In recent weeks, talk of the potential emergence of former Vice President Al Gore as a consensus candidate for the Democratic Party nomination for President has increased in volume.
Newsweek columnist Eleanor Clift and Time columnist Joe Klein have both noted that Gore could provide the Democrats a winning exit strategy from the protracted Obama-Clinton primary battle, a fight that promises to get bloodier in the weeks ahead. One Democrat Congressman and Superdelegate, Tim Mahoney of Florida, has openly spoke of Gore as a potential compromise candidate if Obama and Clinton remain deadlocked when the Democrats convene for their convention in Denver in late August.
So what does Gore say about this speculation?
Nothing, other than that he thinks the nomination may “resolve itself” prior to the convention. It would be very easy for him to put the “Al Gore scenario” to rest by simply making it clear he has absolutely no interest in the Presidency in 2008. He could end all the discussion and conjecture if he would simply endorse either Hillary or Barack.
Instead, for now, Al is simply sitting back and waiting to see if the situation really does “resolve itself” – or not.
Or is he just “sitting back”? In subtle ways he seems to be increasing his visibility, perhaps suggesting that he is not just an innocent bystander in the political drama that continues to unfold.
Sunday night he made a high profile appearance on 60 Minutes to talk about his pet issue: the crisis of “global warming” and his roll-out of a major ad campaign to promote the cause. Sunday also saw London’s Sunday Telegraph, publish a story claiming that former Gore campaign operatives have confirmed that his inner circle actually mapped out a plan for a Gore campaign last May, a strategy that now has a “sporting chance of coming true.”
But for the potential Gore scenario to snowball into reality several things probably have to happen. First, Gore needs to step up his public appearances on issues that seem unrelated to a bid for the Presidency.
Speaking out on “global warming” on TV certainly fits the bill. Weighing in on the need for Democrats to find a way to let the voters in Michigan and Florida have their “votes count” might be another.
He doesn’t need to engage in a full-fledged public relations blitz, he merely needs to step it up a notch with a few carefully planned appearances on the major Sunday morning talk shows in the weeks ahead.
Second, he needs some leading Democrats — who have no direct or even apparent connection to him — to increase the drumbeat of speculation about Gore being a compromise candidate for the Democrats. They must be careful, however, as premature talk of a Gore-Obama ticket might antagonize some of Obama’s supporters.
Concern over slighting Hillary is not as important, since many of her delegates lack deep devotion to her and many likely signed on because she appeared certain to win the nomination. Gore’s advocates also need to downplay the need for a quick resolution of the impasse between Clinton and Obama.
The longer this plays out, the better things look for Gore.
Finally, Gore needs one or two national polls to include him in the mix as a potential rival to John McCain. Several national polls have recently shown McCain beating either Clinton or Obama in November, which has caused Democrats to worry about not only their chances of taking the White House but whether or not they might lose their momentum in retaining or expanding their majorities in the U.S. House and Senate.
A national poll, or two, showing Gore faring well or even beating McCain in a head-to-head match-up would be just the prescription for a Gore campaign to start snowballing — unless “global warming” causes it to melt prematurely.
Steve Gill is a statewide Tennessee radio talk host and political analyst. His website is www.gillreport.com