Gore 1999 Strategy: The Art of the 'Underspin'?

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Democratic presidential candidate Vice President Al Gore greets students outside the Westhaven Elementary School in Belleville, Ill., during a campaign stop Monday, Sept. 11, 2000. (AP Photo/Morry Gash)MORRY GASH / AP

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A top adviser to Al Gore suggested that the then-presidential candidate’s campaign “underspin” a 1999 poll that showed him running slightly behind Republican George W. Bush.

Ron Klain, Gore’s chief of staff at the time, wrote in a memo to Gore and other advisers that the January 1999 survey by USA Today should be downplayed.

"As for our response, I have told Chris [Lehane, Gore spokesman] (and will tell our outside folks) to UNDERSPIN this, and downplay its significance," Klain wrote.

The document was part of a tranche of newly-released records from the Clinton Library detailing the former administration.

The poll showed Gore with 45 percent compared to Bush’s 47 percent in a head-to-head match-up. That represented a significant improvement for Gore since a previous poll in October 1998, which showed him trailing Bush 39 percent to 57 percent.

The poll also showed Gore running solidly ahead of other possible Democratic nominees, leading his closest rivals by more than 30 points.

"Polls go up, polls go down," Klain suggested as a talking point. "The Vice President is focused on doing the business of the country -- as typified by his efforts this week to promote 'smart growth,' lifelong learning, economic development, and reform of our government."