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Gore to Get Daschle’s Backing

March 19, 1999

DES MOINES, Iowa (AP) _ Vice President Al Gore will pick up the presidential endorsement of the Democrats’ Senate leader, Tom Daschle, during a visit to South Dakota on Monday, officials say.

Gore was endorsed by Rep. Dick Gephardt, the party’s House leader, this week as the Democratic establishment began to close ranks. Some Democratic leaders are hoping to settle the nomination early, allowing the party to focus on the battle to retain the White House without a difficult primary campaign.

The vice president is headed Monday to an innovative elementary school in Sioux Falls for an appearance with Daschle and South Dakota’s other Democratic senator, Tim Johnson. Johnson said both he and Daschle would endorse Gore.

``Gore is a very solid, very thoughtful leader ... who understands the problems of rural America, but also understands the need to promote a high-tech future for our country as well,″ Johnson said Friday.

Gephardt, who had considered seeking the nomination himself, endorsed Gore this week during a campaign swing through New Hampshire and Iowa.

The only rival to formally enter the race for the Democratic presidential nomination is former New Jersey Sen. Bill Bradley, who has run an active campaign in key early states such as Iowa and New Hampshire, though he’s trailed in the early polling.

Two-time candidate Jesse Jackson is also considering a bid.

While Gore is well positioned in the race for the Democratic nomination, polls have shown some weakness in matchups with prominent Republicans such as Texas Gov. George W. Bush and Elizabeth Dole.

There’s a large field of potential Republican candidates, and some Democrats believe Gore could benefit if he could take the high road while Republicans rip into each other.

Following his appearance in South Dakota, Gore will head for two campaign stops in central Iowa later Monday. Precinct caucuses in Iowa launch the presidential nominating season early next year, followed quickly by the nation’s first primary in New Hampshire.

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Republican presidential contenders should avoid attacking Bush and Mrs. Dole to give them ``a decent interval″ to lay out an agenda, commentator Pat Buchanan said Friday.

``We can make our differences known closer to the primaries,″ Buchanan said in an interview. He said he had spoken with some of the other Republican candidates on the subject.

Buchanan himself is known as a firebrand on the campaign trail. Some Republicans blame his 1992 primary campaign against then-President Bush for setting the president up to lose the election to Bill Clinton.

Republican strategists also argue that a strident assault on front-runner Bob Dole during the last primary season left him a wounded nominee incapable of seriously challenging Clinton.

Buchanan rejected suggestions that he was a strange candidate to be bearing a peace pipe. He noted that it was Steve Forbes who waged the assault on Dole in the last election cycle.

With polls showing Bush and Mrs. Dole with a big lead over their potential rivals, there have already been some rhetorical shots fired this year. Former Education Secretary Lamar Alexander has criticized Bush’s use of the term ``compassionate conservative″ and publisher Forbes also has had critical remarks.

Buchanan said of his party’s front-runners: ``I believe and I hope the Republican candidates will respond and give them some breathing room and a chance to lay out their agenda.″

``I think the Republicans are going to hold their fire as long as they can,″ he said. ``Republicans want to avoid a bloodbath because they can taste victory in 2000.″

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Although he has been exploring a presidential candidacy for months, Rep. John Kasich snapped that he doesn’t ``do politics″ when a television reporter asked him this week about his ambitions.

The Ohio Republican was making campaign-style appearances in New Hampshire when an interview with television station WNDS went awry.

Reporter Alicia Preston said Friday that Kasich had just finished touring a Merrimack investment company and she asked him when he would decide whether to run for president.

``I have no idea,″ he barked. ``That’s a mechanical, political question and I don’t do politics. You’ll have to ask my press secretary.″

WNDS aired the exchange that night, describing Kasich as ``agitated and abrupt.″ Later in the week, The Union Leader of Manchester wrote sarcastically about his comments in a political column.

A supporter said Kasich was not aware he was being filmed. He went on to answer other questions for the WNDS reporter, then hurried off to another appearance and an interview with another station.

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