In 1988 Al Gore, Senator from Tennessee, announced he was running for President. His campaign and his politics were generally characterized by everyone as being Moderate or Centrist. Gore’s 1988 campaign Wikipedia pagenotes, “According to CNN, Gore ran his campaign as, “a Southern centrist, [who] opposed federal funding for abortion. He favored a moment of silence for prayer in the schools and voted against banning the interstate sale of handguns.””
On social issues, The NYT observed, “By all accounts, the Gore family enjoys a conservative style of life, with religion playing a prominent part. Mrs. Gore has been active in a campaign against obscenity in rock music lyrics that the Senator has supported …” On abortion, ““It is my deep personal conviction that abortion is wrong,” Gore wrote to a constituent in 1984 when he was representing Tennessee in the House. “Let me assure you that I share your belief that innocent human life must be protected, and I have an open mind about how to further this goal.” In another letter from 1984, Gore indeed said abortion was “arguably the taking of a human life.” But Gore continued, “It is my deep personal belief that abortion is wrong. I hope some day we will see the outrageously large number of abortions drop sharply.””
This Al Gore won the 1988 Tennessee Primary despite ultimately losing the nomination. What happened to the 1988 Gore? Simple. He became Vice President.”Historically, nine vice presidents have succeeded to the presidency and another five have been elected.” When Bill Clinton came-a-callin’, he found a willing partner in Al Gore for what would become a Faustian bargain.
The office described as “not worth a bucket of warm piss” by FDR’s VP, John Nance Garner, VPs hold little real power. They do not make policy, do not sign legislation, do not command the military or anything else of real power. Gore was promised much by Clinton and did serve as a trusted and senior advisor. However, he had to share Bill with Hillary and his real value came in breaking ties in the Senate, fund raising and taking arrows shot at his boss.
Gore’s years as VP changed him in reality and in the public’s perception. He became the Liberal we know today and voted and behaved accordingly. It’s the nature of the office.
His tie breaking votes were legendary. He voted to raise taxes on Social Security benefits. He voted for subsidies and increased food costs. His commitment to the Kyoto protocols was rejected by the Senate 95-0. Additionally, there is little doubt that the scandals of the Clinton presidency along with his impeachment cost Gore who steadfastly stood behind his President.
For all these reasons and more, on election day 2000 Gore, who had carried Tennessee in the 1988 primary, failed to carry his own home state. Those who knew him best turned him out by a significant 51%-47% margin. Losing Tennessee cost him the Presidency.
Today that danger faces Romney’s VP choice. Marco Rubio and others are being considered for their value in shoring up a Conservative base largely ignored and sometimes demonized by Romney. That value of a VP choice is clearly seen in John McCain’s 2008 campaign.
But Conservatives considering the VP slot for Romney would do well to spend time also considering the impact on his personal reputation and character such a pairing would have. What issues would he be forced to champion? What votes would he be forced to make? What statements of support would he need to make to which he found himself personally opposed?
I call it the Gore Effect: ruining a political resume and reputation by serving as Vice President. That path may be the surest way to the Oval Office. But it is one a man travels, and a candidate ignores, at his own peril.