07 February 2008

Gore's secret strategy

For all the photo ops and press avails held by the various presidential candidates heralding endorsements by elected officials, celebrities and other dignitaries, former Vice President Al Gore has arguably attracted more attention for his reluctance -- so far -- to throw his muscle and prestige behind a Democratic contender.

Gore cast his ballot here in Tennessee on Tuesday, and there was some buzz in the days leading up to the "national primary" that he would endorse Senator Barack Obama. That never materialized, but two short days later Internet politicos are once again circulating rumors that an announcement of support by the ex-Veep was imminent.

It is no secret that Gore, winner of the popular vote in the 2000 presidential race, feels he was swindled out of the presidency by a party-line vote of the Supreme Court. Up until votes started being cast and counted this primary season, the recent Oscar and Nobel Prize recipient was rumored as a candidate.

Given the open antipathy that has existed between Gore and both Clintons since the end of the previous administration, and the consensus between Gore and Obama on the big issues, the lack of an endorsement, as we find ourselves in a deadlocked delegate battle, is a puzzle.

Let there be no doubt that Gore knows his own strength, and feels it, and is well aware of his status as the most popular and respected figure in the Democratic Party. He knows, also, that the sentimental longing for a Gore administration that might have been is far stronger than nostalgia for the Clinton years, within the party and the country generally.

In a campaign of back-and-forth brawls between the amorphous ideals of "Change" and "Experience," Al Gore -- Congressman, Senator, Vice President (and, to some, duly-elected President) who also made America safe for environmentalism -- is the one person with the credentials to trump both current front-runners on both counts.

If either Senator Obama or Clinton establishes a convincing lead in delegates in the coming months, Gore will back the victor in order to secure the superdelegates for the popular choice. But if the Democratic race remains deadlocked and the party heads to Denver in August without a clear nominee, expect Gore to emerge as the compromise candidate for president, and to name Obama as his running mate.

It is in the Democrats' interest, as DNC Chairman Howard Dean stated Wednesday, to avoid a brokered convention, which would alienate the half of the party whose preferred candidate is left off the ticket. Who better to unite the party, following what figures to be a bruising and bitter nominating contest, than the man uncynically referred to by legions of adorers as "The Goracle"?

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