October 23, 1996
Nearly 4,000 cheered as Vice President Al Gore drummed up support for U.S. Sen. Paul Wellstone and Rep. Jim Oberstar at a campaign rally Wednesday at the Duluth Entertainment Convention Center. (Dave Ballard / News-Tribune)
GORE STUMPS FOR DEM VOTES
VICE PRESIDENT LAUDS WELLSTONE, STRESSES LOCAL INTERESTS AT RALLY IN DULUTH
Vice President Al Gore told Northeastern Minnesotans Wednesday that he and President Clinton will build a bridge to the future with steel from Minnesota iron ore.
But only if Democrats go to the polls Nov. 5 to support their Democratic president and legislators.
During an hourlong campaign rally at the Duluth Entertainment Convention Center Wednesday morning, Gore hammered away at Republicans and urged Democrats again and again to vote.
Nearly 4,000 people at the DECC loudly cheered on Gore as the vice president pumped his fist and shouted until he was hoarse. Admission was open to the public, but people had to pick up tickets in advance to get in.
Gore was in town for a morning of rallies for Clinton and, most of all, for U.S. Sen. Paul Wellstone. Wellstone is in a very tight race for re-election against Republican challenger Rudy Boschwitz.
The vice president gushed over Wellstone.
"I want you to think long and hard about how important it is to Minnesota, to northern Minnesota particularly, but also to the whole United States, to have somebody in the United States Senate who is going to wake up every single morning fighting for you," Gore said.
"There is nothing that is needed more in the United States Senate than an individual with courage and conscience and connection to the working families of northern Minnesota like Paul Wellstone."
Sen. Paul Wellstone speaks to the crowd Wednesday at the DECC’s Pioneer Hall as Vice President Al Gore applauds in the background. (Dave Ballard / News-Tribune)
Again and again, Gore credited Wellstone and Rep. Jim Oberstar, DFL-Minn., for creating jobs and reducing poverty.
People in the audience, many of whom were too young to vote, greeted the message with screams and chants, waving hundreds of blue and red Clinton/Gore signs.
Some were there to pitch political support. Others came on class trips — students made up nearly half the crowd.
Still others came out of blatant curiosity. They just wanted to see the man who was second in command.
"He’s great. He’s a comedian," an excited Kathy Winkler said after Gore’s address. "I felt like we were being entertained."
Winkler, who took a day of vacation so she could see the vice president, had also seen Gore during his 1992 campaign visit. He was much more animated this time, she said.
Throughout his speech, the vice president cracked jokes about his stoic and boring reputation and his love of the vice presidency.
He recalled his last trip to the Iron Range when, he said, "it was so cold, people thought I was frozen stiff."
Gore avoided mentioning welfare reform or the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness, both of which have proven touchy subjects for Wellstone.
Wellstone objected to the welfare bill signed by President Clinton this summer.
And Republicans have gone after Wellstone in television ads for not supporting efforts to expand motorized access to the BWCAW. Wellstone sponsored mediation to reach a compromise on the issue.
The Minnesota Republican Party issued a press release Wednesday claiming Wellstone was "too liberal for Clinton-Gore and too liberal for Minnesota."
At the rally, Gore blasted GOP presidential candidate Bob Dole — a former Senate majority leader — and congressional Republicans for building deficits in the ’80s and trying to cut Medicare, education and workplace safety standards.
And he went after Dole’s 15 percent tax cut plan, calling it a "risky tax scheme" that would raise taxes on working families and balloon the deficit.
Time and again Wednesday, Gore returned to a core message: Come out and vote.
Clinton and Wellstone both hold commanding leads in the polls in Northeastern Minnesota, but DFL leaders want to make sure DFL supporters vote Nov. 5 to offset Boschwitz’s advantage in other parts of Minnesota.
Vice President Al Gore shake hands with supporters after Wednesday’s rally. (Dave Ballard / News-Tribune)
The attacks and the pleas played well with the crowd of supporters in the DECC’s Pioneer Hall.
Several in the audience said they could see Gore as president in 2000. Some said they liked the vice president better than his boss.
They said he seemed to have better character, deeper convictions and a stronger grasp of what people really want.
"He’s less of a political animal, I think," said Mark Johnson, a 43-year-old planner with St. Louis County.
Another man came up with his own idea for a Democratic presidential ticket in 2000: Gore/Hillary. He wasn’t kidding.
There were few dissenters in the crowd.
A few Boschwitz supporters sneaked in and pasted Boschwitz stickers over a Clinton/Gore sign and waved a Boschwitz T-shirt in front of cameras.
But DECC employees reportedly told a handful of people they could not enter with unapproved signs.
The only real protest occurred outside the DECC. Bayfield resident Walt Bresette doused a copy of Gore’s book on the environment with sulfuric acid. He claimed that Gore had ignored their protests over plans to mine copper with sulfuric acid in White Pine, Mich.
The vice president left for Minneapolis immediately after the rally.