Albert Gore Jr. isn't your typical, white Southern politician. He doesn't have much of an accent. He's not conservative. He didn't grow up in the South. He wasn't even born there. Even so, the young senator from Tennessee on Monday became the only Southerner in the 1988 presidential race - an advantage he hopes will propel him to the White House. Gore, who traveled home to Carthage, Tenn., to launch his campaign, plans during the coming campaign to keep one foot planted firmly on each side of the Mason-Dixon line - a difficult, but potentially rewarding, political posture. As Gore puts it: ``I am not running as a Southern candidate, but as a national candidate from the South and proud of it.''
Central to Gore's political strategy will be the Super Tuesday primary, the biggest of 1988, which will include 14 Southern and border states. The winner that day could move far ahead of the field, and become unstoppable.
Gore gallops into the crowded field of Democratic presidential candidates as one of the darkest of the dark horses, however. Although folks in Tennessee hold Gore in high esteem, most Southerners have never heard of him. So despite his Southern connections, political analysts expect there will be little immediate excitement about his entry in the big Southern cities, like Atlanta, New Orleans, or Miami, or in the quiet hollows of Georgia, Alabama, and Mississippi.
Further, Gore's politics, his educational background, and his philosophical bent are more mainstream than Southern, more liberal than Dixiecrat. That's one reason conservative Democratic leaders across the South still hold out for someone else, someone closer to their views on taxes, spending, and defense, such as Sen. Sam Nunn of Georgia.
To a large extent, Gore's political posture reflects his background. He is the son of former US Sen. Albert Gore Sr., who opposed the war in Vietnam. He was born in Washington, D.C., schooled at St. Albans Prep in the nation's capital, and graduated with honors from Harvard University.
At age 28, he was elected to the US House, and he won a Senate seat when Howard Baker retired.
Gore's politics reflect the realities of border state, not Southern, politics. His voting record averages about a 70 percent rating from the liberal Americans for Democratic Action.
Although sometimes criticized as working too much on peripheral issues, Gore was active in the MX-missile debate. He helped fashion a compromise that allowed MX production to continue in exchange for a White House promise of greater flexibility in arms talks.
Gore plays up his relative youth as well his congressional experience in arms control and strategic weaponry.
He says that to stop the nuclear arms race the United States needs a leader to match Soviet chief Mikhail Gorbachev, ``who combines youthful energy and innovation with experience ... a leader who can match him, test him, bargain with him, and make the most of this historic opportunity for a safer, saner world.''
Referring to the election of John F. Kennedy in 1960 to follow Dwight D. Eisenhower in the Oval Office, he says:
``Twenty-seven years ago, the voters of America, looking for the strength and hope of a new generation, replaced the oldest man ever to serve in the office of the presidency with the youngest ever to be elected to that office. I believe they are ready to do so again.''