So let’s just lay out some commonsense notions here.
Question: Does Al Gore want to be president?
Answer: That would be yes. Definitely yes.
Question: Does Al Gore need Tennessee to become president? Answer: If Gore had won Tennessee last time around, he would be president already. For many reasons, he needs Tennessee very, very badly.
Question: If Al Gore wants to be president, and he needs Tennessee to become president, what must he do?
Answer: He must help return a Democrat to the Tennessee governor’s office in 2002.
This is not higher math, ladies and gentlemen. This is very simple stuff. If you want to carry a state in a presidential election, it’s a lot easier when you have someone from your own party in the governor’s office. And in Gore’s case, the situation is magnified a hundred-fold. First of all, it’s his putative home. Second, all eyes are on Tennessee. The fact that he couldn’t carry his home state last year has become something of a bellwether issue for Gore. He mustabsolutely mustbegin mending fences in his home state. They are, after all, in urgent need of repair. The best way to do it is to help win the governor’s race.
Al Gore is not leaving many footprints in the political world. Last seen hunched over a lesson plan and discussing various big ideas with college students, he eventually will have to attend to the pedestrian obligations of a politician. Presidential campaigns now follow an eternal, rather than quadrennial, cycle. While it was great for Gore to jump into a few classroom settings and chat it up, the exigencies of our current gubernatorial race should force him to dispatch an ambassador or two down our way.
Phil Bredesen has announced for governor. A couple of other hopeless Democrats are in, or are about to be in. A bloodless primary ought to be the Democrats’ hope, but 5th District Rep. Bob Clement, who would be a formidable opponent, is still threatening to enter the racealthough with less and less fervor every day. Meanwhile, on the Republican side, Van Hilleary, the 4th District congressman, has been anointed his party’s candidate. He will have no serious opposition.
We are witnessing a knife fight waiting to happen. A political animal like George W. Bush, or one of his operatives, is laying out the scenario for the 2004 presidential election. In the film version, there’s a little incident right at the beginning, in which Bush kneecaps his main potential opponent before the opponent even gets his feet wet. That’s when Bush gets behind Hilleary, raises money for him, flies to the state to help him, and ultimately gets him elected.
Obviously, this portends a Gore disaster. Tennessee is, as you can see, a volatile state. So Gore’s involvement is not just an offensive thing; it’s also a matter of defense. It’s about protecting his hide. In the process, he must also show that the Democratic Party, which currently holds no statewide offices in Tennessee, is both reborn and viable. If he does that, he wins an early presidential battle. If Bush deprives him of that prize, Bush wins.
Gore has little choice other than to phone home.
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