Two weeks out from the all-important debates, Al Gore is pursuing a front-runner's strategy: Stick to the script, stay on message, and run out the clock.
Mickey Kantor, who chaired President Clinton's 1992 victory, says that at this point a successful candidate must avoid distractions at all costs.
"If you find yourself either upset by it or continually dealing with it or constantly explaining yourself, you'll never get by. You have to maintain focus and discipline," he says.
Gore's message control is legendary. He grants rare interviews only to underscore the theme of the day or to highlight his personality.
"They're playing a 'prevent defense.' Don't make any mistakes. Don't give any info to the other side. Don't do anything that would cause controversy. Just keep going the way they are," says political analyst Charlie Cook.
But the defense broke down yesterday as Gore scrambled to rebut accusations that he'd fabricated a personal anecdote--comparing costs of an arthritis drug for his dog with those of his mother-in-law.
"And it costs her $108 a month," Gore said at an August 28 event in Tallahassee. Gore was forced to admit that the price wasn't what she actually paid. The price was taken from a congressional study.
But Gore says, "The issue is not what she pays The issue is that humans will pay two to three times what a dog pays."
Caught off guard, it took the Gore campaign 2 days just to come up with that response. It was as close as the Vice President has come in the last month to being pulled off message, and giving the Bush campaign just the kind of opening they're looking to pounce on.
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