Campaign History May Not Be on Gore's Side Vice Presidents Often Struggle to Earn a Spot in White House

By Janota, Laura | Daily Herald (Arlington Heights, IL), May 10, 1999 | Go to article overview

Campaign History May Not Be on Gore's Side Vice Presidents Often Struggle to Earn a Spot in White House


Janota, Laura, Daily Herald (Arlington Heights, IL)


Byline: Laura Janota Daily Herald Political Writer

Vice presidents face tough road

He's winning the fund-raising derby and stacking up endorsements. You would think being vice president would give Al Gore an edge in his bid for the presidency.

Not so, history tells us.

He and GOP contender Dan Quayle face the same quandary: Only one sitting vice president, Republican George Bush, won election as president this century.

And last century wasn't much better. While three sitting vice presidents were elected chief commander, only one - Martin Van Buren - won under the nation's current electoral system.

"Vice presidents bring all of the baggage to the arena," said author Steve Tally. "And they don't always have a clear sense of what it is they want to accomplish."

With massive visibility and name recognition, the U.S. vice president should have an edge in the presidential sweepstakes.

That appears to be the case so far with Vice President Al Gore.

Heading toward 2000, Gore is winning the fund-raising derby.

He's stacking up endorsements, particularly in Illinois.

Early polls put him ahead of his only Democratic challenger, former Sen. Bill Bradley of New Jersey.

But history hasn't been kind to the nation's vice presidents.

Only one sitting vice president, Republican George Bush, won election as president this century.

And last century wasn't much better. While three sitting vice presidents were elected chief commander, only one - President Martin Van Buren - won under the nation's current electoral system.

"Is Gore a shoe in? History shows that's certainly not the case," said Bruce Newman, a DePaul University marketing professor who has written books on the marketing of presidential contenders.

With more than a year to go until the election, early polls show Gore struggling in matchups against Republican Texas Gov. George Bush.

Given history, experts aren't surprised.

"Vice presidents bring all of the baggage to the arena," said Steve Tally, a former journalist and author who has written about the nation's vice presidents.

"And they don't always have a clear sense of what it is they want to accomplish."

From John Adams to Gore, almost every American vice president wanted the presidency, said Tally, author of the 1992 book "Bland Ambition."

Yet only a third of the nation's 45 vice presidents actually have captured the highest office.

And in the majority of those cases, it was presidential death - not election - that moved them up.

Bradley supporters believe Clinton's impeachment could haunt Gore.

"Whether he deserves it or not, Gore is tainted," said Betty Lu Saltzman, a key Illinois supporter and fund-raiser for Bradley.

"Bill Bradley may have a harder time winning the primary, but I think he'll be the stronger candidate in the general election."

In Illinois, Bradley's campaign has been making strides.

He's raised more than $1.4 million here mainly from business executives, lawyers and others, said Mellody Hobson, Midwest fund-raising volunteer for Bradley.

The former basketball star has picked up support from his one-time teammate, former Chicago Bulls coach Phil Jackson, as well as retired Bulls star Michael Jordan.

Sara Lee Corp. Chief Executive Officer John Bryan, Inverness personal injury attorney Bob Clifford and Cook County State's Attorney Richard Devine are just a few who have helped Bradley along here.

Gore loyalists acknowledge Bradley will be competitive.

"There are only two choices. …

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