By STEVEN THOMMA
July 05, 2006
Inside the cover she wrote, "Plan to run for president in 2008?," with boxes marked "yes" or "no." Gore paused, then scribbled one word - "plans"- next to the "no" box and checked it. No plans, but not a firm "no."
His artfully qualified answer underscored the fact that, despite his protests, Gore refuses to rule out another run for president. He's keeping his options open.
"If he is running, he's doing all the right things," said Brian Melendez, chair of Minnesota's Democratic Party. "He tried it the traditional way the last time and look what it got him. This time, he's a passionate man indulging his passion. If it happens to take off for him in the next year, he would be very well-positioned."
His crusade to curb global warming by staging an award-winning movie and writing a best-selling book is pushing him back into the spotlight - and into the hearts of rank-and-file Democrats in ways that more conventional politicians can only envy. In the process, he's invented a deceptively clever path back into presidential politics, should he decide to take it.
While it's not a traditional campaign, "it's the most brilliant campaign anyone is running right now," said Martin Peretz, a longtime Gore friend and editor in chief of the New Republic magazine. "It may be the most brilliant campaign launch in our time."
At a recent book signing in Beverly Hills, hundreds of people waited for as long as four hours to see Gore in a line that stretched more than a block. When he first walked in, tieless and clad entirely in black like some latter-day Johnny Cash, he was greeted by chants urging him to run.
"You're president in our hearts," said Julia Winbrandt, an administrative assistant from Los Angeles.
To those urging him to run, the former vice president repeated again and again that he had no plans to run. But he never ruled it out.
"He says he has no plans. But plans change," said Angela Cortez of West Hollywood, a sales director of a matchmaking service.
Indeed, the man who won the popular vote in 2000 but lost the presidency to George W. Bush has endeared himself anew to many Democrats. Some still think he was unfairly denied victory in 2000; others think he's the party's best hope for winning in 2008, especially those who are convinced that Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton, D-N.Y., the presumed front-runner, can't win a general election.
Gore already had delighted liberals with his early, full-throated opposition to the Iraq war. Now he's developing new ways to reach them through Moveon.org, the Internet-based political-organizing group, bypassing the traditional news media that filtered his message and often ridiculed him in 2000.
The one-two punch of his movie and book about global warming, "An Inconvenient Truth," presents him as devoted to a cause bigger than himself and thus less narrowly partisan than other potential 2008 candidates.
To be sure, the movie/book campaign reflects Gore's longtime interest in global warming. But tellingly, it's also about Al Gore.
Both the film and the book include numerous infomercials about Gore himself - about how his son's auto accident gave him perspective on life, about how a beloved sister died of cancer, about his love of nature and his down-home roots on a farm in Tennessee.
By crusading against global warming as a moral imperative, Gore appears to be renouncing political self-interest, which gives greater credibility to his cause while also potentially making himself all the more beguiling.
"He's got the best of both worlds," said Terry Lierman, the state Democratic Party chairman in Maryland. "He's not chasing it, and he's being pursued."
One reason that Gore is shunning the traditional approach to running for president, of course, could be that he really doesn't want to run.
But if that's true, he could flatly rule it out.
Another possible motive is that his hint of possibly running makes the media more interested in him, creating more buzz and interest in his cause.
Yet another is that his non-campaign campaign is putting him in a better position to run later and delay having to make all the grueling fund-raising calls and chicken-dinner speeches that other candidates will have to start soon. This strategy would allow Gore to enter the race late, declaring that he hears the demand for a draft. But it also would leave him the option of declining to run, if by, say, late 2007, he doubted that he could win his party's nomination.
"My guess is that he doesn't want to run and lose the nomination," Peretz said. "He wouldn't be as edgy about losing to a Republican."
He is available at sthomma(at)mcclatchydc.com
Distributed to subscribers for publication by Scripps Howard News Service.
Publish A Letter on SitNews Read Letters/Opinions