The Dead-End Kid

Alex Penelas has gone AWOL, and the Democratic Party faithful are furious

According to pollster Schroth, Gore ended up receiving only 22 percent of the Cuban-American vote, about half of what Clinton garnered in 1996. In retrospect, Schroth says, it's obvious Penelas could have played a key role in expanding those numbers for Gore: "I think any popular politician with his kind of appeal had a good chance to make a difference."

According to the Democratic official in Washington, Gore is said to be disheartened by Penelas's actions. "The vice president likes Alex and has spent a lot of time with him," says this source. "I think he is more hurt than shocked by the way Alex has distanced himself. When people make comments critical of Alex in front of the vice president, he doesn't say anything. He just looks hurt."

"I think changing parties is only a matter of time for Alex," the Washington official continues. "He's dead now within the Democratic Party. But even if he changes over to the Republican Party, he's not going to go anywhere. What's he going to be, another Cuban Republican? He's just going to be one of many. As a Democrat he stood out. He has absolutely shot himself in the foot with this election. He's not going to be welcome any longer in the Democratic Party, and the Republican Party doesn't need him."

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