How's this for some political arithmetic: Take a shallower-than-usual Democratic bench for 2016, hypothetically devalue a leading candidate due to an e-mail scandal, then toss in a retro candidate who lost one of the most controversial elections in history and you have the darkest of dark horse possibilities: Al Gore for president.
The former vice president and 2000 Democratic presidential nominee is headed to Iowa in May for a climate change event, and these days, that's all it takes to fuel speculation that he may be considering another presidential run.
At least, according to Ezra Klein, formerly of The Washington Post and one of the founding editors of Vox.com who, over the weekend, made the case for Mr. Gore in 2016.
Democrats need a new cause, he said in an essay for Vox, and their next cause should be climate change.
"When it comes to climate change, there's no one in the Democratic Party – or any other political party – with Gore's combination of credibility and commitment," said Mr. Klein, earlier adding, "The most ambitious vision for the Democratic Party right now rests with a politician most have forgotten, and who no one is mentioning for 2016: Al Gore."
Dark-horse-underdog-left-field-stalking-horse-sleeper candidate, much? Sure. But given that he is an under-appreciated candidate no one is talking about, Gore deserves a second look.
So how likely is a Gore candidacy?
Let's consider his strengths:
• He speaks to the Democratic base: Since his historic 2000 loss, Gore, along with the Democratic Party, has skewed markedly more liberal, and has rebranded himself a progressive. "[T]he present incarnation of Al Gore would capture the liberal zeitgeist and speak to the Democratic soul far more so than he did in 2000," says Hot Air's Noah Rothman. "In fact, Gore would probably prove more appealing to the Democratic base than Hillary Clinton."
Certainly, a number of liberals who have grown disenchanted with President Obama may prove more excited by a progressive Gore than by a more centrist Clinton.
• Climate change is important issue to Democrats: Democratic voters consider climate change one of the most important issues facing the country today. And on climate change, Al Gore was ahead of the curve. According to a recent Pew Research Center report, a majority of Democrats now say "dealing with global warming" and "protecting the environment" should be a “top priority for the federal government.”
• Traditional strengths: Finally, when it comes to name recognition, party support, campaign organization, and fundraising potential, Gore is gold. In fact, one might argue he has won more elections and has more direct political experience than Hillary herself.
Of course, there are more than a few reasons Gore may not make for a sterling candidate in 2016.
For starters, politically speaking, he's rusty. The last time Gore ran for office was in 2000, when the Supreme Court ultimately called the historic election in George W. Bush's favor, so Gore has been out of politics for 15 years.
What's more, he's become known largely for his work on climate change, and, as Klein himself reminds us, single-issue candidacies rarely go far in American politics.
There's more: his controversial sale of Current TV to Qatar-based Al Jazeera, his divorce from wife Tipper, his finances (according to reports, he's richer than Mitt Romney), and that famously wooden personality.
And of course, Gore appears to be leading a happy, active, and wealthy life as a climate activist, one he shows not one iota of interest in giving up for the rigors of running for president.
So, why are folks speculating, and why might Gore run, even if he's unlikely to win the nomination?
Surprisingly, not all candidates run to win. Gore may run to bring renewed attention to climate change – and a presidential run would certainly raise more awareness than all of his books, movies, congressional testimonies, and concerts, combined. Even under that pretense, he would likely find a significant constituency ready to support him.
But at the very least, we suspect some in the Democratic Party secretly think, a Gore run might light a much-needed fire under Team Hillary's campaign.