Gore Tests His Party's Fervor in Florida; Criticizes Bush on Domestic Issues; Up against Crowded Field If He Runs
Byline: Donald Lambro, THE WASHINGTON TIMES
Al Gore has returned to the political arena to test his strength for another possible run for the presidency.
He faces a large field of rivals for the Democratic nomination that party officials now say is "wide open."
The former vice president came out swinging Saturday against President Bush's domestic policies at a Democratic conference in Orlando, Fla., and looked as if he is eager for a rematch with Mr. Bush in 2004. But several of his potential rivals for the nomination also spoke at the two-day event, presenting the party with some fresh new faces that many Democrats say they want as their next presidential nominee.
While Mr. Gore remains the front-runner at this early juncture, a CNN/USA Today/Gallup Poll conducted April 5-7 found that he has lost significant support in his party. When Democrats were asked, "Do you want Al Gore to run for president in 2004, or not," 48 percent said no and 43 percent said yes. This is in sharp contrast to an identical survey last August when Democratic voters said they wanted him to run again by a 65 percent to 31 percent margin.
Another preference poll conducted at the end of March by pollster John Zogby showed Mr. Gore attracting only 33 percent of the Democrats, while nearly a dozen other Democrats collectively drew more 50 percent of their party's support. New York Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton came in second with 20 percent.
"I don't think these numbers mean much," said Democratic pollster Alan Secrest.
"A lot of Democrats are looking for a fresh face, but a lot of Democrats are eager for Gore to run again," he said. "What I hear from Democrats is that they have a wealth of choices. I don't think anyone feels obliged to go with the candidates they had last time when there are so many to be considered now."
Mr. Gore has not decided if he will run again, his spokesman said, although Terry McAuliffe, the chairman of the Democratic National Committee, told reporters Saturday: "I think he will run. That's my personal opinion."
But a DNC official rejected any suggestion that Mr. …