Democratic National Convention
Tuesday, August 15, 2000

Delegates say Clinton achievements trump scandal

By Howard Wilkinson
and Patrick Crowley

The Cincinnati Enquirer

        LOS ANGELES — When Ohio and Kentucky Democrats think about Bill Clinton and his impact on Al Gore's candidacy, they do what the lame duck president was accused of doing with his public and private lives — they “compartmentalize.”

        The Tristate delegates and alternates who packed the Staples Center to listen to President Clinton deliver his political swan song say they are able to separate Clinton the president from the Clinton whose personal indiscretions and impeachment will color his legacy.

        And they say they are convinced Mr. Gore, Mr. Clinton's vice president and would-be successor, can overcome the political problems caused by being too near the Clinton flame.

        “The personal stuff, the problems, those will fade in history,” said State Sen. Mark Mallory, D-Cincinnati, an Ohio delegate. “What will remain is the record. And the fact is he has been a successful president. How could Al Gore be hurt by being associated with a successful presidency?”

        Mr. Clinton has won Ohio and Kentucky in the last two presidential elections, finishing strong even in heavily Republican Hamilton County. Mr. Clinton never won Hamilton County, but he kept his Republican oppo nents under the 60,000-vote victory margin that the GOP needs in the Cincinnati area to win Ohio.

        Democrats know the Clinton scandal will continue to dog Mr. Gore on the campaign trail.

        “I think in the end Clinton's record will help Gore,” said Kentucky Lt. Gov. Steve Henry, a delegate. “People are going to question if (George W.) Bush can continue the prosperity we've had.”

        Mr. Henry expects Republicans to remind voters about the Monica Lewinsky scandal.

        “Clinton is never going to walk away from what he did. You have to divorce the two and talk about the record of this administration,” he said.

        What Mr. Gore needs to do, said Cincinnati City Councilwoman Alicia Reece, an Ohio delegate, is continue to distance himself from the negative aspects of Mr. Clinton's presidency.

        “There is plenty for Al Gore to run on proudly when it comes to his involvement in this administration,” Ms. Reece said. “He has to make the case that the president/vice president relationship in this administration has to do with the issues, not the scandal. That's how he wins.”

        Serving with Mr. Clinton will boost Mr. Gore because voters understand he is the more experienced candidate, said delegate Shirley Huelsmann, chairwoman of the Kenton County Democratic Party.

        “He's worked with Clinton and really in his shadow for eight years,” Mrs. Huelsmann said Monday. “Now (Mr. Gore) gets to show people he is well-trained and he knows what is going on.”

        Charlie Combs, a 72-year-old United Auto Workers official from Cincinnati, said Mr. Gore has “nothing to be ashamed of” in his relationship with Mr. Clinton.

        “People are going to remember that they've had the best economy in a long, long time and forget the rest of it. What Gore needs to do is keep talking about the economy. People don't want to see the boom stop.”

        Yet at this stage in the campaign voters are not focusing on issues as much as they are personalities, Kentucky Gov. Paul Patton said.

        “(People) are focusing on the personal conduct of Clinton, and that's rubbing off on Gore a little bit,” he said.

        But any damage to Mr. Gore by Mr. Clinton has already been done, he said.

        “Clinton can't hurt Gore any more than he already has,” Mr. Patton said.

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