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Al Gore Drops Out of 2004 Presidential Race

Aired December 15, 2002 - 18:34   ET


CAROL LIN, CNN ANCHOR: For more on today's top story, Al Gore dropping out of the 2004 presidential race. John King is at the White House taking a look at some of the people who might be stepping into the race -- John.
JOHN KING, CNN SR. WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Well, Carol, one or two have already have their toes in the water. Half dozen or more Democrats are seriously thinking about it. Some actually making plans to make their intentions known. It is clear now with Al Gore's decision, we have lost the national Democratic front runner. There is no national favorite right now. You could go state to state and perhaps assign a favorite in some those key early states.

Let's take a look at who is already running. The governor of Vermont, Howard Dean, a liberal Democrat. He is the only declared major candidate for president right now. He is already running, already trying to convince Democrats what they need most is someone from outside Washington.

Others running include Massachusetts Senator John Kerry. He is hoping, especially now that Al Gore is out of the race, that being from Massachusetts will help him a great deal in the first primary state, which of course, is neighboring New Hampshire.

Another candidate getting ready to announce his intentions, and we are told he is planning on running for the Democratic nomination, is the former House Democratic Leader, Dick Gephardt of Missouri, a man who ran for president back in 1988. A man with a very significant political network in the first caucus state of Iowa, with the support across the country when it comes to labor officials. Dick Gephardt is someone to watch closely, especially now that Al Gore is out of the race.

There are others considering running as well; John Edwards is a relative newcomer. He was on Al Gore's short list of vice presidential candidates last time around. The Democrat from the state of North Carolina now in the Senate. You see his picture there.

Tom Daschle, the former Senate majority leader, now the Senate Democratic leader from South Dakota is giving thought to running as well.

And the man most effected by Al Gore's dramatic decision today is his running mate from Campaign 2000, Democratic Senator Joseph Lieberman of Connecticut. He had said he would not seek the Democratic nomination if Al Gore did run. Senator Lieberman, according to one aide, is going to take a deep breath, let this settle in for a while, but we also are told he is now very inclined to at least very hard at joining the Democratic race and probably will test the waters for running for the nomination as well.

Al Gore getting out will likely also convince a few Democrats we haven't talked about here, to think about it. Now that there is no clear front runner, you may see some other Democrats think about getting in race to see if they can pull off a surprise in one of those early states.

The Iowa caucuses, Carol, are 13 months away. Why be so worried about this now, you have to raise roughly $100 million for a serious run for president. Anyone who wants to run, at least according to most of the experts, needs to make their intentions known, if not by the end of this year, then certainly quite early in next year. Carol.

LIN: Oh, bad. Thirteen months, a blink of an eye. Hey, John, I understand that Al Gore actually called Joe Lieberman personally to give him his decision. How did that conversation go?

KING: We don't have details. We don't even have confirmation, I don't believe, unless it has happened in the last few minutes, that they actually have spoken. We know that Al Gore said as he was up in New York doing the interview with CBS for "60 Minutes," that he wanted the one person, we were told by a senior adviser, of the potential candidates that Al Gore wanted to speak to was Joe Lieberman. Al Gore believing that he owes Senator Lieberman that courtesy call. Senator Lieberman, again, has been loyal to the vice president -- former vice president, saying he would not run if Al Gore did run.

So we were told that that was the one call, if Al Gore made one call tonight, it would be to Joe Lieberman among the perspective candidates for president. We are not certain as yet that that call has taken place.

LIN: All right, thank you very much. John King, live at the White House.

Now let's bring in Robert Zimmerman. He is the New York State Chair -- or actually the former New York State Chair for the Gore 2000 run for presidency. Robert, can you hear me?

ROBERT ZIMMERMAN, FRM. NEW YORK STATE CHAIR FOR GORE 2000 CAMPAIGN: Indeed. Good to be speaking with you.

LIN: And good to have you on. I am just wondering what your reaction is, and what have you heard about how Al Gore made this decision?

ZIMMERMAN: I must tell you. While I am not surprised, I really did take him at his word that he was going to think it through and hadn't made a firm decision as to what his plans were. I am not surprised by it. I must tell you quite candidly; I am a bit saddened by it. I think he would have been an extraordinary president and would have served the country extremely well in that position. But I have every expectation that he is going to remain, not just an important force in the Democratic Party nationally, but also a very important national figure, because of the ideas he has and because of the attention he galvanizes and generates around his ideas.

LIN: What do you think his reasoning was for not running in 2004?

ZIMMERMAN: You know, it is interesting. I mean, for everything there is a season, I suppose. Certainly he got the most popular votes, is well known. He won the popular vote in 2000, got the most votes of any Democratic presidential candidate in history, including (ph) he was a front runner for the nomination this time. But I think, really, after the incredibly exhausting 2000 presidential campaign, maybe he felt it was time to step back and take a breath. But I certainly think it would be a mistake for anyone to interpret this is Al Gore walking off the national stage. I think he is going to be a very important figure in the national stage in the future.

LIN: All right. Thank you very much. Robert Zimmerman, New York State Chair, President Gore 2000 campaign. Maybe, Robert, there will be a run in 2008. We shall see. Thank you very much.


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