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The Women Who Made Al Gore

Pauline raised a tough, pragmatic politician, but it took a life-altering family crisis to make Al see how much he had to learn from Tipper

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By early 1976, Tipper Gore had her life all planned, practically tacked to the kitchen bulletin board. She had married her high school sweetheart, settled on a farm right down the road from Al's folks, sewn the dining-room drapes, planted the vegetable garden and had the first of what they hoped would be six children. She had just finished her master's in psychology; he was going to be a novelist, or a lawyer, maybe buy the local newspaper. The one thing he would not do, she had told her friends, was follow in the footsteps of his father, the fiery Senator from Tennessee. But if she believed him, she may have been the only person who did.

To the residents of middle Tennessee, Al Gore's destiny was encoded in his birth announcement in 1948, which his father, by then a five-term Congressman, insisted be placed on the front page of the Nashville Tennessean. Four years later, Albert Gore Sr. went on to the Senate; and in 1976, Albert Gore Jr. saw a once-in-a-generation chance to take his father's old House seat. It was, Tipper recalls, "a bombshell" when he suddenly told her he was running for it. Three days later, he stood on the Smith County Courthouse steps and announced it to the rest of the world. And five months later, when he won the primary, Tipper knew the seat was his, and that they were moving to Washington, and that nothing was going to turn out the way she had planned.

Which is why Tipper needed to talk to someone. She left three-year-old Karenna at her farmhouse with a cousin and headed a quarter-mile down Highway 70. Just over the Caney Fork River waited a kitchen with the smell of baked bread, a Farberware percolator full of fresh coffee and the one woman who could maybe understand what she was feeling. Pauline Gore, Al's mother, knew something about changing plans and making compromises to promote a husband's career. She knew her tough-minded approach to politics had got Albert further than he could have got on his rich oratory and high principles alone. She had big plans for her son too, and she didn't want Tipper fighting him on it or holding him back. Pauline laid out a proposition as she spread homemade blackberry jam on her toast. "She said I ought to think seriously about the opportunities that would be afforded me," Tipper recalled to TIME, "if I could be a partner to Al the way that she and Albert worked it out."

If the story of Al and Tipper's political union started back at Pauline's kitchen table, so decades before did the story of Al Gore himself. The subplots of this presidential election have so far told us a lot about what it means to share the name and live in the shadow of a famous father--Albert Gore, George Bush, John McCain. But it is important to know that what has got Gore this far is also the fact that he is his mother's son. "Al Gore honored his father by entering public life," wrote biographer Bill Turque, "but he honored his mother by doing what it took to win."

His parents shaped him, but it was not until mid-life that Al discovered they had left part of him unformed. In an interview with TIME, he talked about his parents in a way he never has before in public. "For whatever reason, I grew up with an inclination to turn first of all to my head instead of my heart," he says. "Everybody turns to both, but I guess I was raised in a family that gave more reinforcement to that kind of approach. It's like anything else. If that's all you know, you don't have anything to compare it to."

Or at least he didn't until he confronted a trauma so shattering that he views it as a moment of personal rebirth. The near death of his son Albert III in 1989 was the key moment in his life. It changed the man, it changed his marriage, it changed everything, to the point that in his acceptance speech at the Democratic Convention eight years ago, he said, "I want to tell you this straight from my heart...When you've seen your six-year-old fighting for his life, you realize that some things matter a lot more than winning."

Once Gore began, better late than never, to build some emotional muscles, Tipper found him turning to her and listening in a way he hadn't before, certainly not during the first 15 years of their marriage. In those early years, he thought nothing of discussing with his father the pros and cons of running for President in 1988, a full four months before he even mentioned the idea to his wife. Nowadays she is front and center of everything he does. However large the asteroid belt of pollsters and consultants and advisers that spins around him, Tipper is the center of gravity. "She's the first person he talks to about an idea," says Gore strategist Bob Shrum, "and the last person he listens to before he decides."


From the day they met, they were partners," Al has said of his parents. But in truth, Pauline LaFon was not looking to play a supporting role in anyone's life on that day. She was determined to find out how far she could make it on her own. Only after she discovered the limits of where grit and brains could take a woman in 1936 did she put her aspirations aside. She channeled her political drive toward shaping her husband's career and her maternal one toward shaping her son's thinking. "I trained them both," she used to say, "and I did a better job on my son."

She was the only woman in the Vanderbilt University Law School class of 1936, the 10th female graduate in its history. After classes let out each day, she would catch the trolley to make it to the Andrew Jackson Hotel coffee shop for the dinner shift and the 25[cent] tips that were paying for her law-school tuition. She reminisced about those days to her granddaughter Karenna, who provided her notes exclusively to TIME. "I learned more about politics being a waitress than any other way," Pauline told Karenna. "The nicer you were to other people, the nicer they would be to you."

No customer was so charmed as the law student from the YMCA night school who stopped in most nights for caffeine to sustain him for the hour's drive home to Smith County. He was as poor as she was. He was also "handsome, pleasant and ambitious," she later told Karenna. "I thought he had a future."

But Pauline, who had fled crushing poverty in a speck of northwest Tennessee called Cold Corner, who had taken her blind sister with her to college classes, who had escaped a brief first marriage that her family still does not talk about, was not ready to lash her fortunes to a man, even one with prospects. So Albert waited for her in Tennessee while she took more law courses and lived alone by a lake in Wisconsin. And he waited again when she found work practicing oil-and-gas and divorce law in Texarkana, after discovering no firm in Nashville would hire a woman without connections. "That he didn't clip her wings was part of the romance," Karenna says.

But her wings got clipped nonetheless, and pretty brutally. Less than a year later, she left the firm and moved back to Nashville. No one had heard of sexual harassment at that time, but when she looked back on her first job almost 60 years later, Pauline finally told the whole story. "It was a disaster," she told journalist Pamela Hess. Today she would sue her law partner, she said. But then her only course was to endure the abuse long enough to pay off her law- school loans, and then return to Albert. On May 15, 1937, he scooped a bridal bouquet of red ferns from the roadside and married Pauline before a judge just over the state line in Kentucky.

Within a year after their marriage, Albert was running for Congress as the youngest in a five-candidate field. At a time when most political wives were invisible, Pauline was running just as hard. "Off I went, almost charting a new course, especially in Tennessee," she recalled in a 1994 speech at Vanderbilt. She hiked the dirt roads of the district, sometimes taking off her shoes and wading through the mud, determined "not to miss a person," she said.

Pauline was a vivacious presence on the stump and a shrewd tactician behind the scenes, both during campaigns and in Washington, as the young Congressman made his name. She was "the best politician in the family," says former Tennessee Governor Ned McWherter. Never was that truer than in Albert's big step up, in the 1952 Senate campaign against ornery, pork-ladling Kenneth D. McKellar. As chairman of the Appropriations Committee, he was one of the most powerful men in Washington. The most often told family story is about Pauline's quick response when McKellar's workers papered the state with signs saying THINKING FELLER, VOTE FOR MCKELLAR. Alongside each McKellar placard, she had workers tack up a sign that read THINK SOME MORE AND VOTE FOR GORE.

Their daughter Nancy was born in 1938, and for the next 10 years, they were desperate for a son. "I'm almost ashamed of the kind of longing we had," Pauline once told the Washington Post. She later described young Al's birth as "kind of a miracle." His father got the Tennessean to promise that if the second child was a boy, the news would go on the front page. And it did, under the headline WELL, MR. GORE HERE HE IS--ON PAGE 1.

But childhood is something that cannot be fit into the election cycle. The Vice President gets angry and defensive over many accounts of his upbringing, the ones that cast him as the hotel-dwelling, private-school prince. That's partly because the hotel where his family lived in Washington was not the posh place it is today; the reason the Gores rented a two-bedroom apartment there was that the relative who owned it gave them a break on the rent. His parents sublet the place every summer, when they set off for Carthage, just to get the income. He shared a room with his sister Nancy and wore a cousin's hand-me-downs. The family farm in Carthage where he spent his summers and made his closest friends was at least as important an influence as his Washington prep school. It's where he had fun, skinny-dipping, playing pickup football games, trying to hypnotize chickens, sneaking out into the woods at night.

In the Washington hotel where he spent nine months a year, says Gore, "I felt like I was on temporary assignment." Young Al never wore the neatly pressed St. Albans school T shirts his mother packed in his suitcase when he headed back to Carthage. It was a life he never talked about during his blissful summers in Tennessee. So separate were his two worlds that when John F. Kennedy was assassinated, the kids in Carthage were amazed to see the televised image of 15-year-old Al filing past the casket in the Capitol Rotunda with the VIPs. His parents, still shaking off the dust of Possum Hollow and Cold Corner, rode the social circuit in Georgetown and on Embassy Row but seldom made it to nearby St. Albans to see the captain of the team play football.

If he had any resentments, he kept them to himself. "He never wanted to be the person to make an unhappy noise," his mother once said. "Al was an easy child, very sensitive to our feelings. He wanted to do what we wanted him to do." Al later wrote, "I grew up in a determinedly political family, in which I learned at an early age to be very sensitive--too sensitive, perhaps--to what others were thinking." He was an amenable child, but not really a child at all. Pauline and Albert Sr. were formal people, not the hugging kind. Pauline's supper table was a policy forum. "I selected guests for us," she once said. "If it so happened there was a great guest who was a good conversationalist and the issue was proper for me and my son, then I would see if I could wedge Al in." When she read Rachel Carson's Silent Spring, the book about the invisible danger of DDT became the "dominant topic" at dinner for weeks, Al says, and Pauline insisted her son--then 12 or 13--read it as well. "Those conversations made an impression," Gore later wrote in his own environmental manifesto, Earth in the Balance. But in the same book, he used dysfunctional families as a metaphor for dysfunctional civilization and wrote how a child of such a family "doubts his worth and authenticity" and "begins smothering spontaneity, masking emotion, diverting creativity into robotic routine, and distracting an awareness of all he is missing with an unconvincing replica of what he might have been."

Al learned his political instincts from his mother more than his father. Yes, it is true that his father was his ideal for bravery and commitment at a time when it was treacherous to be a liberal in the South. He was "hated for the right reasons," as the Vice President put it in his December 1998 eulogy. But Albert, a near absolutist in favor of civil rights and against the Vietnam War, was also an object lesson in the costs of being right at the wrong time. The night he lost in 1970 was one of the few times Al ever saw his father cry.

Pauline always stood with her husband. "She shared his conscience and was his strongest supporter," Gore has said. But she was not eager to see her son practice his father's brand of politics. "Al by nature is more of a pragmatist than his father. As am I," she told the Los Angeles Times. "I tried to persuade Albert not to butt at a stone wall just for the sheer joy of butting...If there's no chance of victory, there's no sense in bloodying yourself."

So the son styled himself a "raging moderate," and once he won his congressional seat, he focused on issues that engaged his intellect and brought him a lot of attention but little criticism. He didn't make many enemies by crusading for safer infant formula and fairer and more available organ transplants. When Al railed against the befouling of Love Canal in upstate New York, was anyone rooting for Hooker Chemical? On such emotional and ideological questions as abortion and gun control, his positions shifted away from conservatism as he moved from a rural House district to a more diverse statewide constituency and then to a national audience.

Whereas his father grew more and more distant from the voters of Tennessee in the later years of his career, Al became the first Senator in memory to carry every county of Tennessee because he didn't forget the lessons of the woman who waded the muddy roads of the Fourth Congressional District. As a Congressman and a Senator, he went home nearly every weekend, and he held hundreds of open meetings a year.

And it was from Pauline, who thrived in moot court at law school, that Al learned the secret of throwing an opponent off balance: hit him where he thinks he is strongest. Bush strategist Ralph Reed says that is the thing that is "most dangerous about Gore...he goes in where nobody else would go and attacks in a pretty bald-faced way." Al bested Ross Perot in chart-to-chart combat over trade, pounded Jack Kemp's supply-side dogma as a "risky tax scheme," disemboweled the health-care plan that Bill Bradley thought would be the centerpiece of his campaign. "Something that she has always emphasized, that I think my father definitely learned from her, is really to respect the best arguments of your adversary, not to underestimate your adversary," Karenna says. As Al was looking to break out of a crowded field in his audacious 1988 run for the Democratic nomination, Pauline scribbled a note with three words of motherly advice for one of his first appearances with the other candidates: "Smile. Relax. Attack."


If Gore is right when he says his parents shaped his reflex to turn to his head instead of his heart, it was still his heart that found Tipper. They fell in love the night of his high school graduation dance, and by his first date with Mary Elizabeth Aitcheson (known as Tipper for a lullaby her mother used to sing), "it was just like everyone else melted away," Tipper wrote.

They were--and are--as different as two people can be, "the old cliche about opposites attracting," Al says. He once gave a dinner party for the specific purpose of discussing the declining role of metaphor in American life. Her idea of fun: family Rollerblading in the historic marble hallways outside Al's Senate office--which explains why, even after they have been married 30 years, Karenna describes her parents as "mysteries to each other."

While opposites may attract, they don't always connect. It was difficult in the early years of Al's political career for them to have anything like the partnership that Albert and Pauline had forged and that Pauline had urged on Tipper. His wife always seemed to be the last to know when Al made a decision that would change their lives, or maybe she was just in denial about whom it was she had married.

That first congressional campaign should have clued her in to what was ahead. She reluctantly quit the newspaper-photography job she loved, set aside plans for using the master's degree in psychology she had earned the year before and submitted to the daily mortification that came with asking strangers to vote for her husband. So obvious was Tipper's discomfort with the whole business that one nasty man made sport of the naive 27-year-old from Virginia, demanding that she name all 25 counties of the Fourth Congressional District. "Unfortunately," Tipper later put it, "I was not what you would call a natural politician."

Once they got to Washington, Al's ardent courtship of the voters of Tennessee left the woman he had married alone on Friday and Saturday nights. "There I was with three young children and a hardworking husband who spent three out of every four weekends back in Tennessee with his constituents--a pattern he continued the whole time he was in Congress," she later wrote when she published a book of her photographs called Picture This. "For me, it meant having virtually no social life, since most people entertain or have dinner parties on the weekend, and I never liked going alone. Most of the time, I just stayed home with the children."

Until 1985, that is, when Tipper heard the lyrics of a Prince album that 11-year-old Karenna brought home. The title of one song, Darling Nikki, seemed sweetly romantic on the album jacket. Then Tipper heard the lyrics: "I met her in a hotel lobby masturbating with a magazine."

That was when Tipper became America's most famous ticked-off housewife. She joined forces with other well-connected Washington wives to pressure the record industry to put labels on record albums that had violent or obscene lyrics. Frank Zappa had a label for her--"cultural terrorist"--and punk singer Wendy O. Williams questioned whether the real problem here was that Tipper was afraid her own children might masturbate. But Tipper found allies in other parents and the national PTA. Her book on the issue was selling briskly.

Then, on April Fool's Day 1987, Al sprang another surprise on Tipper. He was thinking of running for President. And he was giving himself nine days to make a decision. "Shock therapy," she told him. "You continue to do it to me."

With Al's announcement, she canceled the rest of her book tour and once again threw herself into his campaign--except this time she was an issue. Tipper knew what her husband's advisers were telling him: "Please rein her in. This is killing your campaign." There was the time in Iowa that only one or two people showed up at a coffee for her. "The organizers told me they just couldn't get anyone to attend because everyone thought I was for censorship," she recalled. In the end, she was probably the least of that campaign's problems. "I learned how much I still needed to learn," she says now.

Failure is hard to take, especially the first time, but the lesson that would come a year later was even harder. It would finally force Al to confront what was missing in his soul, his life and his marriage, as well as the toll his career was taking on the people he loved most. It would change him and them.

On April 3, 1989, Tipper and Al were crossing the street in Baltimore, Md., on opening day of baseball season when six-year-old Albert suddenly bolted from his father's hand and was hit by a car. Their youngest child flew 30 ft. and slid along the pavement 20 more. "I ran to his side and held him and called his name, but he was motionless, limp and still, without breath or pulse," his father wrote. "His eyes were open with the nothingness stare of death, and we prayed, the two of us, there in the gutter, with only my voice." Two nurses happened upon the scene and treated the boy until an ambulance arrived. For the next month, Al and Tipper stayed by his side at Johns Hopkins. For many months after, Gore wrote, "our lives were consumed with the struggle to restore his body and spirit."

The Senate went on without him. Tipper canceled her speaking engagements and got rid of her household help, because it was suddenly her priority to clean every toilet and drive every car pool. "We both realized what was really important, and it was not to give one more speech," Tipper says. "I just decided to refocus completely on the family. Al went through the same realization. The demands of his job were never going to stop."

In the past, Al had always approached his schedule with the best of intentions and, on Sundays, made sure his flight back to Washington would get him there in time to slide into the pew next to his family at church. But Karenna recalls that other family commitments often "ended up on the cutting-room floor"--until little Albert's accident. "Fanatical parental attendance at everything," Karenna laughs. "Sometimes I was saying, 'No one else's parents will be there. It's a scrimmage!' And they were still like, 'I'll be there!'" This fanaticism about family has persisted until today when, in the middle of a presidential campaign, Albert's football banquet is cemented into the schedule months in advance.

Al also put more energy into getting to know his children as individuals, taking Sarah three times to the Holocaust Memorial Museum, Albert to tour a submarine in Baltimore harbor, each of the four to dinner alone when he could. In the mornings, he would wake them one by one. Says Karenna: "He just wanted to know what was going on in our lives."

Al also turned his intellect toward an exploration of his childhood, and he did it partly by reading everything he could get his hands on. In particular, he pored over psychoanalytic works that included Alice Miller's The Drama of the Gifted Child, a book on how parents who impose their ambitions on their children can leave their highly accomplished children emotionally stunted and confused about what they want other than to please the parents. In raising his family, Al says, "I had the benefit of seeing my own children's experience with the backlight of my own experience as a child so that"--he sighs, and pauses to pick his words--"I had an advantage as a parent that my parents didn't."

Al and Tipper also went to work on their marriage in family-therapy sessions, and he finally began to understand she had something vital to contribute that was as important to his public life as it was to his private one. "One of the lessons here I've learned from her is a way to enrich my own experience of life by opening up to the heart as well as the head," he told TIME. "We've had many great discussions about that, and she's been a great teacher for me. The catharsis I went through beginning on April 3, 1989, was a time when those lessons really hit home for me, because I was suddenly open to them."

He had become a different kind of husband, a different kind of father--and, he insists, a different kind of politician. When Al is asked how, he says, "Where don't you see it? It's pervasive." He brought in a "facilitator" to help the "group dynamics" of his Senate staff (and later, to some ridicule, did the same to boost the team spirit of Bill Clinton's new White House staff). He began to organize annual conferences to explore how government might help troubled families. "I never would have done [that] except for the transformative experiences that I had," says Gore.

Al considered another bid for President in 1991, but this time, he and his family retreated to a houseboat on a Tennessee lake to make the decision together. Aides eager for word of which way he was leaning had to wait until he pulled up to a dockside pay phone. From the questions he was asking, they were certain it was a go. But when the family came ashore, he announced he would not run. It was, Tipper said, "a gift."

And then, a year later, Bill Clinton called.


Even as her involvement with Al's political career grew, Tipper kept her primary focus on creating a zone of normality and comfort for her children and husband, shutting politics out of their lives when she could. She had grown up in a broken home, her parents having split when she was four. Tipper's mother--who lives with the Gores--suffered serious bouts of depression, and Tipper experienced an episode of what she called "situational depression" after Albert's accident. All of which made Tipper even more determined that her family stay intact and functional. It has been something of a challenge in her current situation. Al and Tipper haven't been able to get the kids to go bowling with them since the New York Times printed their scores. They avoid discussing anything personal in the car, where there are always two Secret Service agents in the front seat.

But there are ways of preserving shreds of their old life. Tipper had a kitchenette built on the second floor of their official residence so the family could have breakfast around the table they used in their old house in Virginia. She got two personal phone lines installed after one daughter complained that her friends couldn't call without going through the White House operator. Visitors entering the foyer of the white brick Victorian mansion step around Tipper's apple-red drum set, and the Amari porcelain umbrella stand is jammed with her daughters' battered lacrosse sticks.

Tipper was not onstage with Al in Florida the night he clinched the Democratic nomination for President because her son, the only child still at home, was nursing a lacrosse injury and had midterms to study for. Her refusal to travel much with Al in recent months is no small source of frustration to his advisers. "I don't see why she's not out there more," one of them moans. "She is at least part of the answer to all of his negatives. She can do so much to soften him up."

Tipper says she will be more visible this fall, because "there's a story that needs to get out" and no one else can tell it. "I don't know anyone more compassionate, more sensitive. There's a gentleness to him," she says. "The fact that he intellectualizes those feelings doesn't mean that he doesn't have them." But while she is much in demand on the Democratic circuit, she has yet to become what she once called "a natural politician." Tipper's husky, breathy voice often develops a tentative quality when she stands before a microphone. And given the option, she skips the speech entirely.

A quarter-century in this game, and Tipper hasn't even mastered the basics. At a 45-minute event arranged by the campaign at a Tampa, Fla., after-school center in June, she cooed over how well the children could read, wondered at their skills on the computer--and neglected to mention her husband even once. She blew a chance to tout his virtues to a bank of local television cameras and a nest of eager reporters in a state he badly wants to win. Instead, she said, "We're here to talk about how important this is in people's lives." At a Democratic fund raiser two weeks later in Washington, Tipper warned that the makeup of the Supreme Court will be at stake in November, but didn't say what Al might do about it. In fact, her one reference to him was as "the messenger."

But somehow she manages to do the thing Al seems incapable of: she touches people--in receiving lines, at high schools, on airplanes. During photos at this summer's Democratic blowout in Washington for 14,000 people willing to open their wallets, one woman suddenly burst into tears and began confiding her problems to Tipper, who took her aside for 15 minutes before returning to the receiving line.

Watching her onstage with him, one cannot help wondering whether she really wants to be there at all. When she whips out her camera in the middle of a rally, as she so often does, is she preserving the moment--or distancing herself from it by becoming a spectator? And if he is elected, will she be pulled even further from the things that matter to her?

It's a question that her friends have stopped asking. The things that matter to her are on the line in this election, and not the least of them is that "it's what he wants," says her friend Chris Downey. So if Tipper becomes First Lady, they say, she will do what she has always done. "She will take it, embrace it, do the best she can," says former aide Sally Aman. "And she will make sure that Tipper Gore the person does not get lost."


Because she has kept her distance, Tipper has been able at times to see what the campaign professionals cannot. And because Al trusts her judgment and motives in a way he doesn't trust other people's, she has been able to persuade him when others cannot. He describes their marriage as "a communion [that] just became a lot deeper and broader to the point where I wouldn't and couldn't consider a major life decision without her deep involvement."

Tipper is no Hillary. In strategy sessions she takes notes but rarely speaks, campaign aides say. Nor does she try to shape policy, except in areas, such as mental illness, that are of particular interest to her. Instead, she frets over his schedule: Where's the sleep in here? Where's the exercise?

If her influence is not always seen, it nonetheless makes itself felt. "It was always quite evident when she was unhappy about something," a former staff member recalls. The giveaway: Al would come into the office second-guessing something that had been decided the day before, saying "Are you sure we should be...?" And Tipper can also be what the ex-aide describes as "a blamer," reinforcing one of Al's own less attractive tendencies. Nearly everyone who has worked for him long enough has seen her anger, although they usually find it less unsettling than his. "He tends to brood," says a strategist from Al's early days in politics. "She has a quicker temper, in some ways, but she's over it."

When she senses a serious problem, Tipper is direct--and persistent. In the late spring of last year, Michael Whouley, Gore's top operative in the field, was working the New Hampshire Democratic convention at a Manchester high school when Tipper summoned him to the room where she was waiting to give her speech. "I think we have some problems here," she told him. "I have this sense that we're not pushing people, that we're not exciting people. Bill Bradley's making inroads." At the time, Gore's campaign was so confident in New Hampshire that it wasn't bothering to conduct polls there, but Tipper was listening to young staff members, campaign volunteers and voters--the people who, as Whouley put it, "really don't want to look at the Vice President and say, 'Sir, things are going crummy.'"

At home, she was trying to fix the campaign's larger problem--the candidate. "It was the fact that he was in this role, as Vice President for seven years, and it just took a while to break those circuits and go back to basics," Tipper says. "What we needed to do, and what Al does best, is campaign the way he campaigned in Tennessee...He needed to be more directly connected to the people, the way he always had been." She says the solution was something her husband "realized instinctively" as they talked about it, but he gives her credit for identifying it first. "That was a lesson that it took me a while to learn," he says. "She did see it before I did."

By the time a Labor Day poll in the Boston Globe confirmed they had a fight on their hands in New Hampshire, the campaign was in full panic. On a flight across the state from Manchester to Berlin, Whouley says, they tore up their game plan and started over, doing it the way Tipper wanted to--holding open meetings where Al would stay until the last question was answered, taking down the podium and velvet ropes between the candidate and the voters, arriving with a smaller entourage in a Chevy Suburban instead of a limousine. Later that fall, Tipper was a force behind Al's decision to pick up the campaign and move it to Nashville, leaving behind many of the Washington hangers-on. "It's hard sometimes to see outside your bunker," says former Gore aide Roy Neel. "She has a way of opening the windows."

But there are dangers in turning to those who believe, first and always, in him. As questions grew over his role in the 1996 campaign fund-raising scandals, the Vice President's White House aides tried to talk him out of rushing into the briefing room in March 1997 to proclaim--seven times, it turned out--that "no controlling legal authority" had prevented him from making fund-raising phone calls from his office. The aides remain convinced they would have succeeded in holding him back--except that Tipper and Karenna told him to follow his gut and tell it his way. Says a senior Gore aide, still stewing about how much damage the unprepared Vice President had caused himself: "He had an instinct that of course would be shared by a family member--'Hey, I'm a good person, people will see that.' But tactically, he should have made a different case."

The night of the New Hampshire primary, it looked for a while as though Al might have lost it after all. His strategists gathered at a Manchester Holiday Inn, where they were no longer sure they were throwing a victory party, and prospected for signs of hope in the gloomy exit numbers. But with the polls closed and nothing left to be done about it, Tipper turned her attention to tossing a Nerf football back and forth with campaign aides. As strategist Shrum rushed over with the latest results, she asked offhandedly, "In case we need it, do you have a concession speech ready?"

Which was precisely the kind of practical advice Pauline would have had. And in large part because of Tipper, the speech never became necessary. --With reporting by Tamala M. Edwards

For more behind-the-scenes photographs of the Gores, go to


Cover Date: August 21, 2000



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