By BETH FOUHY
The Associated Press
Friday, February 23, 2007; 6:29 PM
NEW YORK -- Forget about sharing the stage with fellow Democrats on cable TV. Al Gore goes prime time, red carpet Sunday night at the Academy Awards before tens of millions, reviving talk of a possible presidential run.
"An Inconvenient Truth," the documentary about the former vice president's crusade against global warming, is the odds-on favorite to win an Oscar. Gore plans to attend the ceremony as well as the glitzy before and after parties.
If the movie takes top honors, director Davis Guggenheim would accept the golden statuette and Gore would join him onstage. He doesn't plan an endless "thank you" speech, but the liberal-leaning Hollywood audience may have a different idea.
And all the buzz on the West Coast and in Washington on Friday was about another special Gore appearance during the ceremony.
An Oscar would be the latest accolade in a remarkable year for Gore, who became a best-selling author, announced plans for a seven-continent series of concerts to fight global warming and was nominated for a Nobel Peace Prize.
His narrow loss to Republican George W. Bush in the disputed 2000 presidential election is still a sore subject for many Democrats. An Oscar win is certain to spark new questions about Gore's political future.
He has said repeatedly he has no plans to join the field of presidential aspirants dominated by Sens. Hillary Rodham Clinton and Barack Obama. Yet, Gore's unwillingness to rule out a run completely has given some activists hope that he might change his mind.
A group of key supporters, led by his former policy adviser, Elaine Kamarck, even met in Boston earlier this month to mull a possible Gore candidacy.
"I think there are still an awful lot of Democrats who rightly believe Gore won in 2000," said Roger Salazar, a Democratic strategist and former Gore spokesman. "With this movie and the Oscar nomination, people are taking another look at him and feel more warmly about him than they have in some time."
Interviews with Democratic activists attending this week's presidential forum in Nevada produced some optimism and some reservations about another Gore candidacy.
Gary Poirier, a food service worker from Davis, Calif., said he thinks Gore should run. "Obama is new and interesting, but I haven't heard him address the issues. And Hillary Clinton is just a little too political," Poirier said.
But John Emerson, another activist and retired minister from Sparks, Nev., said he was quite satisfied with the current crop of 2008 contenders even though he described himself as a Gore fan.
It's quite unlike 1988, Emerson said, when many Democrats hoped then-New York Gov. Mario Cuomo would parachute into a field disparaged by some as "the seven dwarfs."
"We have a tremendously skilled group this time. No one sees any real weakness in the bunch," Emerson said.
Besides Clinton and Obama, the Democrats running are John Edwards, the 2004 vice presidential nominee; Sens. Chris Dodd of Connecticut and Joe Biden of Delaware; New Mexico Gov. Bill Richardson; Ohio Rep. Dennis Kucinich and former Alaska Sen. Mike Gravel.
Other activists expressed frustration with Gore's performance in the tense days following the 2000 election, when Florida's electoral votes _ and the presidency _ hung in the balance. At the time, many observers criticized Gore and his political team for not aggressively challenging the many court rulings that eventually cleared the way for a Bush victory.
"Gore outright won, and he was cheated. Yet he gave in so easily," said Joyce Yates of San Diego. "He should have fought a lot harder, especially for those of us who fought so hard for him."
Yates said Gore should have sought a rematch against Bush in 2004.
"It's too late now. People have lost faith in him," she said.
Friends say Gore has built a nice life out of the wreckage of 2000. He is worth millions, thanks to his membership on the Apple, Inc., board and a significant stock windfall from his advisory relationship with the Internet search giant Google. He also chairs a private investment company and Current.tv, a cable network aimed at young viewers.
He and his wife, Tipper, own several homes and travel extensively, much of it to raise awareness of global warming. Tickets to a Gore appearance in Toronto this week sold out within minutes, with some being scalped for as much as $500 apiece.
And a man once so fastidious about his appearance that he hired an image consultant is older and heavier, raising questions about whether he's fleet enough for another run.
Gerald McEntee, international president of the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees union, said Gore still had broad support in the labor movement. But he saw no evidence that Gore planned to join the race.
"I think he's a happy man," McEntee said.