GORE AND KEMP GIVE CAMPAIGN A SHOT OF HUMOR

Published: Friday, Oct. 18 1996 12:00 a.m. MDT

Sharing the spot-light again a week after their debate, Al Gore and Jack Kemp tossed laugh lines instead of political barbs.

In back-to-back speeches Thursday night at the annual Alfred E. Smith dinner, they displayed a kind of humor and civility often missing from politics.First up at the podium, Kemp joked that Gore had set a new standard for the office they each seek.

"No other vice president in American history has been forced to remain loyal while his president switched parties in the middle of his term," Kemp said, a reference to President Clinton's adoption of traditional GOP issues.

The former NFL quarterback also said he had an easy time deciding to go into politics after retiring from the Buffalo Bills in 1970.

"After two broken ankles, two broken shoulders, a broken passing hand and 11 concussions, there was nothing left to do but go into Congress," the Republican nominee joked. "The only thing I never broke was my hair."

To laughs, New York's Roman Catholic Cardinal John O'Connor introduced each candidate as "the man who hopes to be the next president . . . I mean the next vice president of the United States."

Gore and Kemp are considered front-runners for campaign 2000.

The dinner, held annually since 1945, pays homage to Smith, the first Catholic to win the presidential nomination of a major political party.

After Kemp's uncharacteristically brief remarks, Gore tickled the dinner crowd of about 1,200 with a slide presentation that attempted to show how he has "tried to break the vice presidential mold."

It featured images of Gore popping up like Zelig in photographs: carrying injured Olympic gymnast Kerri Strug; as a New York Yankee baseball player, celebrating a victory; on the football field with Kemp; and in the now-famous photograph of a young Clinton shaking hands with President Kennedy.

He also bemoaned the attention lavished on the candidates for president.

"Everybody knows that there is an election in just 19 days, but why is it that it is consistently referred to as the presidential election?" Gore said. "There's also a vice presidential election 19 days from now. It's pretty darn important also, but I never hear about it."

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