September 15, 2002
WASHINGTON -- Al Gore was trying Saturday to strengthen his ties with black lawmakers, a constituency whose support he would need should he decide to run for president in 2004.
Gore got the backing of nine of every 10 black voters in 2000, a rate higher than his former boss, Bill Clinton, won in his presidential elections.
The former vice president was among speakers scheduled for Saturday night's awards banquet at the Congressional Black Caucus Foundation's annual legislative conference.
"Al Gore is still the titular head of the Democratic Party," said Rep. William Jefferson, a Louisiana Democrat who is chairman of the nonprofit, nonpartisan foundation, a public policy and research organization. "He is the best-known and most popular Democrat in the country, second only to former President Clinton."
The conference, which started Wednesday, has focused on a variety of issues, including how to communicate about the United States more effectively with less affluent nations. Conference leaders said they were eager to hear what Gore has to say about those and other issues.
Gore probably will get strong support from black voters if he runs again, several at the conference said, but they also will take a close look at other potential Democratic candidates.
Cheryl Washington, an attorney from Dayton, Ohio, said she supported Gore in the last election, but she wonders whether she would support him again "unless he reinvents himself."