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What If Tipper Replaces Hillary?

Tipper Gore says she's a friend and admirer of Hillary Rodham Clinton, but she has her own style -- one sure to be scrutinized as the second lady becomes more visible during the 2000 presidential campaign.

"Anyone who finds herself in the role of first lady reflects her individuality and who she is as a person," Mrs. Gore said in an interview.

However, she is reluctant to compare her style with that of Mrs. Clinton, noting that her husband has only opened a presidential exploratory committee and is not officially a candidate.

With her husband serving as a congressman, senator and then vice president, Mrs. Gore has lived in Washington, D.C., for more than two decades, watching the pressure-cooker environment grow ever more intense.

No one has been held up to tougher scrutiny than the woman and man she and Vice President Al Gore seek to succeed.

Everyone's human, she said.

"Sometimes we forget that in the media and in journalism, and I say that kindly, since we came from that," she said, looking at a reporter's tape recorder.

Mrs. Gore was a news photographer and her husband a reporter in Nashville before he was a congressman, yet she lamented the scandal-fed shark tank Washington has become at a time when the news media is ever more fixated on celebrities and their failings.

"Other people do, too -- they want to see you as one-dimensional or stereotyped people and they forget how very unique and complex we are as individuals," she said.

While Mrs. Clinton is considered a key adviser in the White House, Mrs. Gore says she dispenses her advice to her husband when asked, most often at home or during a walk. Would she be a fixture in the Oval Office, offering policy advice?

"I've never done it that way," she said.

While Mrs. Clinton has one daughter who is away at college, Mrs. Gore notes that she has four children (one still at home), a grandchild due in June and two elderly parents in the Washington area.

"There's a difference when you have four children to keep up with and all of their activities," she said. "With four children and aging parents, I find that I only spend so much time on issues that I care about, and I spend a lot of time on keeping the family together."

Mrs. Gore's issue set is slightly different from that of Mrs. Clinton. She is most active in mental health care and fighting homelessness and poverty.

Mrs. Gore appeared recently in New Hampshire and Iowa; she also substituted for Mr. Clinton this weekend when he canceled his scheduled appearance at the California Democratic Party convention because of the U.S.-led air strikes in Kosovo.

Both women are crowd-pleasers on the stump. Mrs. Gore has neither the polish nor the edge of Mrs. Clinton, but her disarming, just-folks demeanor charmed delegates Saturday. When her TelePrompTer didn't immediately flash her speech, she cracked a joke, and by the time the laughter died down, the speech was ready o go.

She then whipped up Democratic activists with a speech in which she took credit on behalf of the Clinton administration for the economic boom of the 1990s. She warned that Republicans are bent on using the budget surplus for a tax cut that would require cutting federal education and nutrition programs.

"The other party's agenda is based on ideas from 1822," she said.

"This is going to be an all-out battle for the direction the country's going to go in," she added in Saturday's interview.

Written By Scott Lindlaw

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