Gore's Lesson for Democrats

Former Vice President Al Gore was right. His decision not to run for president in 2004 will help the nation focus more clearly on the future and not the past, avoiding a rehash of the Bush v. Gore match or reviving memories of the Clinton-Gore White House.

For a man groomed for the Oval Office his entire political life, his decision was a personally healthy "case closed."

His decision also clears the slate for a front-runner in the race for the Democratic nomination. Fresher faces can now start their campaign on an equal footing and run full speed.

Mr. Gore kept the nation guessing about his plans for two years. Perhaps he's waited this long just to see how vulnerable President Bush - who enjoys high public approval - might be.

He's only lately begun to speak out on public issues once again, indicating he might choose to become like Teddy Roosevelt, a sort of grand figure critiquing public affairs from the sidelines. He's certainly earned it with his long public service.

Democrats remain in disarray as a party, especially in offering coherent ideas on the economy, which Gore sees as the main issue for 2004. With Gore out of contention, candidates now need to focus more on the substance of their messages than, say, just trying to come in second to Gore in the presidential primaries or in raising money.

Like Gore, with his long quest to find his public persona, the Democrats must work harder to find theirs.

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