Friday, January 26, 2007

Is Al Gore Running

Rolling Stone suggests that some people who know Al Gore are certain that he'll be running for President in 2008, and think he'd be the favorite for the Democratic nomination:

Indeed, Gore is unique among the increasingly crowded field of Democratic contenders. He has the buzz to beat Obama, the substance to supplant Hillary, and enough stature to enter the race late in the game and still raise the millions needed to mount a successful campaign. "Very few people who run for president can just step in when they want, with a superstar, titanic presence," says James Carville, the dean of Democratic strategists. "But Gore clearly is one of those. He's going to run, and he's going to be formidable. If he didn't run, I'd be shocked."

Look at what Gore has been up to lately, and it's hard to escape the impression that, on some level, he is already running for president. Over the past few months he has made high-profile appearances on the Today show, the Tonight Show and Oprah, and he displayed his trademark deadpan humor in a stint on Saturday Night Live. "He's keeping himself viable by keeping himself in the public eye," says Donna Brazile, who served as Gore's campaign manager in 2000...

But the nation's most experienced political strategists agree that Gore is carefully laying the groundwork for a possible run. "He's running in a nontraditional way, which has been powerful," says Bill Carrick, a veteran Democratic consultant. "It has made him look much more interesting than if he had just been the former vice president sitting out there and thinking about a run."

Gore has carved out a public role for himself that's usually reserved for rock stars and Tour de France winners. What Bono is to Third World debt and Lance Armstrong is to cancer, Gore is to global warming. "He's the indispensable character in the drama of the climate crisis," says Carl Pope, executive director of the Sierra Club. "If it has a happy ending, he'll be the hero. If it has a tragic ending, he'll be the tragic hero." And like Bono, Gore can pack a house, even in red-state America: In January, tickets for a Gore speech at a 10,000-seat stadium in Boise, Idaho, sold out in less than twenty-four hours...

Gore's biggest opponent for the nomination would likely be Hillary Clinton -- and no one in the current field of Democrats is better situated to capitalize on her weaknesses than Gore. In September 2002, just before Clinton and every other Democrat who hoped to run for president voted to authorize the war in Iraq, Gore gave a no-holds-barred speech inveighing against the invasion. "The chaos in the aftermath of a military victory in Iraq," he warned, "could easily pose a far greater danger to the United States than we presently face from Saddam."

At the time, recalls Carrick, Washington insiders dismissed the speech as sour grapes. "The Democratic establishment all said, 'Oh, Al's just out there doing this because he's bitter. This just proves he's never going to run again.' But they all proved to be wrong and he was exactly right. There's nothing more powerful than that."

Thanks to his vocal opposition to the war -- and his decision to back Howard Dean's anti-war candidacy in 2003 -- Gore has all but sewn up the backing of the party's "Netroots" activists. Eli Pariser calls Gore "a close friend of MoveOn," and Markos Moulitsas, the founder of DailyKos, is equally unabashed in his support. "More than any other Democrat over the last four years, Gore has actually delivered," says Moulitsas, one of the Internet's most influential organizers. "If Gore enters the race, it's his nomination for the taking." In an online poll of 14,000 activists held in December by DailyKos, sixty percent voted for Gore. By comparison, Clinton received just 292 votes...

Most of gore's closest associates believe that he is unlikely to run. "He's hanging out with interesting people, he's making money, but he's still having a serious impact on the political discourse," says Simon Rosenberg, president of the New Democratic Network. "You could look at all that and say, 'My God, he'll never run for president.'"

But others who have worked with Gore insist that he is simply biding his time. "Gore seems committed to being a late candidate," says Dick Morris, the strategist who masterminded Bill Clinton's '96 campaign. "He's not going to be out front as a playmaker. He's going to wait and see if there's room for him..."

Letting others battle-test Hillary's viability as a front-runner has an added benefit for Gore: It allows him to put off a bruising political confrontation with Bill Clinton. Some insiders suggest that a reticence to take on his generation's most brilliant political mind -- and someone renowned as a take-no-prisoners campaigner -- is the primary factor keeping Gore off the roster. "It's one thing to distance yourself from Bill Clinton, as Gore did in 2000," says a Democratic strategist who has advised both men. "It's another to run against Bill Clinton when the former first lady is heading the field."

If Gore does decide to run, there is no question that his entry into the race would instantly reshuffle the deck. "He would dislodge a whole lot of Hillary support," says Luntz, "opening up this race so that anyone would have a shot." He would also have history on his side: Andrew Jackson and Grover Cleveland, both of whom won the popular vote but lost the presidency, reached the White House on their next tries...

But Gore's greatest appeal may come, ultimately, from what he represents to voters fed up with two terms of the Bush administration. "He'll be able to make the case that he should have been president already," says Carrick. "And that had he been president, things would have been a lot different, with the Iraq war being Exhibit A."

This, agrees Luntz, is Gore's greatest draw. "Democratic voters in 2008 are not only looking to turn back the last eight years, but to erase the last eight years," he says. "If I were working for Gore, I'd message around a single word: Imagine. 'Imagine if I'd been president instead of George W. Bush. Imagine where we'd be today.' "

It certainly seems that Al Gore is more popular today than he was 8 years ago, and you have to think that if he runs in 2008, there will be lots of people who'll wish that he had been President instead of Bush. But there's a big difference between that and voting for him in 2008.

Democratic primary voters will remember that Gore in 2000 ran in a time of peace and with the benefit of the 'great Clinton economy.' Looking back, 2000 looks like a new 'era of good feelings,' with the public blissfully unaware of the terrorist threat that was about to become front page news. And Gore ran a bad campaign and managed to lose. He was stiff and programmed, and managed to make a range of bad mistakes. From 'the kiss,' to his bizarre debate performances ('cluck-clucking,' and heading over to Bush's podium), to his managing to lose his home state, there are plenty of missteps for his rivals to point out. Reminded of them, will primary voters back Gore again?

His entry into the race would have an interesting effect on the Democratic side. There are recent polls that show him in third, behind Clinton and Gore - roughly on par with Edwards. I'm not sure how much you can tell from those polls though, since respondents may have already decided that he's not a candidate.

If Gore were to run, I would have to think his support would draw significantly from both Clinton and Obama. Some of Hillary's support probably comes from folks who are looking for a continuation of Bill Clinton's policies; they might see Gore as a better vehicle. Others who back Hillary because they see her as more electable than a neophyte like Obama, might also switch to Gore. From Obama, he would likely peel off some of the hard left, anti-Hillary crowd.

As the race develops though, I think Obama might benefit the most. If Gore joins Hillary and Obama in the 'Top 3,' then I think it helps Obama make the case for somebody new. Competing against Hillary and Gore, Obama can ask voters whether they really want to back in time 8 years - to the team that lost in 2000 - or whether they want to try something new. I suspect that could be a strong appeal.

And if Gore were to get the nomination, it's unclear to me he would be a favorite in the general election. First off, the folks who stand on street corners yelling 'repent! the end is near' rarely win popularity contests. Gore's remedies for global warming are costly and extreme (just one example here), and some of the bloom will be off the rose once people re-examine his policy proposals. Further, one way or another, Iraq is not likely to be a deciding issue in 2008. President Bush will either have set a course for a withdrawal or draw-down (which I consider likely) or the Republican nominee will. So outside the Democratic primaries, I don't think opposition to the war will be a big issue.

Expect this issue to get a lot of attention, since the campaign has started so incredibly early. The media will be beating the bushes looking for some new angle, and a potential Gore entry might sell some papers. Nothing else is.

Hat Tip: Taegan Goddard

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Al Gore, cannot run for president. Although he has pretentions, He could not afford the muckraking that goes with a campaign.

If Al Gore ran, it might be noticed that he is the most likely choice as the Anthrax mailer. He was at the top of the chain of information, for Hatrick, He was in the area the letters were mailed from. He had the Motive, resources and opportunity to do the deed. After losing the Election, He had even assumed a caricature appearance, similar to hatric, and the Unabomber.