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Don't do it, Al

It seems that Vice President Gore has let it be known that he will wait until right after the Democratic Convention to make up his mind on how much he will use President Clinton in his campaign. But hasn't he noticed? Mr. Clinton already is deeply involved in Mr. Gore's quest for the White House.

As Clinton keeps criss-crossing our country and moving around the world, he has become the most visible late-term president in memory. He usually has worthwhile objectives - like seeking to further the Mideast peace process - but he obviously is also hoping to make a final presidential splash that will upgrade his place in history from the middle-of-the-pack ranking now given him by polls of scholars.

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Beyond all this, it is obvious that there is a further Clinton objective in his almost continuous search for visibility and success: That any and all positive publicity he accrues will rub off, to some degree, on his vice president.

Clinton wants to help Gore win because his veep has been so loyal and because he thinks Gore would be not only a good president, but one who would carry on with the Clinton agenda.

It seems that Clinton has told Gore he wants to campaign more formally for him in the fall. That means he would talk to audiences targeted by the vice president and on a schedule Gore sets up for him.

I don't doubt that this will occur. But it won't stop this campaign-loving president - who, really, has been campaigning almost steadily from the time he entered the White House - from continuing to show up on national TV almost every night with something to tell the American people he has done, or intends to do, or is thinking about.

And that whirlwind presidential activity - or, at least, whatever of it is viewed as praiseworthy by the public - could well help Gore.

But let's assess the value of the president formally campaigning for Gore following the elections. I called up pollster John Zogby, vacationing in Florida, and asked if he has done any polling on what a Clinton campaign would do for Gore.

He said he'd learned from his polling that "a Clinton campaign would absolutely help Gore. There are a lot of Democrats who are more likely to go for Gore if Clinton campaigns for him."

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Here Mr. Zogby details how a Clinton campaign would be effective: "Clinton would go directly into friendly territory and speak to friendly audiences (like blacks, ethnic groups, liberals, etc.) and really turn them on with the charm they love so much. He would thus energize these voters to get out and vote for Gore in the fall."

He continued: "The defining moment of this campaign will be when Clinton passes the baton to Gore at the convention in that Monday night speech. The bounce Gore gets out of that speech will show how much help Clinton can give Gore by campaigning for him."

I asked Zogby if he saw any "downside" to Clinton's campaigning. He said, "no."

Zogby is so close to the political scene and he brings such a refreshingly objective view to his careful polling that I'm hesitant about taking issue with him.

But I will.

This old-timer's instinct tells me that a campaigning Clinton won't be able to confine his pep talks to those friendly audiences who love him no matter what he has done to besmirch his record with improper personal conduct. His speeches to these audiences will go on national TV and may well remind people less charitable about Clinton's impeachment that Gore was at his side at the time and even calling the disgraced Clinton "one of our greatest presidents."

And I think there might be another negative, and maybe a huge one, in Clinton becoming a scheduled part of the Gore campaign. I can see that he could help a lot.

But the highly personable and entertaining Clinton might well overshadow the real presidential candidate and remind the voters that - by comparison - Mr. Gore is not too exciting.

(c) Copyright 2000. The Christian Science Publishing Society