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Gore Downplays Outcome in Iowa as Democratic Campaign Heats Up

November 08, 1987|MAURA DOLAN | Times Staff Writer

DES MOINES — The six Democratic presidential candidates, gathered for the most important Iowa party event in the election season, began the final leg of their campaigns for the Feb. 8 presidential-preference caucuses Saturday amid debate over the significance of the outcome.

Tennessee Sen. Albert Gore Jr. set the tone of the day, both with his admission in the morning that he had smoked marijuana and later in a speech to 7,700 Democrats at the Jefferson-Jackson dinner, which traditionally opens the most intensive campaigning for the earliest major contest in the race for the 1988 nomination.

In a politically risky address, Gore essentially admitted that he probably will not do well in Iowa and tried to play down the significance of the caucus vote.

"I may not finish first in the Iowa caucuses in February, but I intend to see my party finish first in Iowa next November," Gore said. "There is something wrong with a nominating process that gives one state the loudest voice and then produces candidates who cannot even carry that state."

In general elections, Gore told reporters, the winner of the Democratic caucus has not carried Iowa in 24 years.

In his speech, Gore, who expects to show his strength mainly in the Southern primaries on March 8, indirectly accused his opponents of pandering to special-interest groups and tailoring their positions to appeal to the liberals who dominate the Iowa caucus process.

"I won't do what the pundits say it takes to win in Iowa--flatter you with promises, change my tune and back down from my convictions," he said. "I won't play that game or abide by those rules."

Bonnie Campbell, state Democratic chairwoman, defended Iowa's importance in the nominating process, saying: "It has to begin somewhere."

"I agree," she said, "that Iowa gets a great deal of attention, but remember that Iowans are only doing what Iowans have always done. It's the candidates and the media who focus all the attention on Iowa."

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