MINNETONKA -- In many ways, the two politicians couldn't be more different.
Vice President Al Gore, Democratic Party stalwart, cautiously weighs each word before speaking. Jesse Ventura, the independent-minded governor of Minnesota and former professional wrestler, is known for blurting things out, like the time he said religion was ''a sham and a crutch for weak-minded people.''
Yet Gore's swing through the Minneapolis-St. Paul area this week showcased the rapport that has developed between the son of a senator and the son of a municipal worker, a relationship they both insist is more about friendship than political alliance.
On Wednesday night, the Gores accompanied the governor and his wife, Terry, to the Minnesota State Fairgrounds, where Ventura's 16-year-old daughter competed in a horse show. Later, the two men stayed up past midnight at the governor's mansion, talking about their families, military stints in Vietnam and Mad Dog, Ventura's most formidable wrestling opponent -- discussing just about everything, they said, but politics.
This was the third visit in the last few months between the two leaders, who heartily laugh and tease each other together in public.
Getting the backing of Ventura would help Gore shore up support among third party voters, as well as residents in this key Midwestern state. But both men brushed off questions about whether the popular governor would endorse Gore.
''I think the vice president looks at me more as a break, getting away from the rigors of the campaign trail,'' Ventura told NBC's ''Today'' show.
Ventura said he'd ''betray'' the third party movement if he endorsed Gore, but said he would be open to backing policy proposals.
Gore added, with a grin: ''I'm not working on his endorsement. I'm working on his vote.''
The two men first got to know each other during a breakfast meeting in March, when Gore campaigned in Minnesota during the Democratic primaries.
On Wednesday night, Gore and his wife, Tipper, joined the Venturas at the 46th annual Tanbark Cavalcade of Roses Horse Show, where Ventura's daughter, Jade, was competing on her horse.
The next day, both men visited Hopkins North Junior High School. Ventura watched as Gore promised to increase federal funding for special education from $720 million a year to $1.5 billion during his first year in office. The money would help states pay for classes and identify children with learning disabilities in kindergarten and first grade, as well as support teacher training, he said.
Gore said the federal government should live up to a pledge, made in 1975, to pay 40 percent of the costs states pay for special education. Currently, the government only pays up to 13 percent of those costs.
Ventura, whose daughter has a learning disability and attends special education classes, said he backed Gore's proposal ''100 percent.''
But it was evident that it's also a bit of a risk for Gore to pair up with the former Navy SEAL and Rolling Stones bodyguard, who refuses to toe party lines.
After Gore, in an interview, endorsed a hate crimes bill, Ventura said he disagreed that there should be heavier penalties for acts of prejudice. ''A crime is a crime,'' he said. ''I don't particularly care what someone's motive is.''
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