Why Gore Swapped the Beltway for the Bible Belt

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Al Gore is taking his campaign and going home. Finally heeding the advice given him long ago by his nervous political father, Bill Clinton, the vice president is moving his headquarters from Washington to Tennessee ó probably Nashville ó to put a little distance between him and Bill and a little life into a stale, struggling campaign. "I want to take this campaign for the presidency directly to the grass roots and directly to the American people," Gore declared Wednesday. High time ó the Gore operation has until now been based on K Street in Washington, which is for lobbyists what Madison Avenue is for ad men. Itís a place that brings into sharp relief the elements that Gore needs to de-emphasize to fend off Bradley ó the veepís closeness to Clinton and to the Beltway. "Itís a psychological difference," says TIME White House correspondent Karen Tumulty. "Moving to Tennessee will hopefully help diffuse the impression of him as an insider ó and give him a better feel for what is going to work with voters."

A cry of desperation? More of a battle cry. Gore is coming off a week in which Bradley grabbed all the headlines by pulling ahead of Gore in New Hampshire; the press (with a cue by Pat Moynihan) is declaring Gore more beatable than ever. Thursday may further fuel that fire, when the two rivals disclose a new round of fund-raising totals. A strong showing by Bradley might just finish whatever inevitability Gore had left. So Gore is going to get A-G-G-R-E-S-S-I-V-E against the former hoopster, challenging Bradley to a series of debates and generally beginning to take the fight to the upstart. Wednesday, Gore admitted that he was now in a "hard, tough fight" for the erstwhile sure-thing nomination and promised to "fight my heart out for every single vote." It wasnít supposed to be this way for Gore, but it seems the 2000 election is less about entitlement and experience than fresh air. Maybe Goreís will smell better coming from Nashville.