Democrats are famous for their messy conventions - for fights
inside the hall, protests in the streets, bruising conflicts over
the party platform.
This year, as the Republicans did two weeks ago, the Democrats
will present a unified party. And unlike the Republicans, the
Democrats don't feel they have to hide their congressional leaders
from the viewing public.
But in a way, the Democrats face a tougher challenge. Their
presidential candidate, Vice President Al Gore, has chronically
trailed in the polls throughout the campaign.
And at the very moment when Mr. Gore needs to separate his
political identity from that of Bill Clinton, the president is
carving out a large presence here, raising money for his
presidential library and delivering what promises to be a closely
watched speech tonight.
Gore also needs to rally the Democratic faithful to his cause to
degree that core Republicans are backing their nominee, George W.
Bush. Polls have shown that while 90 percent of Republican voters
support the Texas governor, only 70 to 80 percent of Democrats are
with Gore so far.
"Gore needs to solidify his base and emerge from the shadows of
Bill Clinton," says Sherry Bebitch Jeffe, a political scientist at
Claremont Graduate University in Claremont, Calif. "Both of them are
fairly dicey goals."
The leadership thing
Throughout the campaign, the public has consistently told
pollsters that they see Mr. Bush as more of a leader than Gore.
This is in part a hazard of holding the vice presidency for eight
years, an understudy role that by definition does not carry an aura
of leadership, even though Gore has been a key adviser and handled
substantive issues in the Clinton White House.
Voters also find Bush more likeable than Gore. But don't watch
for any dramatic efforts to remake Gore's personality here in Los
Instead, remarks from Democratic strategists make it clear that
the party plans to show the public that Gore is the man for the job
by highlighting his stand on key issues.
The Democrats believe they have the winning positions on issues
that rank at the top of voters' concerns - such as education, Social
Security, and healthcare - and that, when supplied with the facts,
the public will come around.
"Issue dissemination, fact dissemination," Democratic Party co-
chairman Ed Rendell said at a Monitor breakfast, when asked about
how to propel Gore into the lead. …