WASHINGTON (Reuters) — Democratic presidential candidate Al Gore spoke and joked Tuesday night with Sen. John Kerry of Massachusetts, one of a half dozen persons seen as a possible running mate.
Gore did so at a Democratic fund-raiser at Kerry's Washington home, shortly after Republican rival George W. Bush named former Defense Secretary Dick Cheney as his running mate.
Kerry introduced Gore to a gathering of about 50 people as "my great friend" and then said: "I have to tell you that a number of you have come up to me tonight and asked me if I have any interest at all in serving as vice president with Al Gore.
"Actually," Kerry added, drawing laughter and applause, "none of you asked me that, and I'm a bit ticked off."
Kerry then ripped into Bush and Cheney, calling them a pair of dangerous conservative foes of such causes as gun control, abortion rights and the environment.
Gore thanked Kerry for the remarks and then, turning to the crowd, said, "That was a great speech, didn't y'all think so?"
That drew more laughter.
Gore aides alerted reporters ahead of time that the vice president would attend the $250,000 fund-raiser as the guest of Kerry, long considered as one of his possible running mates.
Others include: Sens. Bob Graham of Florida, Evan Bayh of Indiana, North Carolina Gov. Jim Hunt and former Senate Majority Leader George Mitchell of Maine.
Gore declined to say when he will announce his choice, other than he will be ready Aug. 17 when the name will be placed in nomination at the Democratic National Convention in Los Angeles.
Gore voiced Tuesday no direct criticism of Cheney — a former defense secretary, congressman and conservative stalwart turned Texas oil man — but made it clear he would select a different brand of public servant.
"I will choose a running mate who shares my values, someone who will stand up for the people, not the powerful, willing to take on the big polluters, the big drug companies, the HMOs and Big Oil," Gore said.
Kerry was more blunt.
Speaking at the fund-raiser at his Georgetown home, he told fellow Democrats, "I have two words that I think will brighten your eyes for the next several months: 'Dick Cheney.' "
"He's a good patriotic American. But he differs from all of us in his view and vision of where he wants to take this country," Kerry said.
"And I was astounded today when my staff brought me some of his voting records," the senator said. "He's one of ten people in the U.S. Congress who voted against Head Start. He was one of about 17 to vote against the reauthorization of higher education money. He voted to slash funding for student loans. He voted to disallow any funding to schools that don't allow prayer out loud. He voted against the clean water act, against the safe drinking water act, against Superfunds. He voted against a resolution in the house to free Nelson Mandela."