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Bringing In The New Boss

Al Gore told his staff Thursday that under the command of new campaign chief Secretary William Daley, "We're not going to miss a beat."

But if convincing his helpers was an easy chore, shoring up support from skittish organized labor groups - most of whom distrust Daley - won't be such an easy trick.

Gore and his senior advisers huddled Friday in Washington at the vice presidential residence, using their weekly session to plot a transition that won't steal attention from Gore's "progress and prosperity" tour, which resumes Tuesday.

Talking Up Daley

Gore campaign officials, speaking on condition of anonymity, underscored the good Daley brings:

  • He chaired the 1996 Democratic convention in his native Chicago, has a long personal relationship with Gore and knows the campaign inside out. Gore and Coelho frequently consulted with Daley, who participated in planning meetings for this summer's convention in Los Angeles.
  • His political connections (he is a son of the late Chicago Mayor Richard J. Daley and brother of current Mayor Richard M. Daley) strengthen Gore's prospects of winning Illinois, a critical Midwest battleground.
  • He can actively and publicly campaign for Gore, a role the low-profile Coelho, a target of Republicans and the subject of State and Justice department investigations, did not play.

    "It's nothing but a plus for Gore," said Democratic strategist Bill Carrick.

  • While most Democrats were upbeat, labor leaders denounced the move as a slap to their interests - and Republicans derided the move as "another reinvention."

    Gore planned to meet over the weekend with AFL-CIO President John Sweeney. That meeting was hastily arranged in an angry telephone conversation between the vice president and the labor leader Thursday. Organized labor branded Daley an enemy long ago for his championship of free-trade deals.

    Sweeney, an ardent Gore supporter who muscled through the labor federation's early endorsement of the vice president last year, issued a surprisingly biting statement saying Daley's work on free trade "put him squarely on the opposite side of working families."

    The abrupt resignation Thursday of campaign chairman Tony Coelho, for health reasons, fell on Day 3 of the three-week campaign tour meant to help Gore claim credit for the good economy.

    At Gore's new campaign headquarters in Nashville, where phones were still being installed after a weekend move, aides went about their business without much murmur about the surprise change at the top.

    And it seems that's the way Daley wants it. "This campaign is about the election of a president, who best can lead the country," he said on Sunday's CBS News Face The Nation. "It is not about the internal dyamics of a campaign organization."

    Daley, who flew to Cincinnati to meet up with Gore, seconded his new boss' assurance that there would be no shake-up.

    "I think the campaign is in very good shape. We have to implement the game plan laid out," Daley said.

    Union leaders in Washington, however, signaled trouble.

    Organized labor, a powerful Democratic constituency, already opposed Daley for his stewardship of the North American Free Trade Agreement in 1993. And the fact that Daley was putting off his official start date at Gore 2000 until July 15 in order to see congressional passage of an equally hated China trade bill stung all the more.

    Bret Caldwell, a spokesman for the Teamsters, called the appointment "slap in the face of labor" and said it wouldn't help Gore beat Republican rival George W. Bush for the union's endorsement.

    A Gore campaign official said the operation, which is relying heavily on union workers to help with voter turnout in November, frantically tried to telephone labor leaders Thursday morning with a "heads-up."

    Meanwhile, as union leaders fumed, Republicans tried to make political hay out of the change.

    "I wonder whether naming a new chairman involves yet another reinvention of the Gore campaign," said Bush spokeswoman Karen Hughes. "Which Vice President Gore will campaign next week?"

    Coelho is under criminal investigation for financial transactions he made in 1998 while serving as head of the U.S. exhibition at the world's fair in Portugal.

    His lawyer, Stanley Brand, said "nothing is changed" on that front and that the investigations played no part in his decision to step down. "It's purely health related," Brand said.

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