Insight magazine reports that Al Gore is contemplating running for president...as
the nominee of the Green Party.
"Sources close to Gore said Ralph Nader has sought to recruit the former vice
president," said Insight. "They said Gore has not rejected the offer and was
consulting with family and friends to determine the feasibility of such a
Mr. Gore currently vies with John Edwards for third in polls of the preferences of
Democratic voters, which is pretty good for someone who is not a declared candidate.
But Mr. Gore, says Insight, "is said to have concluded he stands no chance of
beating Hillary (Clinton) for the Democratic nomination. But sources close to Gore
said the former vice president believes that he could present himself as a genuine
liberal in any general election that would include Clinton."
Her recent purchase of the endorsement of former Iowa Gov. Tom Vilsack (he endorsed
Ms. Clinton after she agreed to pay his campaign debts) suggests that if this is Mr.
Gore's calculation, it's probably correct. The grotesquely front-loaded primary
schedule means the nominations in both parties will be decided by money and
influence with party insiders. The Clintons have plenty of both.
Insight magazine isn't the most reliable of sources, and I'm skeptical. The odds
against a minor party candidate being elected are astronomical. (The only one who
was competitive was Teddy Roosevelt in 1912, and he was a former president.)
For Mr. Gore to run as a Green, his animosity towards the Clintons would have to be
so great that he wouldn't care that his candidacy likely would lead to a Republican
victory. And Mr. Gore can't have that many warm, fuzzy feelings for Mr. Nader,
whose 97,000 votes in Florida in 2000 is what kept Mr. Gore from being elected
But there is little love lost between Mr. Gore and the Clintons, and if you're
living in a fantasy world (as Mr. Gore largely has been since his shattering
defeat), there are reasons to convince yourself you could win as a third party
candidate, or accomplish something important even if you didn't.
The first is that Teddy Roosevelt did pretty well. He finished second in both the
popular vote and the electoral college. If he runs, Mr. Gore would be the best
known minor party candidate since Mr. Roosevelt.
The second is that Ms. Clinton is a likely loser in the general election, whether
Mr. Gore runs or not. Nearly half those surveyed in a recent Rasmussen poll said
they'd definitely vote against Hillary, and she trails former New York Mayor Rudy
Giuliani, Sen. John McCain, and even actor Fred Thompson, an undeclared candidate,
in head to head matchups. The scrutiny a presidential campaign will bring to her
considerable baggage is unlikely to improve those numbers.
So if you have an ego as large as Mr. Gore's, it wouldn't be hard to convince
yourself that you are the liberals' best chance to win the White House in 2008.
The third is that Mr. Gore plainly is a believer in the gospel of Global Warming.
There is no more bully a pulpit from which to preach it than a presidential
campaign. If his environmental crusade is more important to him than his political
party (which is now largely in the hands of Clinton loyalists anyway), this would be
a good reason to run.
Another factor could be the noises that New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg and
Nebraska Sen. Chuck Hagel, both Republicans (nominally), have made about independent
candidacies. The 2008 election could be the most fragmented since the election of
1824, in which there were four major candidates, and the winner was chosen by the
House of Representatives.
Mr. Bloomberg is unlikely to run if the GOP nominates either Sen. McCain or Mr.
Giuliani, and Sen. Hagel's presidential prospects reside entirely within his own
imagination. But if the billionaire Mr. Bloomberg should team up with Mr. Gore,
there would be no shortage of funds for a Green crusade.
Insight magazine said Mr. Gore will "quietly test the waters" in a series of polls
over the next few months. But he has a lot of time.
By front loading their primaries, Democrats and Republicans have put their eventual
nominees at a potentially serious disadvantage. Both candidates likely will be
known by Feb. 5, when a de facto national primary will be held, and will be "old
news" by May.
Mr. Gore could wait until after Feb. 5 to see whether Americans are content with the
choices the Democrats and Republicans have given them, or would like another. And
if he were to announce his candidacy then, he would be all the buzz going into the
traditional campaign season.