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Gore plans ‘baton passing’ from Clinton at convention

Sierra Club endorses the v.p., and aides disclose themes

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NASHVILLE, Tenn. — Vice President Al Gore has set a schedule for his nominating convention that features a "symbolic passing of the baton" from President Clinton.

The Los Angeles convention, beginning Aug. 14, will be important to Gore's effort to refine his image and spell out a message that's different from Clinton's without breaking with the administration. That's traditionally a tricky task for a vice president trying to succeed to the White House.

Gore flew to Tennessee on Saturday but had no public events there.

With attention increasingly focused on then upcoming GOP convention, Gore was focusing on raising money for Democrats on Sunday, speaking at Democratic National Committee fund-raising events in New Jersey and New York, before heading to the key battleground state of Michigan.

Campaign aides, meanwhile, disclosed plans for a convention with daily themes echoing the message that Gore will make in campaign stops as he works his way across the country.

Also Saturday, Gore won the endorsement of the Sierra Club.

"Our members believe that a vote for Gore is the best way to protect our families from pollution and safeguard our nation's landscapes for future generations to enjoy," Robert Cox, president of the 600,000-member environmental group, said in a statement.

Gore accepted an endorsement in May from the League of Conservation Voters, a political umbrella group representing 9 million members of various environmental organizations.

Not all environmentalists support the vice president. In fact, Sierra Club board member Michael Dorsey, in an internal e-mail sent eight months ago and released in May by the Republican National Committee, criticized Gore's environmental record. He also urged his colleagues to endorse Green Party candidate Ralph Nader, who has risen in the national polls in recent weeks, presumably cutting into Gore's support.

Gore, who was spending a quiet Saturday in Nashville, Tenn., is to arrive at the convention on Aug. 16. Aides offered a twist for his crucial acceptance speech Aug. 17: He will be introduced by his wife, Tipper.

The convention opens Aug. 14 with a theme of "Prosperity and Progress." Speakers, including Clinton, will laud the strong economy that Clinton administration leaves after eight years.

Other first night speakers will be women Senate candidates, among them the Democrats' candidate in New York, first lady Hillary Rodham Clinton. Convention officials said the night also will feature ordinary women who have gained from economic prosperity.

The theme on Aug. 15 is "You Ain't Seen Nothing Yet" and builds on Gore's proposals. Speakers include Caroline Kennedy Schlossberg, former Gore rival Bill Bradley and the Rev. Jesse Jackson.

Gore comes to southern California on Aug. 15 to meet with Clinton outside Los Angeles for what a campaign aide said will be a "symbolic passing of the baton."

The meeting will be similar to former President Ronald Reagan's handing over the torch to his vice president, George Bush, in 1988. Campaign aides said unlike the Reagan-Bush event, the Gore exchange will be at a function where policy proposals will be made. "It will be a substantive event," an aide said.

By coupling campaign events across the country with convention themes, aides hope to increase attention to the campaign in an era where television coverage of conventions is minimal.

The theme on Aug. 16 is "Al Gore: The Principled Fighter," telling what convention officials said was Gore's history of taking on special interests. It will feature Gore's daughter, Karenna Gore Schiff, a campaign adviser who has emphasized enlisting young people into the political process.

Next comes Gore's big night on Aug. 17, in which he will deliver an acceptance speech intended to define his campaign. Aides said having Mrs. Gore introduce her husband is unique, meant to stress a partnership between the two.

Gore moves from the convention into a boat trip through the politically crucial Midwest, which Gore's campaign advisers expect to be the election's biggest battleground. The boat trip will be on the Mississippi River and the Great Lakes.

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