Gore Endorsement -- Potent but Not Foolproof

By Chris Cillizza And Shailagh Murray
Sunday, September 9, 2007

Former vice president Al Gore's pronouncement that he is likely to endorse one of the Democratic candidates for president before the primary season is over has set off a slew of speculation about who his choice might be.

Truth is, the courting of the "Goreacle" began many months ago. Sen. Barack Obama (Ill.) and Gore huddled in Nashville in December, and Gore has also met with former senator John Edwards (N.C.). Gore and Sen. Christopher J. Dodd (Conn.) conferred as recently as last week.

Not surprisingly, Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton (N.Y.) has not met with Gore. Neither has Sen. Joseph R. Biden Jr. (Del.) nor New Mexico Gov. Bill Richardson.

The falling out between Gore and the Clintons has become the stuff of political legend. Then-Vice President Gore's decision to distance himself from Bill Clinton in the 2000 presidential campaign did not sit well with the Clintons, who resented that Gore was willing to accept credit for the administration's achievements while at the same time criticizing the president's personal conduct.

It seems safe to predict that Gore will not be endorsing the bid of the senator from New York. A more open question might be whether he would throw his support to Obama -- the only candidate in the top-tier who, like Gore, opposed the war in Iraq from the start -- or another surging contender at a critical moment to try to derail Hillary Clinton's quest for the nomination.

The other candidates would do almost anything for Gore's support. Dodd's campaign was quick to note that Gore likes Dodd's proposal for a corporate carbon tax and that the senator called the former veep last week to thank him for supporting the idea. Asked about Gore, Edwards spokesman Eric Schultz gushed: "Senator Edwards has the deepest respect and admiration for Vice President Gore. He is a true leader whose prescient work in raising the issue of global warming has literally mobilized millions of Americans and the world to act."

Gore is, without question, the biggest "get" when it comes to the fight for endorsements on the Democratic side. Since his loss to George W. Bush, Gore has been transformed from a has-been politician to a happening global messenger on the dangers of climate change.

So popular has Gore grown that many within the grass roots of the party have urged him to make another bid for the White House, a prospect for which he continues to express little interest.

And why would he run again? In addition to having an elevated status on the world stage, Gore has done extremely well for himself in the private sector (he sits on the board of Apple and is an adviser to Google) and now has a chance to play kingmaker in the 2008 presidential sweepstakes.

Though Gore's endorsement would be powerful, it wouldn't be foolproof. In 2004, he threw in his lot with former Vermont governor Howard Dean about a month before Dean crashed and burned in Iowa.

Martin Frost is getting the band back together.

The former congressman, a Texas Democrat, has recruited Greg Speed, a longtime aide, to help run America Votes, for which Speed will be executive director. The group, the only remnant of the Democrats' 2004 soft-money shadow operation, will serve as the central coordination vehicle for a huge voter turnout operation directed at the 2008 presidential race.

Frost agreed to head the group in June and has steadily surrounded himself with former advisers, including Speed and former congressional chief of staff Matt Angle. Speed has worked on and off for Frost for much of the past decade -- beginning with a stint at the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee in 1998. Speed went on to join Frost at IMPAC 2000, an organization devoted to overseeing redistricting plans.

"It's an honor to join America Votes as the coalition continues its vital work building the progressive movement nationally and in key states," Speed said. Of Speed, Frost said: "I am very pleased Greg will be joining us as America Votes plans unprecedented efforts to mobilize and educate voters and coordinate progressive political activity next year."

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