By William Rabbe and Sarah Scully
[Photo: Al Gore on the 2006 Sundance red carpet for “An Inconvenient Truth”]
On Friday, former Vice President Al Gore was bestowed with his most prestigious award yet The Nobel Peace Prize. Rumors of a potential White House bid swirled as murmurs from the Draft Gore movement grew to full roars. Will Gore run?
To get to the bottom of it all, IFC decided to speak to a cross section of likely voters to see what they think. We’ve commissioned
our first poll ever (!), the results of which can be seen here at IFC.com.
Is the award the ultimate qualification for the presidency? Our polls
indicate that Republicans largely do not think so, but, in contrast, a
majority of Independents and most Democrats view winning the Peace
Prize as more meaningful than winning the US presidency. Yet there
doesn’t appear to be a significant impact on polls. Perhaps this is
because most of those polled have neither read nor watched “An
Inconvenient Truth,” despite claiming to know why he won and holding
the prize in high esteem. 56% of all likely voters do not believe
that he is a stronger candidate than he was in 2000. Our poll shows
Gore consistently trailing Hillary Clinton when matched against potential Republican nominees Romney and Giuliani.
Many Gore supporters looked at last Friday as a flashpoint for their
draft to finally catch fire and they, along with media and other
candidates waited on pins and needles for Gore to announce his
candidacy at his scheduled press conference. Instead, he made a brief
statement of thanks and pledged to continue his work on behalf of the
environment. He has to date refused to definitively state his
intentions, leaving the door open – or at least slightly ajar.
Certainly the award is a great accomplishment to add to an already
impressive resume. It is undeniable that Al Gore is an extremely
popular public figure… but not necessarily as a presidential
candidate. National polls within the Democratic Party show
non-candidate Gore trailing Clinton and Barack Obama, though an
official Gore entry could prompt Obama and Edwards to drop out,
thereby leaving a large section of anti-Hillary supporters up for
To sum up, we can’t possibly know what Gore is thinking, but we can
take a look at all of the factors that would compel him to jump into
the race or explain why he would not.
WHY HE WOULD RUN
Gore has never been more popular. Devoting his post-political life to environmental causes has won over an entirely new fan base and he has effectively shaken off the derogatory label “Washington Insider.” He has the anti-war stance of Obama with experience that trumps Clinton.
If he did choose to run, he would already have a solid grassroots base
in the Draft Gore movement from which to organize and fundraise. The
Oscar winner’s Hollywood connections could prove very helpful in
financing as well.
On paper, Gore resembles our past US presidents more than any other
candidate, with a family history in politics, Harvard degree, honorable war service and the title of vice president. He is also from the South- a point, which superficially or not, is worth examining, as the only Democrats to win the White House since Kennedy have been Southerners.
While Hillary’s popularity has grown, many party loyalists still see her as polarizing- unable to overcome high disapproval ratings and association with the scandals of her husband’s administration.
Perhaps one of the biggest reasons why people want Gore to run is to
reclaim an office than they feel he rightfully won back in 2000. A
Gore victory in 2008 would stitch that wound.
WHY HE WOULD NOT RUN
There are practical matters that Mr. Gore would need to consider before announcing, chiefly bad timing and inflated expectations. All of the current candidates have been knocking on doors, shucking corn and taking checks for the better part of a year. Even if Gore could
manage to collect as many $2,000 checks as Clinton and Obama, would he
have time to use the money effectively? The Draft Gore organization is a start, but he would still need a substantial amount of time to create active campaign offices and schedule events.
Gore adherents may see him as the charismatic white knight of 2008 much like another candidate who successfully entered late in the 1968 election: Robert Kennedy. Yet, an indecisive Kennedy joined only after the other Democratic candidates had shown significant weaknesses, thus assuring Kennedy’s success. The Democratic field of 2008 is already
saturated with qualified candidates. While others might see him as
able to “transcend politics,” it is doubtful that Gore’s own outlook
on the field resembles that of RFK’s in 1968 he simply could not
waltz to victory.
Lastly, of course, Gore must decide whether he wants to be president.
If the answer is yes, then he must then decide whether it is worth
putting himself and his family through the scrutiny of yet another
campaign. Without overwhelming support, he risks being a two-time
loser of the presidency an experience that must have been
excruciating the first time. Gore has repeatedly stated his devotion
to his current role as global environmental activist. While one could
argue that he could accomplish even more as a president, the fact is
the next president will have their plate full with Iraq and the
There is rationale behind either prediction but for now, all we do know is that he is not not running. Some pundits have speculated that he will endorse Hillary (despite their rocky past) in exchange for a specially created environmental position in her cabinet. Politically, Gore has more in common with the other candidates so it is possible he could endorse Obama or Edwards, giving them a helpful boost in the primaries. He could stage a last minute challenge, surprising some and thrilling others. It is also possible that he could stay out of politics entirely, endorsing no one and continuing on with his mission.