Gore in 2008? Probably not

He hasn't ruled it out, but all signs say he won't join the race.

October 13, 2007|Michael Finnegan | Times Staff Writer

washington -- Al Gore's Nobel Peace Prize set the political world abuzz Friday with speculation that he might finally join the 2008 race for president.

All signs suggest otherwise.

The former vice president made no comment on whether the Nobel had sparked his interest anew in a campaign for the White House.

But Gore, 59, has laid no groundwork to build the vast organization needed to run for president. He has repeatedly said he has no plans to run for public office again. And longtime advisors say he should be taken at his word when he says he wants to stay focused on a crusade to persuade the world to take stronger steps against global warming.

"I really don't see him getting into the race," said Carter Eskew, a senior strategist to Gore's 2000 presidential campaign who now advises him on climate change and spent several hours with him in Palo Alto on Friday.

Some supporters, though, were undaunted, vowing to press ahead with efforts to draft Gore into the race for the Democratic nomination.

"I just pray that it works," said Douglas Kelley, a steering committee member of America for Gore, one of the groups urging him to run., another group, ran a full-page ad in the New York Times on Wednesday. It issued a statement Friday saying the Nobel Prize would "only add to the tremendous tidal wave of support for Al Gore and the growing demands that he become a candidate."

Polls paint a different picture. For months, Democratic-leaning voters have expressed satisfaction with the party's lineup of candidates.

"I don't know how much room he's got there," said Alan Abramowitz, a political science professor at Emory University. "It's not like Democrats are yearning for another candidate, or specifically for Al Gore, even though I'm sure most Democrats would have a positive view of Gore and what he's been doing."

As Gore has traveled the world calling for urgent action against global warming, he has refashioned his image. Long mocked by critics as wooden and overly calculating, he has gradually built his stature -- and improved his communication skills -- on the global stage.

"An Inconvenient Truth," the film on climate change featuring Gore, won this year's Academy Award for best documentary. He was a key organizer of Live Earth, a worldwide concert event that spotlighted global warming in July. His latest book, "The Assault on Reason," offered a scathing portrait of U.S. politics and media.

Gore's Nobel enhances the value of any endorsement he might offer in the battle for the Democratic presidential nomination. He has suggested that he will announce his choice before primary voting begins.

But when it comes to the possibility of his own candidacy, Gore faces an important consideration: Would a return to the grit of presidential politics undercut his power to influence world leaders, and public opinion, on climate change?

"I think he occupies a place right now that is very unique, and to some extent above the back-and-forth of politics," said Michael Feldman, a senior advisor to Gore during the vice presidential years who now advises him on climate change projects.

Gore's familiarity with the day-to-day grind of a presidential race is hard to match. He unsuccessfully sought his party's nomination in 1988, then was tabbed by Bill Clinton to be his running mate in 1992.

After the pair won reelection in 1996, Gore squared off as the Democratic nominee against Republican George W. Bush in the 2000 presidential election. Gore won the popular vote, but lost the presidency in the electoral college after the lengthy and hotly contested Florida recount -- which went all the way to the Supreme Court -- determined that Bush had won the state by fewer than 600 votes.

Were he to launch a presidential run now, Gore would start off with empty campaign coffers. The two leading Democratic contenders, Sens. Hillary Rodham Clinton of New York and Barack Obama of Illinois, have already raised about $80 million apiece.

Gore would also face the complex task of qualifying to get his name on the ballot in early-voting states. He would have minimal time to recruit a large national staff and craft strategy to outpace rivals who have spent months -- or years -- building their campaigns.

"Does he have the capacity to do that? I think he does, absolutely," said Tad Devine, a senior advisor in Gore's 2000 campaign. "And he has it in a way that nobody else does, period."

Gore, however, has expressed no interest -- even as he has refused to close the door.

"It's true that I haven't completely ruled it out," he told PBS television interviewer Charlie Rose in May. "I don't think that it's necessary to do that, but I don't expect to run."


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