Coleman. Tracking polls were indicating that if Mondale did not debate his opponent, he would lose.
“It was pretty clear we couldn’t keep Mondale in a secure undisclosed location,” says a Mondale campaign adviser in Minnesota. “We had to put him out there.”
Mondale debates Coleman today, and both Democrats and Republicans say the former vice president’s victory depends on his performance. “He’s been cramming, and studying up. We’re surprised by how detached he appears to have been from issues. Everyone’s a bit nervous.”
The nervousness arises due to Mondale’s less than steady performance late last week and over the weekend in front of the cameras. On several occasions, the 74 year old appeared unsteady, speaking more slowly and deliberately than in his early 1980s heyday.
“Look, he’s an old man,” says the adviser. “We knew that going in, and we expect that this old man is going to kick Norm Coleman’s [rear] on election day.”