“Al Gore Might Yet Join 2008 Contenders,” a Wall Street Journal headline declared earlier this week.
“For former Vice President Al Gore, a rash of favorable publicity surrounding this month’s opening of his movie An Inconvenient Truth, and the growing political resonance of its subject — global warming — are stoking the most serious speculation about a Gore political comeback since his loss in the 2000 U.S. presidential election,” the Journal’s Jackie Calmes reported.
The Journal piece both succinctly summarized and furthered the recent growing popularity of Gore in political (and political press) circles. While the former vice president has said repeatedly that he will not run for the Oval Office in 2008, the Journal found one former adviser not so convinced. “I do know that he’s thinking about it. I know for a fact,” the adviser said, adding that Gore has “talked to people about the pros and cons.”
The Journal reported that “Gore has begun assembling a Nashville, Tenn.-based operation to help with the demands on his time” from his work on global warming, and noted that Gore has recently been featured on the covers of Vanity Fair, Wired and The American Prospect, while making Time’s list of the world’s 100 most influential people. Said Karen Skelton, Gore’s former political director: “His star will never be higher than it is right now with his movie coming out.”
Implicitly, the article said something else: If the Journal was weighing in, then the talk about Gore and’08 had reached a new level.
Gore’s profile has been building steadily in recent months — first through several withering, attention-grabbing attacks on Bush administration policies, and now with the buzz surrounding An Inconvenient Truth, which will debut, along with a book of the same title, later this month.
In phase one of the buildup, journalists reported on the latest news Gore had made, then considered — based on the tiny bit of wiggle room Gore has left regarding his political future — the distant possibility of Gore making one last run for the presidency in 2008.
After he delivered a January speech blasting Bush’s domestic spying program, UPI reported that “Gore looks to be repositioning himself as a potential presidential candidate.” In a story March 21, Atlanta Journal-Constitution reporter Scott Shepard weighed the possibilities, asking, “Is history calling Al Gore back into the political fray?”
The day before, Gore had told an audience at Middle Tennessee State University, while delivering one of his global warming lectures, “I’m not planning to be a candidate again.” But that statement came with a qualifier: “I haven’t reached a stage in my life where I’m willing to say I will never consider something like this.”
That was enough for CNN’s Bill Schneider to enthusiastically push forward the idea of a new Gore candidacy on The Situation Room. “Not planning? That’s not definitive,” Schneider said. “If there’s a groundswell for Gore, he might reconsider.”
Now, in the past few weeks, phase two has arrived — and Gore’s potential comeback, at least in the media, is moving from remote possibility to probability.
In an online column posted April 28, Newsweek’s Eleanor Clift cranked the speculation up a notch, writing, “Getting the country to face up to global warming is his life’s mission, and it could be his ticket to the presidency.” While Gore told her in an interview that he is not running for office — “I’ve been there and done that” — Clift had this to say:
Nobody believes him. By not playing the overt political game, Gore may be putting in place the first issue-driven campaign of the 21st century, one that is premised on a big moral challenge that is becoming more real with soaring gas prices and uncertain oil supplies. A senior Democrat who once ran for the White House himself but harbors no illusions the party will turn to him in 2008 looks at Gore and marvels, “This guy is running the best campaign I’ve seen for president.”