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Clinton Boosts His Pal Al

In an interview with CBS News Early Show anchor Bryant Gumbel, President Clinton said he is not worried about vice president Al Gore's chances of winning the Democratic nomination.

"I think he's doing a good job on his campaign right now," he said. "By historical standards, he's doing quite well."

The complete transcript of the interview
By historical standards, the President said, it's not unusual for incumbent vice presidents to trail challengers in the polls in early campaigning: He cited George Bush, who was a mere one point ahead of Bob Dole in 1988.

Gore on the campaign trail

"People want to see the vice president out there establishing his own identity with his own program for the future, making clear where he wants to go," Mr. Clinton said. "If he does, I think he will be nominated."

President Clinton told Gumbel he doesn't take personally polls that suggest he would be more of a liability to the campaigns of Gore and his wife, Hillary, than a positive.

"What I think people are saying is, we want these people to sell themselves. And we don't want anyone to tell us how to vote," he said.

"I can't expect anybody to vote for anyone, not just the vice president and Hillary, not anyone, just because I say they should do it," he said. "So the only thing I can do is hope that the position I have will get people to listen to whatever reasons I offer."

Mr. Clinton said he talks frequently about their campaigns with both Gore and his wife, and said he is amused at the changes in the Clinton family.

The First Lady listening (or campaigning) in New York State.

"It's so funny because our roles are almost completely reversed now. All the things that she did for me over more than 20 years, all the encouragement, reminders, helpful suggestions, everything, all the things, we've just kind of reversed roles," he said, all but confirming his wife's bid for the Senate from New York. "An I'm enjoying it. I'm trying to do a good job in my new role."

He said New York has always been good for him politically, but "that doesn't mean that those New Yorkers believe I should tell them who should be their senator," he said. "They want to see Hillary out there committed to them, their issues, their needs, their future. And the more she does that the more everybody else will be able to make arguments about why she should be elected."

The president said he was not alarmed by candidates for office who have garnered fame and celebrity in areas other than politics.

"Gov. Bush is in part of the position he's in because his father was president. But in the end the voters will judge him, I think, based on his own merits," he said.

"The Kennedy's have spawned, now, two generations, and it won't be long before there will be a third generation, of young people who present themselves for public service," he pointed out. "They're aided in the beginning because of their name but in the end they're judged on their own merits."

Asked about some of the people seeking the Reform Party presidential nomination, Mr. Clinton said there was nothing wrong with their former or present occupations.

"I don't think someone should be disqualified for seeking public office because they've been in entertainment, or business, or athletics," he told Gumbel. "But sooner or later the voters look at them and they say, 'Well, can this person perform?'

"I basically trust the voters on this. As long as they've got time enough to make a good decision I think they normally make it.

"That's why we're still around here after 200 years."

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