Bill Worried About Pal Al

President Clinton has been worried about Al Gore's faltering presidential campaign, but he says there's no need for alarm.

Mr. Clinton phoned The New York Times after learning that the newspaper was preparing to publish a story reporting his concerns about the Gore campaign.

Mr. Clinton conceded that he had been worried about his vice president's campaign operation, but said the situation had improved significantly in the past few weeks. He cited Gore's recent decision to hire Tony Coelho, a prominent Democratic strategist, as the vice president's campaign chief.

Al Gore (AP)
"He's a strong man and an experienced person and he'll really take a lot of the burdens off the vice president," Mr. Clinton told the newspaper.

The president also said he had personally coached his rather stiff second-in-command to loosen up and appear less rigid.

"It is true that I have urged him to go out there and enjoy this," Mr. Clinton said. "I have told him to go out and have a good time. I want people to know him the way I know him. I want people to see him the way I see him."

Gore has a substantial lead in the polls and in campaign funds over his only serious rival for the Democratic presidential nomination, former New Jersey Sen. Bill Bradley.

Nevertheless, Gore is trailing the GOP presidential front-runner, Texas Gov. George W. Bush, in the polls and some Democrats have expressed unhappiness with the vice president's lackluster campaign effort.

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