WASHINGTON — Vice President Al Gore dropped pollster Mark Penn on Friday as part of an accelerating effort to refocus his ailing presidential campaign, an operation Gore and his senior strategists concluded was bogged down with too many consultants with too many competing outside interests.
Gore replaced Penn with veteran Democratic pollster Harrison Hickman, two days after he announced he was moving his campaign "lock, stock and barrel" to Nashville. He also released three other prominent pollsters who have been hired on contracts to serve as advisors to the campaign.
Penn has been a pivotal advisor to President Clinton for the last four years in his capacity as pollster for the Democratic National Committee. He and partner Doug Schoen also are advising Hillary Rodham Clinton. Combined with his work for Gore, this put Penn in an unprecedented position in modern Washington: at ground zero in the political operations of the country's three most prominent Democrats. His firm also does extensive corporate work, including polling for Microsoft.
To a growing number of Penn critics in the Gore camp, this lengthy roster of clients became emblematic of a campaign in which several top advisors seemed to approach the presidential campaign with wavering attention spans and divided loyalties.