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The Gore effect

Al Gore

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From Wolf Blitzer Reports' Brian Todd in Washington:

WASHINGTON (CNN) -- Al Gore has been known to get fired up. But this may be something different entirely.

"In many ways, George W. Bush reminds me more of Nixon than of any other president. Like Bush, Nixon subordinated virtually every principle to his hunger for re-election," the former vice president said in a speech this week.

Gore wasn't finished. He went on to say, "He abused the trust of the American people by exploiting the fears of the American people ... "

This speech, delivered at the New School University in New York Thursday night, was full of sharp rhetoric against the man, and the party, that beat Gore in 2000.

"The Republican party became for the core group controlling it, merely the nameplate for the radical right in this country. The radical right is in fact a coalition of those who fear other Americans as agents of treason," Gore said.

The response from White House Press Secretary Scott McClellan: "The president realizes there is a lot of politics going on right now."

Some of the back-and-forth could legitimately be chalked up to election-year gamesmanship.

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But questions arise about the man who carried Bill Clinton's banner to within a hair of the presidency in 2000 by appealing in no small measure to centrist voters.

Analysts say the signs are evident -- Al Gore has moved to the left since his presidential bid.

"I think what we're seeing here is a split between the Gore-ites who have cast their lot with Howard Dean on the left, and the Clinton-ites, who have supported Wesley Clark," says CNN Senior Political Analyst William Schneider.

Another observer told us that the entire party has moved further left since Bill Clinton's departure and become increasingly radicalized against President Bush.

Whichever this is -- a party's shift, or its former leader moving left on his own -- opinions seem divided, on what Al Gore is risking.

CNN Political Analyst Stu Rothenberg says, "Increasingly Al Gore is becoming irrelevant. The Democrats are about to have a new standard-bearer. They've moved on past 2000. They've left him behind."

Still, many good campaigners are known for effectively shifting with the political winds. Al Gore's political future may well ride on voters' memories of a notable left-hand turn.

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