Campaign Countdown 2000
< Back to Top Stories

July 5, 1999

Bob Kerrey declares support for Bill Bradley.

(Clive, IA) Nebraska Senator Bob Kerrey on Monday officially threw his support to democrat presidential candidate Bill Bradley and during an appearance in Iowa Kerrey stepped forward to defend Bradley on the ethanol issue, a volatile political topic in Iowa and one on which Bradley is changing his tune.

While Bradley served as a U.S. Senator from New Jersey, he opposed successful efforts to give ethanol -- a corn-based fuel additive -- a federal tax break.

"If I was a Senator from New Jersey and I didn't take the position Bill Bradley did, I would not be serving my people very well, so I understood completely," Kerrey told reporters during a news conference in a home in Clive, a suburb of Des Moines.

Bradley said he had "very specific, New Jersey-based reasons" for voting "no" on the ethanol tax break.

"In New Jersey, if ethanol was required, it would mean higher prices for New Jersey drivers," Bradley said. "It would also mean that we couldn't use what would be the cheapest additive in reformulated
gasoline, which would be methanol."

But now that he's running for president and seeking support in Iowa where its caucuses provide an opening test in the presidential campaign, Bradley has flipped on the issue.

"I'm not simply representing one state, but the country as a whole in all the complexities of the country and I think that ethanol is an important part of the reformulated gasoline program in the country and it will remain so," Bradley said.

When asked what that meant, Bradley curtly replied that it means "there will be no raids on ethanol" in a Bradley administration. Nearly one month ago, George W. Bush, the front-runner in the republican presidential field, landed on Iowa soil to issue a similar declaration despite his oil-industry connections.

Bradley and Kerrey campaigned together in Clive and Omaha on Monday to publicly seal their political alliance. Kerrey denied his endorsement was a slap at democrat front-runner Al Gore.

"I made a choice approximately a week ago to go public to say that I'm endorsing Bill Bradley for President not because I dislike Al Gore," Kerrey said, pausing for applause from the 100 Bradley supporters gathered for an outdoor barbecue. "I like Al Gore a lot. To me the choice is between two friends. The choice is between two able leaders."

Kerrey, a 1992 candidate for the presidency, said he will make campaign appearances on Bradley's behalf despite his own race for re-election to the Senate.

"Bill Bradley is a leader," Kerrey said. "He has lead on race. He has lead on taxes. He has lead on Social Security, on trade, on many, many other issues...not because he chose them as a consequence of reading a poll and trying to decide what is going to be popular. He tried to decide what is right, what is best for the United States and for the world."

Bradley said Kerrey's endorsement helps, partly because of Kerrey's experience on the presidential campaign trail.

"There are a lot of fake celebrities in the world today, but Bob Kerrey is a genuine American hero and his support is tremendously appreciated," Bradley told supporters.

Kerrey is a decorated Vietnam War veteran who served in the Navy Seals.


July 4, 1999

Quayle says competitors taking page from his playbook.

(Des Moines,IA) Former Vice President Dan Quayle on Sunday said his competitors for the Republican party's presidential nomination are stealing a page from his playbook by focusing on "Family Values."

"It is amazing how many people are talking about the family and I am absolutely thrilled," Quayle said Sunday after attending at an event sponsored by Des Moines-area evangelical churches.

Quayle said when he first began talking about strengthening the traditional form of family, he took lots of heat, most notably from his speech deriding television's "Murphy Brown."

"People are beginning to focus on the family and without controversy. There's a lot more consensus today and I'm delighted," Quayle said.

Quayle is in the midst of a tour of 13 Iowa cities. At some stops, he merely attended local 4th of July festivities. At others, he met privately with potential supporters, outlining his ideas, like his call for a 30 percent, across-the-board reduction in the federal income tax.

"The Republican Congress ought to stand up for what they believe in and that's tax cuts," Quayle said of a republican-led discussion of a tax cut package of up to $1 billion. "There's a huge surplus out in
Washington and every day they have a new excuse of why Americans can't keep more of their hard-earned tax dollars."

Quayle, a U.S. Senator from Indiana, was picked in 1988 by George Bush to be Vice President.


July 1, 1999

Dole calls on libraries to restrict Internet access.

(Des Moines, IA) Republican presidential hopeful Elizabeth Dole on Thursday called on libraries to restrict Internet access to ensure America's libraries don't allow children to become sexual voyeurs or give adults access to "free pornography." .

Standing on the sidewalk outside the main branch of the Des Moines Public Library, Dole said institutions like schools and libraries which receive government tax dollars should not allow children, or adults, to gain access through library computers to X-rated Internet sites.

"To protect our families and to protect the taxpayers, we should not let pornography slip in through an electronic back door," Dole told reporters.

Dole said "filtering" software is readily available to block computer access to Internet porn. Her campaign website, edole2000.com, now includes information about such software.

"In today's world where the Internet and chat rooms have become second nature to second graders, parents need help. They can't possibly be everywhere at all times, looking over their childrens' shoulders to make sure they're not exposed to things that no children should see,"
Dole said.

Dole said the "Juvenile Justice Act" soon to be considered by Congress calls for restrictions on library access to Internet porn, but she said it has a loophole.

"Under this bill, computers used by adults do not have to use this blocking software. In other words, pornography is off limits to children but it's readily accessible to adults. That's wrong. That's
not what libraries are for," Dole said.

Critics say libraries are places for all ideas, including those some find objectionable, and censorship should be avoided at all costs. Under Des Moines Public Library policy, there are no Internet restrictions, except for the advice that "monitoring a child's access to the Internet is the responsibility of the parent or legal guardian." A statement adopted in 1997 by the Library's Board of Trustees said the library "has no control over the information accessed through the Internet and cannot be held responsible for its content."

Dole said the matter is "not about first amendment protections. It's about protecting our children and the taxpayers. Adults can and should have access to what they wish to in the privacy of their homes if that's what they choose to watch. It's their business. It's in their homes, but federal tax dollars should never be used to poison our children or provide free pornography to adults."

Dole was joined by Iowa Christian Coalition leaders in her anti-porn news conference in Des Moines. Later Thursday, Dole stopped at her Iowa campaign headquarters to "officially" open the facility, which used to be a showroom and garage for imported luxury cars.

"Let's go for it, and with all of this wonderful group, we are going to make history and we're going to have fun along the way," Dole said to about 150 supporters..

During a question-and-answer session with reporters, Dole discounted public opinion polls which show Texas Governor George W. Bush with a commanding lead. Dole said there was a difference from the "likely voters" who were being polled and her supporters which she said would provide a "surprise element" in the race

"Those likely voters represent traditional republican party people," Dole said. "What those surveys are not measuring, at this point at least, are the folks who are coming in droves to our meetings, the new voters -- unlikely voters. You need the traditional. republican party people to win, but you also need new voters, that unlikely group." Dole called herself a "woman that they dare to believe in" and
claimed "less than five percent of Americans are really engaged in presidential politics. It's early and I think you're going to see things shift and change."

While Bush has raised substantially more than his rivals for the G.O.P.'s next presidential nomination, Dole is at the head of the rest of the pack, raising $2.7 million from April 1 to June 30 of this year. "You've got to be viable. You've got to have money to be an effective candidate, but money is not everything," Dole said. "In fact, the political landscape is strewn with those who've run who had huge amounts of money but did not win their elections."

Dole said those who were predicted Bush's ascension to the nomination were the same people who said "his father could never lose the presidential election after the Persian Gulf War."


June 26, 1999

Quayle calls for family-friendly "environment."

(Madrid, IA) Republican presidential candidate Dan Quayle on Saturday said he wants to bring about both "an environment" in America and changes in the federal tax code which will bolster families in which a woman, or man, chooses to stay home to care for kids.

Quayle plans to deliver the specifics in a speech in Washington, D.C., on Monday, but the former Vice President hinted at the cornerstone policy change he'll seek while talking with a handful of reporters in this small, central Iowa town.

Quayle gained notoriety, and some criticism, during his tenure as Vice President for his attack on what he considered the 'positive' light in which single motherhood was depicted on the now-ended television show, "Murphy Brown." The show's main character, a television journalist, raised a baby on her own in a major storyline for the series.

"I'm going to be making a speech in Washington on Monday on this because part of it is attitudinal," Quayle said Saturday. "The radical feminist movement has really, basically, told the women, 'Don't stay at home. Just work.' ...People I talk to, especially women, given the choice, they'd rather spend more time with their children."

Quayle said cutting federal taxes and making the child tax credit "universal" will help some parents make the decision to leave the world-world and stay at home with the kids.

"The average American family is exhausted," Quayle said. "They're stressed. They're working overtime. You've got the 24-hour, seven-days-a-week economy, and now they're talking about putting microwaves in cars. That means less time at home."

Quayle said with the average income in America at $26,000, a $13,000 swing would be enough to make a parent decide to stay at home to raise their children.

"I think it's time that women who choose to stay at home to raise their children, or a man in this day and age -- sometimes men make that choice and the woman may work full time and the man may choose to stay home. That's fine, but I think most households, it'd probably be the woman," Quayle
said.

But Quayle was quick to say tax policy alone won't return America to a one-parent-stays-at-home society.

"It really does come down to attitudes," Quayle said.Quayle visited this tiny town of Madrid (pronounced MAD-rid in Iowa rather than muh-DRID, as it's pronounced in Spain) to tour the "Family Tyme Theatre." The facility is under-renovation. This winter, the seating area had been under snow. This summer, there's a roof, cement block walls and a stage where a singer struck up "O, Danny Boy" as the former Vice President made his way to the front.

"This is really the way it can be. To have folks in a community like Madrid who have a place where families can come together, family-time, family movies," Quayle said.



June 26, 1999

Forbes accuses Bush of "hostile takeover."

(Ames, IA) Steve Forbes, the republican presidential candidate who's using his personal fortune to bankroll his campaign, on Saturday accused rival George W. Bush of attempting a "hostile takeover" of the upcoming Iowa Strawpoll, an early measure of candidate strength in the first caucus state.
Forbes remarks come after his campaign disclosed to reporters earlier this week a memo from the Bush campaign. The memo to Washington, D.C.-based lobbyists and organizations urged a get-out-the-vote effort for Bush on August 14 in Ames, the site of the Republican party's strawpoll. The strawpoll has proven an important indicator of campaign organization. For instance, televangelist Pat Robertson won the 1987 Iowa Strawpoll, an opening victory in the Christian Coalition's march to a dominant role in G.O.P. politics.

On Saturday, Forbes accused Bush of "trying to organize 50 of the largest lobbyists and corporations to take over the strawpoll on August 14. They're just not content with showering the status quo, establishment candidate with money, they're now trying to effect a hostile takeover of the strawpoll and the caucuses."

Forbes, in his second campaign for the presidency, has launched a $10 million ad campaign in key states. The ads tout Forbes as the candidate with "big ideas" who will fight establishment politics. Forbes said the Bush memo shows the Texas Governor is not the "political outsider" he's been claiming to be.

"The proof is in the actions of the people around him. They're showering him with money and they're trying to hand him the Iowa Strawpoll by getting him mobilized with their resources," Forbes said.

Forbes entered casual campaign mode this past weekend, appearing at a hog roast in Mount Pleasant Friday night. In Ames on Saturday, about 50 people turned out on a clear, summer day to hear Forbes. The magazine publisher arrived clad in a navy "Forbes 2000" baseball cap, plaid shirt,
khakis and hiking boots to shake hands and pat babies.

Forbes said such campaigning will be key in getting his "change" message out to the Iowans who will participate in this summer's strawpoll."This is still a democracy," Forbes said. "The Úlites and the lobbyists are not going to take over. They want business as usual and I want real change and they know I'm a change agent."

The "change agent" still hadn't convinced some at the Ames event that he was the candidate to lead Republicans in 2000."I just want to make sure that I pick the right person, " said Dave Wedemeier of Waterloo. "I'm concerned about Steve Forbes and his fundraising and how he's doing with his money."

Doug Litwiller of Ames is a "republican supporter" at this point in the presidential sweepstakes, and doesn't know whether Forbes has what it takes to be a charismatic leader.

"The jury is still out on that one, I guess," said Litwiller.


June 25, 1999

Gore endorsed by one of Iowa's largest unions.

(Des Moines, IA) Vice President Al Gore on Friday received the endorsement of one of Iowa's largest unions as he pledged to be a champion for worker rights.

"We have thousands and thousands of members in this state who are going to pave the way for you to the White House," said Jan Corderman, president of the Iowa chapter of the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees (AFSCME).

The AFSCME Union provided crucial backing to Tom Vilsack's successful 1998 campaign for Governor Gore is hoping to harness the union's political acumen to boost his bid to win Iowa's Caucuses in February, 2000 -- a crucial, early test in the presidential campaign.

"If you will do for me what you did when you made Tom Vilsack the first democratic governor here in 30 years, you will take me all the way to the White House," Gore told about 300 AFSCME members who were gathered in Des Moines for the group's annual convention.

AFSCME is the first Iowa labor union -- and the second union in the nation -- to endorse Gore, who has sometimes had a rocky relationship with organized labor due to his support of the North American Free Trade Agreement. (NAFTA).

"Organized labor won more than 70 percent of the races in which you played a role in last fall," Gore said during his half-hour long speech to Iowa AFSCME, which boasts more than 10,000 members.
Gore's Iowa campaign manager, Steve Hildebrand, called AFSCME a "politically-aware, well-organized" group which will provide some leg power to Gore's Iowa effort through its phone banks, mail lists and door-to-door campaigns.

Wearing khaki pants and a short-sleeved gray polo shirt, Gore pumped his arms when the AFSCME endorsement was announced, then minutes later outlined how he might repay labor for its political support. Gore said one way to build a better economy was to "start with a strong labor movement in the 21st century.

"I want you to know that I will always, always, always be for working men and women," Gore said. "....The right to organize is a fundamental American right that must never be blocked, must never be
stopped, must never be taken away."

Gore accused the "Gingrich Congress" of seeking to curtail worker rights with "tricky loopholes," a movement he said began in the Reagan White House with a "frenzy of union busting.".

:"I believe government should lead the way when it comes to labor rights and not lag behind. I'm proud President Clinton has vetoed every piece of anti-worker legislation that has landed on his desk....and if they try again after the year 2000, with your help, I'll stop them myself. I make you that promise," Gore said.

Gore repeated his support for an increase in the minimum wage and promised to restore "checks and balances" in the American workplace to ensure the "voices of working men and women" are heard as loudly as management in contract talks.

"I want to be a President for working men and women," Gore said. "To have a level playing field and restore that balance in the workplace for fairness and justice."

Political scientists say the endorsement Gore received Friday comes from one of the most politically powerful unions in the state.

"Clearly unions in general and municipal and state employees in particular, are a crucial vote for any democrat candidate," said University of Iowa political scientist Peverill Squire. "Looking at a Caucus, if you can get these people on your side, they'll organize. They'll help generate more turnout. They themselves will come out on caucus night so that's a crucial block of votes."

Iowa State University political science professor Steffen Schmidt said AFSCME has a proven success record in Iowa politics.

"In Iowa, unions are not that strong, but if anything, certainly 'white collar' unions are more prominent. Iowa is a government- and government-service-strong state as opposed to being an industrial state," Schmidt said.

Schmidt said the two democrats in the presidential race aren't necessarily the favorites of industrial unions because both Gore and Bill Bradley support the North American Free Trade Agreement.

"But NAFTA doesn't really affect teachers or government union workers so in that respect that's a group that probably likes some of the policies that Gore is projecting," Schmidt said.

AFSCME members were handed "Gore 2000" placards to wave as they stood, five times, to applaud Gore during his speech.

"He's a voice for labor, something we need in there. We can't go back to republicanism," said Owen Bickford of Anamosa, an AFSCME member.

Bickford was never attracted to Bradley's candidacy. "Gore's got a little more experience and he seems to talk more for the common man," Bickford said.

Linda Felts of Davenport has seen Gore in person three times, including Gore's visit to her after school program at an inner city school.

"He's supporting us people in the workforce," Felts said.

< Top of Page


Jnue 22, 1999

Bradley calls on American businesses to provide more time off.

(Cedar Rapids, IA) Democrat presidential candidate Bill Bradley on Tuesday called upon American corporations to promote good citizenship through fringe benefits and time off for "family time."

"We need companies that will give more time off for people to be with their children," Bradley said in a phone interview with Radio Iowa. "I think we also need companies that will provide as a fringe benefit the right to volunteer in community activities."

During the past two weeks, Bradley has used part of his time on the campaign trail to call for government action to end poverty among children, although he offers few specifics.

"The government, I think, should provide significantly more assistance for day care and for child care," he said. Bradley's focus on reducing poverty brings to mind the "Great Society" first outlined by former President Lyndon Johnson.

"We're entering a period of time where we're going to have a tremendous period of economic growth and the country is going to have a lot more in terms of tax dollars coming in. We see a surplus on the horizon and this is a time to begin to keep our promises to all Americans," said Bradley.

Bradley also uses the issue to poke at the performance of the Clinton Administration, and by association, his rival: Vice President Al Gore.

"It's a shame that after eight years of a democratic administration that there are still a very high number of children who are in poverty in this country and I think we need action both at the private sector, the government, and also the civil institutions of our country... everybody knows that we have an incomplete promise as a country as long as 15 million children are still in poverty," Bradley said.

< Top of Page


June 24, 1999

Buchanan accuses Bush of "perverting" Iowa strawpool.

(Ames, IA) Republican presidential candidate Patrick Buchanan on Thursday said G.O.P. frontrunner George W. Bush is "perverting" the Iowa Republican Party's Strawpoll, scheduled for August 14.

A Bush campaign memo sent to Washington, D.C. lobbyists and organizations asks the powerbrokers to line-up Iowans to attend the strawpoll, an event which Bush has vowed to win.

"Clearly what we're seeing is a perversion of the Iowa strawpoll and the whole political process in Iowa, which was supposed to be a small 'd' democratic process where candidates are judged on the basis of their organizations and their ability to communicate their ideas to thousands of Iowans," Buchanan said in an interview with Radio Iowa. In 1995, Buchanan turned out about 2,000 supporters to the Ames Strawpoll.

Buchanan said the Bush campaign memo is another example of how the "establishment" wants to crown Bush as the G.O.P. presidential nominee. "This clearly is an insider's game with corporate lobbyists urging their executives in the state of Iowa to put the arm on their employees and march 'em out there and have 'em vote for George Bush. It suggests that the establishment has got the fix in and intends to fix the outcome of the strawpoll and the caucuses and primaries because it has a pre-ordained candidate," Buchanan said.

Buchanan insists the move is backfiring with some Iowans as it seems as if Bush is "marching mercenaries into battle." "I think it's gonna breed further and deeper resentment on the part
of Iowans to the fact that a candidate is being imposed upon them from without," Buchanan said.

Bush campaign officials say they're pulling out all the stops to enlist supporters for their candidate and they'll continue to contact organizations which have members who share the Texas Governor's
political philosophies.

< Top of Page


June 22, 1999

Alexander accuses Bush of "lip service" on ethanol tax break.

(Cedar Rapids, IA) Republican presidential hopeful Lamar Alexander on Tuesday accused G.O.P. front-runner George W. Bush of merely paying "lip service" to Iowa farmers when Bush expressed support for the federal tax break for ethanol fuel.

Earlier this year, Alexander called for a ban on M.T.B.E., an oil-based fuel additive which competes with corn-based ethanol. Earlier this month, Bush said he supports ethanol's tax advantage at the pump because it's "good for the environment and good for farmers."

"Giving lip service to a law that's already on the books is nice, but it doesn't do anything for the farm crisis of the 1990s," Alexander said in an interview with Radio Iowa. "A presidential candidate who
wants to help the environment and help the agricultural economy immediately would favor banning M.T.B.E., the oil-based additive, and doubling the ethanol market."

Alexander cited California's decision to ban M.T.B.E. after studies found it contaminates the groundwater.

"If the federal government would ban M.T.B.E. as California has already done because of the damage to groundwater, that would double the market for ethanol and be an enormous help both to the environment and to corn growers in America," Alexander said.

The former Tennessee Governor and former U.S. Secretary of Education spoke Tuesday afternoon at the International Ethanol Fuel Workshop and Trade Show in Cedar Rapids.

"One of the most important reasons for the Iowa Caucus is to push real issues to the front. I'm going to push the agriculture issues to the front of the Iowa Caucus and I'm going to start with ethanol. I
challenge the other candidates, both the republicans and the democrats, to stop giving lip service support to ethanol and go beyond that and do something that will make it a market-based product," Alexander said.

< Top of Page


June 21, 1999

Buchanan blames border patrol for drug problem.

(Des Moines, IA) Republican presidential candidate Pat Buchanan on Monday said bad border-control policy in the southwest U.S. is partly to blame for the nation's drug problem.

"The NAFTA agreement, some of us argued that it would open up that border, wide open, to narcotics in the United States and now something like 80 percent of the cocaine and the heroin and the marijuana in the United States that are sold here are coming up these highways into the United States and a goodly share of the methamphetamine are coming up as well," Buchanan told reporters during a news conference in Des Moines.

Buchanan has long been a critic of the North American Free Trade Agreement and has called for better policing of the U.S./Mexico border to curtail illegal immigration. He now adds an influx of illegal drugs to his border-control argument.

"I think you need a lot tougher policy with regards to the Mexican government and getting cooperation from them," Buchanan said. "They've got to be enlisted more actively in the war on drugs and frankly you gotta take a look at trade policies that allow trucks to come almost uninspected into the United States which is how a lot of this stuff is coming in."

Buchanan said George W. Bush, the Republican party's frontrunner, will do no better than the Clinton Administration in cracking down on the border.

"Governor Bush is open borders on immigration. He's pro-NAFTA....He's a globalist. He agrees with Clinton and Gore on all those issues and I disagree with Clinton and Gore on all those issues. So this is going to be a battle between economic patriotism and economic nationalism versus globalism. I stand against the Clinton/Gore/Bush agenda on all of them," he said.

Buchanan's remarks came after a tour of the "House of Mercy" in Des Moines, a home for mothers who're kicking a drug or alcohol habit. The residential facility provides child care to the women's kids as they complete rehab programs and enter the work world.

"These folks are dealing here with the victims of the drug war, the casualties of the drug war and it's a powerful case, I think, when you see those children that we really have to do better in fighting that
drug war on every single front, not just simply -- as they say -- on the demand level, but on the supply level coming into this country," Buchanan said.

Buchanan is on a six-city campaign swing through Iowa which concludes Tuesday afternoon.

< Top of Page


June 17, 1999

Forbes opens Iowa campaign office.

(Des Moines, IA) Republican presidential hopeful Steve Forbes finished his 20-minute campaign speech and stepped away from the microphone as a ragtime band of grey-haired men began playing "Happy Days Are Here Again," a song used by the democratic president who led America during the Great Depression. Forbes quickly darted back to the microphone.

"That song was once used by democrats when they were pro-growth," Forbes said. "Now, it belongs to the American people. We're going to make 'Happy Days' not just for democrats, but for republicans and independents and all of the American people. This is gonna be a national song again."

Forbes' comments came as he opened his Iowa campaign office and announced organizational progress in the state. Forbes 1996 campaign failed to organize in 70 of Iowa's 99 counties, a factor which played a role in his fourth place finish in the Iowa Caucuses. Now, Forbes boasts of campaign chairpersons in "about 90" of the 99 counties.

"We've gotten and are getting the best," said Kevin McLaughlin, a Forbes supporter since 1996.

In Iowa's largest county, Polk, McLaughlin said 80 team leaders have singed on, promising to recruit at least seven other people to attend the caucuses.

"Fifty-six-hundred votes in Polk County will give us the margin, we believe, for victory next February 7th," McLaughlin said.

Forbes has launched a $10 million ad campaign in key states, like Iowa, to outline what he calls "real solutions for real people." In his remarks to about 100 supporters, the magazine publisher referred to the Republican front-runner, George W. Bush, the self-described "compassionate conservative" who launched himself into Iowa's political scene last Saturday.

"As you know, there are two ways to approach public life," Forbes said. "One is the business as usual way, the status quo way. Make a nice phrase. Come up with a nice cliche."

Also Thursday, Forbes, a columnist in his family's business magazine, criticized Federal Reserve Chairman Alan Greenspan for hinting the "Fed" will raise interest rates.

"He gave hints that there might be a tightening up again. That is the wrong thing to do. It'll especially hurt farmers. They have this theory that prosperity causes inflation. Bad monetary policy causes inflation. It's like a doctor telling a patient 'We think you're healthy. You're too healthy, so we want to make you a little sick.'

It's perverse. It's wrong. It'll do harm," Forbes told reporters.

< Top of Page


June 16, 1999

Gore officially in fray.

(Iowa City, IA) Vice President Al Gore strode in the room at the University of Iowa Memorial Union as the Shania Twain tune, "Come On, let's get something started" blasted on the speakers. What Gore was starting, formally, was his second bid for the presidency. Gore used the first day of his crusade to begin distancing himself from the man he's served the past seven years: President Clinton.

"I make you this pledge. If you entrust me with the presidency, I will marshall its authority, its resources and its moral leadership to fight for America's families," Gore said, to applause.

While mentioning Clinton by name just once, when he declared President Clinton's policies to be "right" in Kosovo, Gore walked the tight rope of calling Clinton's personal conduct wrong, but his policies right.

"With your help, I will take my own values of faith and family to the presidency to build an America that is not just better off, but better," Gore said.

Gore's wife, Tipper, had been silenced by laryngitis at Gore's first stop of the day in Carthage, Tennessee, his hometown. In Iowa City, Mrs. Gore sounded the first notes of the "he's no Bill Clinton" refrain.

"I have know him for 34 years. I can tell you, unequivocally, that I know what he's made of and it's very strong character, strong heart, strong spirit, exactly the kind of leadership that we need," she said.

Gore also began distinguishing his political philosophy from that of George W. Bush, the "compassionate conservative" who is the front-runner for the Republican party's presidential nomination.

"I know how to keep our prosperity going," Gore said. "By making those choices in the right way, not by letting people fend for themselves or hoping for crumbs of compassion but rather giving them the skills and job training and education to do it in their own right for themselves."

A crowd of about 1,000 was on hand for Gore's speech and staged discussion about education initiatives. Before the event began, the crowd saw a tape of Gore's announcement speech in Tennessee. Applause came in Iowa City after references to abortion rights and gun control. A few boos and hisses came when Gore said he supports the death penalty.

"The vision is there and the energy seems to be there," said Perry Ramirez of Davenport, a Gore supporter. "But how bad do the American people want to see those changes? It comes right down to that." Marilyn Steincamp of Winthrope, Iowa is "real concerned about the democratic party staying in office. We have some good times, and I'd like to see it continue."

Others in the audience were roped into the event, like the piano accompanist for a children's choir which sang before Gore arrived.

"What's the quickest way out of here?" he asked two reporters as he closed his music and rose from the piano bench -- just before Gore was introduced to the crowd.