Gore-Gephardt Fight Takes on Factional Flavor

By Lambro, Donald | The Washington Times (Washington, DC), May 29, 1997 | Go to article overview

Gore-Gephardt Fight Takes on Factional Flavor


Lambro, Donald, The Washington Times (Washington, DC)


The unofficial presidential race between Vice President Al Gore and House Minority Leader Richard A. Gephardt shapes up as an ideological war between contending Democratic Party factions.

Stepping up the pace of their political activity over the past two weeks, the vice president and Mr. Gephardt, Missouri Democrat, have been staking out sharply differing positions on major issues, such as the budget, entitlement reform and trade.

Party strategists say their differences reflect the deep divisions that remain in the party between its old liberal wing and the more-centrist "New Democrat" segment led by President Clinton and the Democratic Leadership Council.

"There is going to have to be a fight to resolve this. Gephardt's position is based on taking the Democratic Party back to where it was before 1992," said Ed Kilgore, the political director of the DLC, which Mr. Clinton headed before running for president in 1992.

"The liberals in the party have convinced themselves that you can put Humpty Dumpty back together again, that there is a way to build a governing majority that rejects the whole New Democrat course that Bill Clinton has put the party on," Mr. Gilgore said.

"Gephardt wants to take the party back to its old liberal-labor-civil rights coalition, pushing class warfare and trade protectionism, and that doesn't sell anymore," said a veteran party adviser.

Recently, Mr. Gephardt has made strong appeals to party liberals, opposing the budget plan negotiated by the administration and congressional Republicans and reiterating his opposition to renewing most-favored-nation (MFN) trading status with China.

In a major address Tuesday before the Detroit Economic Club, Mr. Gephardt criticized the president for being "far too weak" on China's human rights abuses and urged rejection of MFN for China.

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