LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. – More than 2,000 Florida Democrats chanted "Gore in four, Gore in four," as a clean-shaven, former vice president stepped back into the ring and rejoined the nation's political fight.
"We are gonna elect a Democratic president in 2004," he said.
Gore and four other aspiring presidential candidates flocked to the state's Democratic convention this weekend to gain support. Besides assessing their potential challengers to President Bush, Democrats hoped to develop strategies to defeat Florida Gov. Jeb Bush.
The former vice president avoided criticism of the Bush administration on international affairs.
"We stand shoulder to shoulder with the president and our brave service men and women in defending America from terrorism," he said.
But Gore's support disappeared when he spoke about domestic issues.
"The time has come to speak out boldly not only when we believe the administration is right but when we believe what they are doing is wrong — and a lot of what they are doing is wrong," Gore said. "They are wrong to vilify honorable men and women who oppose their right-wing, domestic agenda and blatantly dishonest budget. I'm tired of this right-wing side wind. I've had it."
He criticized Bush on the environment, education, Social Security, Medicare and the economy: "In each of these areas, this administration is following the same pattern — selling out America's future for short-term political gains."
And he accused the administration of breaking promises made during its campaign.
"Bottom line, the Republicans want to cut funds for new police, cut funds for high school drop-out rates, cut back protections for seniors, cut protections for the environment," Gore said. "I may have been using my razor lately, but these guys are using a meat cleaver."
He brought the crowd to its feet saying: "I don't care what anybody says, I think Bill Clinton and I did a damn good job."
Gore's theme song for the day was the Bachman-Turner Overdrive's "You Ain't Seen Nothin Yet."
Wife Tipper Gore introduced her husband's 30-minute speech, saying he is a man of many talents "who by the way won the popular vote."
It was the former vice president's first nationally covered speech since losing the presidential election by a 537-vote margin that handed Florida to Bush. Democrats are counting on Florida's 27 electoral votes the next time around to win the 270 needed to take the White House.
Gore's speech concluded with a rhetorical flourish, repeating the phrase: "Stand up for an America ... that ensures civil rights, women's rights and that every vote counts."