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
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
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."
BREEDING A POLITICIAN
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
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."
THE EARLY YEARS
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
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
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
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
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
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