It was a foregone conclusion that Barack Obama would receive an official blessing from Al Gore. The question was when and where.
The ringing endorsement Gore bestowed this week came later than might have been expected, but the real surprise was the setting: Detroit, the leading city in the one state where words from perhaps the world's best-known advocate for transforming oil-based economies might be greeted with chagrin.
True, Gore carried Michigan by about 5 percentage points in his 2000 presidential bid. But in that campaign he did not emphasize the environmental call to arms that has become his life's mission.
Though any analysis of Democratic maneuvering by President Bush's loyalist Karl Rove is suspect, he likely got it right in an interview on Fox News when he said, "If you're an autoworker or in the auto-parts business or somebody who feels strongly about the auto economy, you don't want to have Al Gore sort of rubbing your nose in it in your own hometown."
Rove mentioned alternate sites, and two made particular sense: Colorado or New Mexico, states expected to be battlegrounds in the general election and places where the environmental movement has wide support.
Similarly, of the possible venues for John McCain to announce his change in position on offshore oil drilling, was Houston the best choice?
McCain's proposal to end the long-standing federal moratorium on oil exploration in coastal waters -- a ban he has long backed -- may play out as a bold stroke that benefits from growing public anger over rising gasoline prices. And as the Houston Chronicle reported, McCain's audience "in the nation's energy capital gave him two standing ovations as he called for fewer federal regulations on oil exploration."
Still, the chosen Texas audience also made it that much easier for critics to argue that McCain's policies were more oriented toward big business than the average citizen.
Long-haul truckers or residents of exurbs in Ohio or Pennsylvania -- two key states in November -- might have been just as welcoming toward McCain's new policy.
Frederick writes for the political blog Top of the Ticket, at latimes.com/topoftheticket.