Vice President Al Gore
Press Conference
Gore 2000 Headquarters
Washington, DC
 September 29, 1999

[applause]. Good morning.  [cheers].  Thank you.  Thank you very much.  Thank you.  Okay.

I just had a meeting with my campaign staff here and I want to announce to you a number of changes that I'm making in the campaign starting today.

I want to take this campaign for the presidency directly to the grassroots and directly to the American people.

First of all, I'm announcing the beginning of a series of open meetings in the early states that have caucuses and primaries, where I will be speaking directly to the voters in small groups without intermediaries, responding to their questions, telling them about my vision for the future, asking for their ideas.  This is a format--well it's as old as our Republic and older, when people get together to talk about the future of America they have a debate and a discussion of what our options are, what the problems are, how we can solve 'em, and I enjoy that.  I did thousands of them in my eight years in the House of Representatives and my eight years in the Senate and I'm going to be concentrating on talking with people directly about the future of our country.

Secondly, I'm going to challenge my opponent for the Democratic nomination Bill Bradley to a series of debates on specific issues--a lot of them--so that we will have an opportunity, if he accepts, to lift our democracy and make of this campaign a chance for our country to re-kindle the spirit of democracy, and to show that a campaign can be an ennobling experience and not one that drives people away from politics. 

We've had a steady decline in voter participation for many election cycles now and it doesn't have to be that way and I think we can work together in these two Democratic campaigns to compete within the framework of what our Founders really wanted to see in our representative democracy and I'm excited about that.

And incidentally, let me say I welcome the new shape of this campaign--this is a hard, tough fight and I'm going to fight my heart out for every single vote.  I think this competition will sharpen both campaigns, I think it will be good for both of us as candidates and I think more importantly it has a chance to be really good for the American people, and in the process for the Democratic party also.  I hope we'll attract more independents and some moderate Republicans to come and share in this debate and discussion of the future of our country.

Third, I just told my staff that I've instructed my campaign chair Tony Coehlo to move this whole campaign lock, stock and barrel to Nashville [applause] so that we can get closer to the American people, closer to the grassroots and out of the Beltway and into the heartland.  And one week from today I'm going to personally open the new headquarters in Nashville, on Church Street in downtown Nashville.  We've got a host committee of longtime friends and supporters in Tennessee who are going to provide guest bedrooms for people who make this journey with us, and we're going to have a warm reception when the campaign relocates.

I'm excited about this and I'm going to be starting these open meetings right way and I've instructed my campaign to get in touch with the Bradley campaign to start trying to work out the details of the challenge to a series of debates.

Yes Andrea.

Mr. Vice President, isn't this really an attempt to stop the hemorrhaging of money and support--specifically in New Hampshire the recent poll showing you behind Bill Bradley--and couldn't the result be that the two of you'll beat each other up; it'll be a replay of 1980 Teddy Kennedy versus Jimmy Carter and Republicans will win it?

GORE:  No I don't think so.  Let me take both parts of that question.  In interpreting the meaning of this don't just look at the move, look at what follows the move.  Gandhi once said you must become the change you wish to see in the world.  I want this campaign to become the change that we're fighting for in the country.  I want change that works for working families, and I want the campaign to be at the grassroots and not in the Beltway.

[inaudible interjection/follow up]

GORE:  Let me, let me--you know I've won--every election that I have won has been headquartered in Tennessee.  Fourteen times I've gone to the voters of Tennessee and fourteen times they have answered in the affirmative.  In my last campaign for Senate, I was the first person in this century at least to carry all 95 of Tennessee's counties.  I'm taking this campaign to my roots and from there I'm going to Iowa and New Hampshire and California and New York and all over this country. 

We've made investments in building organizations in the early states that are good investments and we're going to see the results of those organizations as time goes on.  And I thanked everybody here for all the work that's been done.  They're doing a tremendous job and I appreciate it.


Did you discuss this with President Clinton, is this move to further separate yourself from him, and how will you perform your vice presidential duties from Nashville?

GORE:  The answer to the first question is no, but this morning prior to this announcement I did call the president and tell him what I was going to say to you.  It is not a, in answer to your second question, I'm proud of the work that I have been doing as a part of the Clinton-Gore administration.  We have the strongest economy in the history of the United States of America partly because of the policies that have been put in place that have helped the American people to unleash this dynamism and energy that is bringing new investments and 20 million new jobs, the biggest surpluses in history, more new small businesses than ever--and part of the challenge that we face in the 21st century is to keep that prosperity going and prevent those who are trying to take us on a right wing U-turn back to the old supply-side approach from being able to do that.


[Woody follow up] ...Your vice presidential duties?

GORE:  Oh no.  No.  I'm not going to.  Well through the course of this year you and others have noticed I have been spending an increasing percentage of my time out on the campaign trail, but I will continue to perform my duties as vice president.  Just yesterday I had a set of discussions and negotiations with the prime minister of Armenia, with the prime minister of Turkey--I will continue to discharge the responsibilities that I have by virtue of taking the oath as vice president and I will balance those with my efforts in the campaign.


Mr. Vice President in saying you'd like to bring your campaign closer to the American people, closer to the grassroots, should it be inferred from that that to this point there has to some extent been a disconnect between the campaign and the American people?

GORE:  No.  I think it's a new campaign now.  I think it's a brand new campaign.  It is a competitive, hard-fought battle for the Democratic nomination, and I think that is a good thing.  When I tell you that I welcome that change, I'm not throwing those words out for political effect.  I really welcome that change.  I think it will be good for the Democratic party.  I think it will help the Democratic party to sharpen our message, it think it'll be good for the Gore campaign and for the Bradley campaign and I think that the result will be good for the American people.  So this is a new phase; we're into the grassroots phase of this campaign now.

One follow up.  Why now?

GORE:  We have, we've reached a new stage in the campaign.  We have largely completed the preparatory phase--raising the money; we've got matching funds coming in January.  We've got the lowest average contribution of, well certainly on the Democratic side, and one of the lowest in the race as a whole.  And now as far as that phase of the campaign is concerned, having put the investment into building the grassroots organization and raising the small dollar contributions that qualify for matching funds that come in January it's time to move on.  Simultaneously, Gene, as I said earlier, the dynamic of the campaign has now reached a new phase.  It's a hard-fought, competitive race.  I welcome that, and I'm certainly going to respond to it.


Mr. Vice President, tomorrow is the last day of the third quarter and there's been speculation that you will have disappointing fundraising and spending reports to file with the FEC.  Some people think that it's possible you'll have less money in the bank than Bill Bradley.  What do you think your third quarter reports will show and should we take that as a sign of how this race is going.

GORE:  No.  First of all, I don't know what the third quarter reports will show.  You remember that you guys at the end of the last quarter got yanked around a little bit by some other campaigns with expectations and numbers and so forth.  I'm not going to do that to you.  Somebody who didn't know what was what started putting out numbers for us.  They don't know what they're talking about.  I do not know yet.  Traditionally, people try to beat--try to work against that deadline and in the last 24 hours there are people who are out there helping who, you know, either meet expectations or they don't.  We really don't know what it's going to be--seriously. 

But let me say in terms of how we've done on that score, we have broken every record previously set except for what the Bush campaign has done, okay.  But for the story that you all have written about with his flow of cash into that campaign--except for that we have broken every existing record.  So I'm really proud of and grateful for the work that the campaign has done on that score. 

And incidentally, well before the end of this year we will have raised the maximum amount; that's not a concern.  We're abiding by the limits, we're abiding by all the reforms, and I'm going farther that what the campaign finance laws require.  I do not accept any PAC contributions; I have not from the beginning of this campaign, and we strictly abide by the limit, and again--the $1,000 limit--but the vast majority of our contributions are in the small-dollar total and I'm very pleased about that also.

Yes, Sandra.

This is the first day that I've ever heard you say the words "Bill Bradley" and you talk about how you feel the race tightening.  What do you attribute his success to?

GORE:  I think that when there is a two-person race, there is an inevitable dynamic that causes a tightening of the race.  And again, I welcome that, and I'm looking forward to it.


[Sandra follow up] What's that dynamic?

GORE:  Well there are only two candidates.  You got PepsiR and CokeR. [audience laughter].


Mr. Vice President, you yourself have said this Democratic primary fight is now a competitive one and you've said that you're going to abide by the $40 million spending cap for the primaries.  What do you do from April to August next year if you win that nomination--with George Bush's bank account?

GORE:  That's another reason why I think we have to use this battle for the nomination as a way of bringing new people into the process and lifting our democracy toward higher values and higher goals.  You know the way campaigns have been waged in the past are in part, is in part responsible for pushing people away from participation as voters.  If the Republican nominee, whoever that turns out to be--maybe you're right in assuming that it's Bush--whoever the Republican nominee is is going to have a huge advantage in campaign cash.  That's nothing new.  They had a hundred million dollars more than the Democrats in the last election.  We like to think we have better ideas.  The American people agreed last time; I have confidence that they'll agree this time.  But if they're going to, if the Republicans are going to throw out the rulebook and break out of the reforms and try to overwhelm our democracy with cash, we on our side of this have to re-write the history books in terms of voter participation.  I don't think we can draw more people into the process and register more people, especially young people and get them involved in our democracy by doing things the same old way.  And the period that you talk about is going to be a test of that.


Could you elaborate on these debates...[inaudible--question on debates]?

GORE:  A bunch. [audience laughter] 

[inaudible question continues]

GORE:  Oh no, no.  It'd be more than two.  And they haven't agreed, we haven't contacted them yet.  I have a feeling, I know Bill very well, I have a feeling that he will accept this challenge.  I don't want to speak for him.  I want to try to set--excuse me? 

[inaudible follow up]

GORE:  A bunch.  [audience laughter].  I'm not going to put a number on it.

What would you like to discuss?

GORE:  Oh I think we ought to debate education, the environment, national defense, how to re-shape our democracy, crime control, disabilities and the list goes on.  And I think that we ought to have a period of time before each one of these debates for both campaigns to reach out to the people that have fresh ideas and refine their thinking and then have a genuine contest of ideas.  I think it'll be fun, I want to set it up in a way that is live on the Internet and if some of you all want to cover them I hope you will, and I think that we can breath new life into our democracy; I think that we can rekindle the spirit of America.  I mean I don't want to sound corny about it, but I really think that's what we ought to be doing. 

You know we've got a partisan poison in our democracy that exceeds the level that's healthy for a democracy.  How are we going to draw that poison out of our democracy?  The only way we can do it is by filling that space with democracy itself, with the free debate and discussion of what's going to be best for America.  I mean that's what we ought to be doing. 


Mr. Vice President will your senior staff who are Washington-based, will they all be going [inaudible]?

GORE:  Any personnel issues I refer you to Tony.  What I told the staff this morning was that I am more grateful than I can express in words for the hard work that each and every man and woman here has put into this campaign.  And for those who make this journey to Nashville with us, it's going to be fun.  We're going to have a great time.  For those who have mortgages here, family ties, competing obligations, some reason why it's hard for them to make that journey, I want them to continue helping me from where they are, and I appreciate that, but if they have to leave the campaign because of that, they go with my thanks and and I you know we'll continue to work together in different ways.  I understand fully that some will not be able to make this move.

I think that the, I want this move to be an opportunity for transformation.  And I spoke in very personal terms to the campaign staff this morning about how we have to become the change that we're fighting for--the kind of change that works for working families.  That's a difficult challenge.  But you know campaigns, and again I told the staff this, campaigns are regular opportunities to rekindle the spirit of America, to renew our democracy.  They are also learning experiences.  I've been learning from this campaign, quite a bit, and in recent weeks I've been hearing the music of this campaign from the American people and I think that I've been connecting in a new way in delivering the vision of the future that I'm trying to articulate in this campaign.  I've been getting a lot of positive feedback out there.  I want my campaign to reflect that energy and enthusiasm and commitment in new ways at the grassroots level.


Mr. Vice President what do you say to the assertion that moving your campaign headquarters is just another gimmick, that it's an attempt by someone who grew up in Washington...[inaudible]?  The satirists will say [inaudible]

GORE:  Watch what we do, not what we say.  You know, you report what you see. And again, I've gone before the voters in Tennessee 14 times, and each time they have given me an affirmative verdict.  Every campaign in which I've been successful has been based in Tennessee.  We have a pool of volunteers and supporters and resources there that can markedly improve the effectiveness of this campaign, but you reach your own conclusion.  I don't want you to say, "Oh they're moving the campaign to Tennessee, that's"--it's not a gimmick, I guarantee you.  These people who are changing their lives and moving their homes, many of them moving their families, pulling up roots and relocating for 13 months--to them that's not a gimmick; I guarantee you.  This is a big commitment, and to those who decide to go with us, again, an extra measure of gratitude.  Because we are going to have a single-minded focus for the next 13 months: win the nomination, win the presidency and then win the future of this country.

[inaudible question]

GORE:  I'm going to continue to, yes.  And it's easier for me because we have, because I have a home in middle Tennessee, and I understand that.  I'm going to continue to discharge my duties as vice president.

Yes.  And then you.

The voters have identified what they have determined to be and expressed to be a [inaudible] cloud of Clinton fatigue that has been hanging over this campaign.  As much as it's an attempt to get outside the Beltway, is it also an attempt to remove it from under that cloud of Clinton fatigue?  And a second question, sir.  If many of your staff are following you to Nashville, won't this just be the Beltway in Nashville?

GORE:  I think there's fatigue with questions about Clinton fatigue.  I think there's Clinton fatigue fatigue.  [audience cheers, applauds].  And I think that, as I said before, I think that campaigns, if conducted properly transform the people who are in the campaigns, and if that happens they gain the ability to transform the country and to renew our democracy.  You will have to judge for yourself whether or not we succeed.  All I can tell you is that I'm going to work my heart out for every single vote, and in the process, I'm going to be open to hearing what the American people have to say and delivering my vision of what I think this country must become in the 21st century, and I'm very, very excited about it.


Mr. Vice President you said a moment ago about...[inaudible]

GORE:  Yeah.

Thus far it has failed to do that.  Why...?

GORE:  We're in a new phase of the campaign; we're in a new phase.  We've laid the groundwork, we've invested in the organization, we've completed-- we've largely completed--the fundraising.  The nature of the challenge for the nomination has changed.  We're in a completely new campaign so we're going to adapt to it an adjust to it.

Yeah right here and then Karen.  Oh, I'm sorry wait a minute I promised here first.

Mr. Vice President when it comes to the fifth in this series debates between you and Senator Bradley--

GORE:  I haven't used a number yet have I?

Let's just imagine a situation where you're going to be debating disabilities and you're both policy wonks, do you forsee millions of people reaching for the remote and switching away from Ally McBeall [sp?] or Monday Night Football or isn't there a danger that--

GORE:  Ally McBeall or Ally?  You know they've shortened Ally McBeall now. [audience laughter].  There's a compressed version.

Either one.

GORE:  Either one.  Yeah it does and I don't know the answer to that, but I would bet on the American people.  I would bet that a genuine exercise in democracy will draw people back into the process of self governance and the process of electing the first president of the 21st century.  I think it's going to be an exciting time.


Could you tell us a little more about when and how and why you made the decision...[inaudible]?

GORE:  Just in the last couple of days.  I've been thinking about this for a while.  It really grows out of my experience on the campaign trail in establishing a connection with the voters and feeling what they're asking from the campaigns this year--feeling the demand for the kind of revitalized democracy that we really need in America.  And as I say, understanding and accepting the change in the nature of this campaign and adapting to it and welcoming it, and I think a debate on the future of America is just one of the most exciting things that could possibly happen to this campaign.  I really--I'm really looking forward to it.  Now I'm going to--well one more.

Are you surprised by Senator Bradley's campaign?

GORE: As I said before, I think that once it became a two-person race and once they established a baseline of competence and credibility, it was inevitable that it would tighten.  And again, I genuinely welcome that.  I'm excited by it.  I'd just like to close by saying to whoever can hear my voice, please come and join this campaign.  I need your help, I'm going to be trying to earn your support and that goes for whoever has a vote here.  I would like to personally ask--I know you can't tip your hand and won't--but I would like to ask all of you for your votes sincerely.  [audience laughter].  Thank you very much.  [applause].


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