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Gore Cops A Plea

With some polls showing George W. Bush with a double-digit lead over Al Gore, the vice president has been courting labor groups in the run-up to the Democratic National Convention.
In his third appearance before labor groups in two days, Gore Saturday praised the service of the country's law enforcement officers, crediting them for helping to produce what he described as the longest sustained decline in crime ever recorded in the country.

In his remarks to the National Association of Police Organizations (NAPO), Gore said there is "no more fundamental responsibility of government than to keep people safe and secure" in their homes and communities.

In an acknowledgement that he is trailing Bush, Gore said he plans to capture the White House by running with working men and women, such as firefighters, letter carriers, police officers and construction workers.

Gore received a raucous welcome Friday at the International Association of Fire Fighters convention and from 8,000 delegates at the annual convention of the National Association of Letter Carriers. Both have already endorsed him.

Working to catch up to Bush's post-convention surge in the polls, Gore is now hoping to win NAPO's coveted endorsement.

To at least tighten the contest, Gore must get a bounce of his own in the polls at the Democratic National Convention, which opens August 14 in Los Angeles.

CBS News Chief White House Correspondent John Roberts reports that by most accounts, the soon-to-be Democratic nominee has until Labor Day to narrow Bush's lead in the polls if Gore is to stay competitive through November.

Speaking before the police officers Saturday, the vice president pointed out that unlike Bush, he has pushed for tougher guns laws, a top goal of law officers.

Gore also reminded the officers that Cheney, while a member of Congress in the 1980s, voted against a proposed ban on so-called "cop-killer bullets," which can pierce bullet-proof vests.

"Some say the age of heroes has passed. I say look around this room. Heroism is a part of your job description," said Gore, speaking to officers in Washington. "America is safer than it has been in a generation."

The vice president also promoted his proposals to hire 50,000 more police officers nationwide, hire 10,000 state and local prosecutors, pass a constitutional amendment protecting the rights of victims and increase gun safety measures that would include mandatory child safety locks.

While hoping for help from labor unions, Gore is also looking to help himself with the choice of a running mate. He is expected to announce his pick on Tuesday.

On the topic of who that "number two" will be, the vice president Friday didn't give an inch in an interview with CBS News.

Asked if he had made up his mind yet, he said "Not yet, but I will soon."

Sources say Gore will choose from a list with four senators at its top: John Kerrof Massachusetts, John Edwards of North Carolina, Joe Lieberman from Connecticut and Evan Bayh of Indiana.

But the vice president is still dangling the idea of a wild card candidate.

Asked what he sought in a running mate, Gore said, "Someone who can become president if necessary. Someone who can be a good partner. Someone who shares my values and will fight for the people, not the powerful."

Regarding Edwards, who was first elected two years ago, Gore told ABC, "I don't think Washington experience is the only experience that's relevant to leadership and to this country."

House Democratic leader Dick Gephardt and New Hampshire Gov. Jeanne Shaheen are also on Gore's short list. Gore told ABC that America is "of course" ready for a female vice president.

With his pick, campaign sources say, Gore will be looking to put a fresh face on politics to counter what the vice president has called a return to the faded old guard that Bush and Cheney represent.

Cheney was Gov. Bush's father's defense secretary.

Many people believe the youthful appearance of the Clinton-Gore ticket won them the election against President Bush in 1992. The vice president is hoping to recapture that magic moment next Tuesday in Nashville, when he makes his running mate announcement.

Gore plans to turn up the heat on the Republicans next week, taking his new number two on a whirlwind campaign swing through key battleground states.