(CNSNews.com) - "Let us set out on a new journey to the best of America," Democratic presidential nominee Al Gore said in his speech Thursday night, and on Friday, he takes his own advice, beginning a four-day riverboat cruise down the Mississippi River with his running mate Joe Lieberman.
He heads out a happy man -- "the biggest speech of his life" behind him and apparently well received.
"I stand here tonight as my own man," Gore said in his acceptance speech. He also acknowledged the perception that some voters have of him: "I know my own imperfections. I know that sometimes people say I'm too serious, that I talk too much substance and policy. Maybe I've done that tonight."
"But the presidency is more than a popularity contest. It's a day-to-day fight for the people," he said -- and by "the people" he implied he meant people who aren't wealthy. Gore once again played up the divide between rich and poor, saying he refused to "wreck" America's strong economy with a tax cut for the wealthy.
Gore said, "We've got to win this election" for every hardworking American family -- "hardworking" apparently code for "lower-paid." He said, "Together let's make sure that our prosperity enriches not just the few, but all working families."
Gore refused to coast "on the basis of past performance.""For all of our good times, I am not satisfied," he said. "I'm not asking you to vote for me on the basis of the economy we have. Tonight, I ask for your support on the basis of the better, fairer, more prosperous America we can build together."
Gore didn't shout, as he sometimes does. "If you entrust me with the presidency, I know I won't always be the most exciting politician," he said. "But I pledge to you tonight: I will work for you every day and I will never let you down."
Without mentioning his Republican rival by name, Gore called George W. Bush's proposals "old guard" - a favored phrase of Democrats lately.
The main criticism seems to be that his 51-minute speech - written by Gore himself - lacked any memorable lines.
Bush Campaign Reacts
In response, Bush spokesman Ari Fleischer said Gore's speech offered "more of the same old language of class warfare, partisanship and division.
"Without intending to do so," said the GOP statement, "he also offered a laundry list of the policy failures of his own administration, from failing to provide prescription drug coverage for seniors to failing to enact a patients' bill of rights to failing to improve public schools to failing to eliminate the marriage penalty in the tax code.
Said the Bush campaign's statement, there were "more cliches than conviction."
"Tonight's speech underscores the need for Americans to elect a President who is a strong leader with a vision to unite our nation and work with Republicans and Democrats for the best interest of working families."
Focus Group Approves
No matter what Gore said and how the Bush campaign reacted, it's the voters who matter, and they apparently liked what they heard.
Frank Luntz, a leading Republican pollster, said Gore "hit a home run," according to the reaction of a focus group in Los Angeles and a nationwide "weighted sample" of 1,200 people registering their opinions on the Internet. (A weighted sample includes roughly even numbers of men, women, Republicans, Democrats, and Independents.)
Luntz conducted the focus group for MSNBC. It included 36 people, evenly divided among people who called themselves Republicans, Democrats and Independents.
According to Luntz, after the speech, seven members of the focus group - four Republicans and three Independents - said they were impressed enough to switch their support from Bush to Gore. One said he would switch from Gore to Bush. Eight said they had a less favorable impression of Gore after the speech.
Among the Internet group, Democrats gave Gore a positive rating of around 80 (on a scale of 100); Independents gave him a positive rating of 60-70; and Republicans gave him a positive rating of slightly more than 50 and, according to Luntz, "never went negative."
That's pretty much a mirror image of a focus group response to Bush's acceptance speech at the Republican National Convention two weeks ago.
Luntz said he saw some tears among those in the focus group - something he's never seen before in the hundreds of focus groups he's conducted. Just about everyone in the focus group said Gore's speech had exceeded their expectations.
The election is less than three months away.