What's a Guy Gotta Do to Get a Bump Around Here?

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Al Gore's problem isn't Bill Clinton, it's Al Gore. That much was clear from the latest TIME/CNN poll conducted in the wake of the vice president's announcement of Senator Joe Lieberman as his running mate, which was widely perceived as an effort to distance himself from President Clinton's moral conduct in the White House.

Likely voters still prefer the Bush ticket by a margin of 53 percent to 39 percent, although among women Bush's lead was narrowed to a 48-to-44 margin. The most worrying factor for Gore may be that the specter of "Clinton fatigue" appears to be overblown: A full 59 percent of respondents — including 27 percent of Republicans — approved of Mr. Clinton's handling of his job, and an even larger number were prepared to call the Clinton presidency a success; Governor Bush appears to speak for only one in three Americans when he derides it as a wasted opportunity. Moreover, a full 57 percent of respondents believed President Clinton's positive performance was a good indicator of what to expect from Mr. Gore in the presidency, and 53 percent saw the vice president as untainted by Mr. Clinton's moral conduct. Even then, only 39 percent of those likely to vote were going to pull the lever for Gore.

And 19 percent of registered Democrats indicated they plan to vote for Bush, compared with only 4 percent of Republicans who'd commit an equivalent treachery. Al Gore clearly still has a problem in the personality clash with George W. Bush. He also has his work cut out for him energizing the Democratic party base: While registered voters preferred Democrats, 46 to 43 percent, in congressional races, when that question was narrowed to those who'll actually bother to turn out on Election Day, the GOP was leading the race for Capitol Hill by 47 to 44 percent.

The Lieberman pick appeared not to significantly alter voter attitudes toward Gore. Some 18 percent said Gore's running mate would make them more inclined to choose the Democratic ticket, while 10 percent said it would make them less inclined — a marginal improvement over the 18 percent for, 13 percent against ratio that picking Dick Cheney gave Bush. And if the electorate was concerned over Lieberman's ethnicity, they certainly weren't telling the pollsters: A full 91 percent of voters said the fact that Lieberman was Jewish would have no effect on their vote.

Text of the poll > > >