What Kerry could have learned from Gore.

Dispatches from Campaign 2004.
Oct. 22 2004 2:05 AM

Kerry Isn't Al Gore

But this may be the first time that's a bad thing.

MILWAUKEE—Here's a complaint you won't hear very often: Some Democrats wish John Kerry's campaign was just a tiny bit more like Al Gore's. They may be happy to do without the sighing, the man-tan, the public displays of affection, the ill-fitting populist message, Joe Lieberman, Mark Fabiani, and the weird New Yorker interview. But there's one thing they do miss: Gore's post-convention riverboat trip down the Mississippi River.

Karl Rove has attributed the narrow Democratic victory in Iowa four years ago to the riverboat trip, which allowed Gore to reach rural river counties that Bush couldn't reach by plane (for want of a suitable runway). The congressional newspaper The Hill noted earlier this month that Gore won nine of the 10 Iowa counties along the Mississippi River. That feat is even more impressive in light of Gore's miserable performance nationally in rural areas.

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Kerry is doing all he can to appeal to rural voters, particularly in Ohio. In addition to Thursday's hunting trip, he attended Mass on a Saturday afternoon during his bus trip this past weekend, and he accepted a shotgun as a gift during a political rally at the end of that trip. (That was the second time I've seen Kerry receive a gun at a rally. He was also given one during a September rally in West Virginia's coal country. He refrained this time, however, from mourning the fact that he could not use it to shoot the president.) But if Kerry wins Ohio and ends up losing Iowa and Wisconsin (and thereby the presidency), some fingers will immediately point at Kerry's failure to imitate Gore's successful, and nearly decisive, boat ride.

Would President Gore Have Prevented 9/11? In Reason's poll  of notables from the "reason universe," Camille Paglia explains that she's voting for John Kerry this time and that she voted for Ralph Nader four years ago because she detests "the arrogant, corrupt superstructure of the Democratic Party." But even though Paglia thought Gore would be such a bad president that she was driven to vote for Nader, she also claims that if he had become president he would have prevented 9/11.

Paglia doesn't put it that way, but the logic is inescapable from her explanation of her "most embarrassing vote": "Bill Clinton the second time around. Because he did not honorably resign when the Lewinsky scandal broke and instead tied up the country and paralyzed the government for two years, leading directly to our blindsiding by 9/11."

Campaign Reporters for Truth: I wasn't one of the members of the traveling press that went on the hunting trip with Kerry. I am, however, a member of the traveling press. And I can tell you that the goose that Kerry shot was a mere gosling, wearing only a loincloth, fleeing the scene, and that Kerry chased it down and shot it in the back.

Chris Suellentrop is the deputy editor for blogs at Yahoo News and a contributing writer for the New York Times Magazine. He has reviewed video games for Slate, Rolling Stone, and NewYorker.com. Follow him on Twitter.

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