Nobel Prize energizes 'Gore for '08' movement

But former vice president shows no signs of running.

By , Staff writer of The Christian Science Monitor

The speculation is over: Al Gore has won the 2007 Nobel Peace Prize, along with the UN International Panel on Climate Change, for his work on global warming.

The news out of Oslo, announced Friday morning, caps a year of accolades for the former vice president. In March, he won an Academy Award for his documentary on climate change, "An Inconvenient Truth." In May, his latest book, "The Assault on Reason," debuted at No. 1 on The New York Times bestseller list. In September, his interactive cable network Current TV won an Emmy.

Now, the man who nearly won the presidency in 2000 faces another round of "Will Al run for president?" In anticipation of the Nobel Prize, the draft-Gore movement has been ramping up its efforts, including a full-page ad Wednesday in the New York Times calling on Mr. Gore to run.

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Fewer than three months before the Iowa caucuses, Gore could still jump in, given his fame, campaign experience, and fund-raising network, political analysts say. But he has all but ruled it out – leaving the tiniest crack open, perhaps only to give his message on the future of the planet an extra click of attention. Former Gore aides insist he has no plans to run, and sources close to Gore say they have seen no signs of serious thought in that direction.

So why is there still this yearning for another Gore candidacy? After all, Democrats tell pollsters they're happy with their slate of candidates – happier than the Republicans are with theirs. Yet Gore still gets about 10 percent or more of the Democratic primary vote in national polls.

"First, there's a lingering frustration from 2000 that gets heightened because of all the problems that have confronted the Bush administration," says John Geer, a political scientist at Vanderbilt University in Nashville. "Gore's been right about the big issues of the last 20 years. People can make fun of him, but when you look at all the problems facing the country, this is someone who has a pretty good track record."

Mr. Geer also cites concerns with the current Democratic frontrunner, Sen. Hillary Clinton of New York. She was an early supporter of the Iraq War who came to oppose it relatively recently, in contrast to Gore's early, vocal opposition. Senator Clinton's electability in the general election also represents an area of concern for some Democrats, because of her high negatives and polarizing quality.

For now, though, Gore is enjoying his latest moment of glory, and is pitching his message above politics.

"I am deeply honored to receive the Nobel Peace Prize," Gore wrote on his website Friday morning, also citing his co-winner, the UN climate-change panel. "We face a true planetary emergency," he continued. "The climate crisis is not a political issue, it is a moral and spiritual challenge to all of humanity."

The Nobel citation called Gore "probably the single individual who has done most to create greater worldwide understanding of the measures that need to be adopted."

Gore says he will donate his share of the $1.5 million prize to the Alliance for Climate Protection, a an advocacy group based in Palo Alto, Calif., that Gore chairs.

Meanwhile, the draft-Gore movement – a loose agglomeration of national and state groups, listed at http://www.americaforgore.org – has also seized the Nobel moment. Recently, in anticipation of Gore's winning the prize, Draftgore.com put out a call for funds to run the full-page "Open Letter to Al Gore" in the New York Times and raised the $65,000 needed in two weeks. Now that he has won, the group is running an online petition to gather signatures urging Gore to run.

"We now have over 173,000 signees, and they're just coming in lickety-split after the announcement," says Andrea Ronhovde, a Draftgore.com board member. "The money is coming in fast and furious, so I imagine there will be advertising campaigns of sorts."

Some state groups are now gathering signatures to get Gore on the ballot in time for the primaries. Gore himself has not been in touch with the groups, but as some supporters have noted, he has not told them to stop, either.

Ms. Ronhovde, a retired social worker who volunteered for Gore during the 2000 campaign and tried to get him to run again in 2004, says the continued appeal of a Gore presidency goes beyond what that would mean for advancing his global-warming agenda. "The Assault on Reason," she says, shows that he's thinking big about the future of the United States and the world. The book lays out not just a blistering indictment of the Bush administration but also a critique of America's entire political system, including blame for the media and its obsession with trivia.

Perhaps the only way for Gore to shut down the draft effort once and for all is to make an endorsement in the presidential race. He recently told the Harvard-focused magazine 02138 that he would endorse one of the Democrats. But more recently he told CNN that he was not sure.

Political analysts would be surprised if he were to endorse Clinton, given the tensions during their time together in her husband's administration. An endorsement of her top rival, Sen. Barack Obama of Illinois, or any other Democrat, would make for a big headline but probably would not have a huge impact on the race. Four years ago, Gore's endorsement of Howard Dean was seen as a negative for the former Vermont governor.

Some analysts say endorsements don't mean a lot in the presidential sphere. "They can give a candidate a base level of credibility, but Barack Obama and John Edwards don't need credibility from Al Gore," says Democratic pollster Mark Mellman, who is not affiliated with a presidential candidate.

Another possibility for Gore would be to run for president in 2012. After all, the Democrats don't have a lock on retaking the White House in 2008, and Gore is still a relatively young man.

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