LOS ANGELES — Revving up party loyalists on the eve of the Democratic convention, President Clinton said Sunday that Republicans can be beaten, "but it's going to take every day between now and November." Al Gore pledged that he will uphold "the highest values" if he wins the White House.
Gore spoke to The Associated Press from his campaign tour in Cleveland as delegates flocked to his convention city for a four-day political pageant staged on Hollywood's doorstep.
A vigorous demonstration brought a crowd of 2,000 to a downtown square in a colorful protest against police brutality and in support of Mumia Abu-Jamal, on death row for killing a Philadelphia police officer. Across the city, security was extraordinarily tight, so much so that Democratic officials were late for their own press conference because they were slowed gaining clearance into the convention compound.
Gore does not arrive here until Wednesday afternoon, and in advance Clinton injected a note of optimism, telling party activists, "You should be of good cheer because we can turn around these polls. "But it's not the work of a day. It's going to take every day between now and November."
Surveys show Republican George W. Bush leads Gore, but Democrats were heartened Sunday by an NBC-Wall Street Journal poll that showed Bush with 44 percent and Gore with 41 percent. That margin was smaller than the double-digit lead reported in other polls, and even Gore's own internal surveys.
Gore told AP he would use his acceptance speech Thursday night to provide new details about his proposed $500 billion tax cut. He also said he will be addressing Social Security and his proposal for giving private savings accounts on top of traditional benefits.
"In both of those cases, I will draw a sharp contrast between my proposals and those of Gov. Bush," he said.
"It will be a positive speech," Gore said. "I will not criticize my opponent."
Inside the Staples Center sports arena, an enormous custom-made convention stage was nearly ready for Monday's opening session.
Democrats were hoping for a smooth, controversy-free convention such as the one Bush enjoyed in Philadelphia.
"The whole idea of this event is not to surprise. It's to control and deliver," said Tad Devine, a top Gore strategist.
Clinton's popularity among Democrats is welcome to Gore, the understudy who seeks to succeed him. However, Gore seeks to avoid negative fallout from Clinton's well-chronicled personal failings.
In the AP interview, Gore was asked about presidential conduct and said:
"I am who I am. I have served in the House and the Senate and as vice president for almost a quarter century. I feel that my record does speak for itself. This election is about the future and not about the past. I will uphold the oath that I hope to take Jan. 20. Every job I have ever had I have given my whole heart to, and I think the record will show I have done it well, I have done it according to the highest values and I will continue to do that."
Sen. Joseph Lieberman, Gore's vice presidential candidate, touched on the issue as well as he made the rounds of the Sunday television programs.
"The Republicans seem to be campaigning mostly against a guy who's not on the ballot this year, not
on his record because the record is so great, but because of the personal mistakes that he made," he said on CNN.
"That's not fair to Al Gore. Nobody who knows Al Gore can rightly associate him at all with that behavior." Nonetheless, Gore will have to answer for campaign fund-raising controversies that are a constant source of GOP criticism.
Despite the proximity of the convention to Hollywood, and the string of fund-raisers attended by celebrities, the Connecticut senator also said the entertainment industry spices its product with "too much violence, too much sex."
Lieberman has long been critical of the material produced by the entertainment industry. In an appearance on ABC, he said too much instability depicted in entertainment makes it very difficult for parents who are working so hard to give their kids value and discipline."
ON NBC, he said, however, he would not be presenting any more "Silver Sewer" awards to companies he viewed as cultural polluters.
"Not that this is backing down," he said, "But I do think there are certain things that a vice president doesn't do that a senator can," he said.
He challenged Bush and his running mate, Dick Cheney, to release their tax returns, noting that Gore has done so and saying he was "certainly prepared to do so."
Gore campaigned Sunday in Ohio, a key battleground state. At a hospital in Cleveland, he pledged to expand health coverage to more children, part of a "step-by-step approach" that would lead ultimately to universal care.
The highlight of Monday's opening night is to be the speech by Clinton, who has spent several days basking in the pre-convention spotlight and planned to depart California on Tuesday.
Some Gore's strategists sounded like they couldn't wait.
"The convention is Al Gore's Tuesday through Thursday," said William Daley, the vice president's campaign manager.