3/10/2008

Why Not Gore-Obama?

As Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton continue to fight for every delegate, both pledged and super, in their quest for the nomination, the fight over endorsements has largely died down. At this stage of the game, most major political figures have already publicly thrown their support behind one of these two candidates or have decided to remain neutral. Among those who have yet to endorse a candidate are former presidential candidates Bill Richardson and John Edwards.

However, one political figure looms far larger than any other. That candidate is Al Gore. Even though his endorsement of Howard Dean in 2004 did not amount to much as far as Dean's candidacy was concerned, 2008 is a different story. Obama and Clinton are deeply divided, and there's the possibility that this situation will become even more convoluted should the delegates from Florida and Michigan not be seated at the convention and a fight erupts on the convention floor.

Gore knows the Clintons well and has become an elder statesman in the Democratic Party. He's been in the news mostly because of the attention surrounding a possible Gore endorsement. However, the more Obama and Clinton tear each other apart and render themselves unelectable in the general election, the greater the possibility that Gore could make news in an entirely different way: by being the alternative to both candidates.

Al Gore is unique in that he could very well be the single candidate who can bridge the divide between the Democrats' two squabbling presidential aspirants. He is well respected by most in the party and is arguably a more formidable candidate than either Clinton or Obama. Gore has repeatedly denied that he wants to run for president again. However, the door has been left ever so slightly ajar. It seems that Gore would very much like to be president even though he most definitely does not like campaigning. But if the pledged and superdelegates throw their support behind him, how could he refuse?

Gore is essentially a hybrid of Clinton and Obama. He is sufficiently liberal to the Democratic base and has tapped into the youth vote and the grassroots that have powered Barack Obama's candidacy. He also can't be branded as inexperienced and is not nearly as polarizing as Hillary Clinton. Gore provides a link to the establishment that the Clintons brought to prominence and an open door to the new Democratic Party that Obama purports to represent.

In addition to being a statesman who got Iraq right from the very beginning, Gore has the experience of mounting a national campaign. Having learned from his previous campaign mistakes, Gore would likely not wither under the pressure of a rigorous no-holds-barred general election campaign the way many Obama supporters quietly fear. His path to the White House would entail cobbling together victories in all the states he won in 2000 and winning his home state of Tennessee this time around. He would also be more competitive in purple states that Clinton might not be able to deliver, such as Virginia, Ohio, and Missouri. His environmental positions may also allow him to play in Western states like Colorado, New Mexico, and Nevada.

By adding Obama to the bottom half of the ticket, it would allay the fears of many Democrats that Obama is not quite yet ready for the top job just yet. So while he's vice president, he could serve as a goodwill ambassador to the rest of the world while being groomed for the presidency in 2012 or 2016. Voters who haven't bought into the Obama hype or don't trust him with the reins of the presidency just yet would have a chance to ascertain just how effective and politically competent he is without the consequences of any missteps being so severe because wouldn't be in the top slot.

Hillary Clinton has become the respository for the Bill Richardson-Chris Dodd-Joe Biden wing of the party. Since those experienced candidates did not survive Iowa and New Hampshire, their supporters grudgingly threw their support behind Clinton, even though she is not particularly "experienced" herself. A Gore candidacy would prompt these soft Clinton supporters to defect to him en masse.

The personally wealthy Gore would also be able to pour a lot of his own money into the campaign, thus minimizing the importance of fundraising. And Gore's wealth, combined with Obama's stellar fundraising ability, would be very difficult for the GOP to overcome. Republicans could not criticize Gore and Obama for their available cash without invoking class warfare, something they commonly rail against. This cash advantage would allow the Democrats to spend more time on offense against a beleaguered Republican Party.

Also, John McCain is not particularly well known for his charisma and his ability to connect with voters. Knowing this, Al Gore should not be at a disadvantage regarding perceptions of him as stiff. And for voters who fault Obama for being light on specifics, Gore's trademark wonkiness should be seen as a virtue rather than a demerit as in 2000.

Given how deeply divided Democrats are between Obama and Clinton and the risk their battle poses to the Democratic Party in general, giving the nomination to a respected party elder like Al Gore could forge a reasonable compromise. Obviously, should Barack Obama win more states, more pledged delegates, and more of the popular vote, he would have a stronger case to run at the top of the ticket (and not Gore or anyone else), but Clinton is showing no signs of bowing out without a fight. And depending on what happens with Florida and Michigan, it is entirely possible that Clinton can emerge with more popular votes even though Obama has more states and more delegates. This kind of split decision would spark an intense fight among the two candidates and Democrats in general. However, a Gore nomination would end such a fight decisively, and that is what makes him worth considering.

14 comment(s):

Anonymous said...

*Why on earth would Barack Obama step aside for Al Gore when he's leading in the fight for the Democratic nomination in every conceivable candidate? Not that it's over, but the math is certainly in his favor.
*Why would Al Gore slap the Clinton's in the face? Although she's behind at the moment, she could, conceivably come back to win. This bit of treachery by Gore would certainly hamstring her in the general election.
There's no way Gore throws his hat into the ring now. He'll stay out of it until the convention, then relentlessly pound McCain like a seasoned politician with nothing to lose (wait, that's not really a simile, is it?)

Anonymous said...

Excuse me: every conceivable catagory

Brett said...

This is exceedingly unlikely. For one thing, the super-delegates and delegates (at a brokered convention) would have to desert both of the current candidates en masse, which would at the very least require Gore or a sufficiently good surrogate to make an argument for him.

I can't imagine the super-delegates doing that; they tend to be more concerned with who is electable, and Gore would essentially enter into the race with no organization other than what he could cop from Obama and Hillary. Most of the partisans of Hillary and Obama would be outraged, so he would have to spend time appeasing them.

Gore would probably love to be President again. But it is just not going to happen short of either a miracle or awe-inspiring catastrophe. Not that Gore taking the nomination wouldn't be hilarious; whoever is organizing the Republican machine for McCain and the Republicans would probably have a major heart attack just over the fact that he'd have to re-orient his entire attack plan.

Nikki said...

So many thoughts so little typing space...I think Gore is a BAD idea for the dems......great for republicans bad for dems. He is already a loser. His global warming fame may be popular to many hollywood types but to most Americans who are freezing their butts off this winter it is quite a joke. He is also known for going a little bonkers after the 2000 election, the weight gain, the beard, the bizzare speeches and he is a waiting "swiftboat" commercial opportunity for republicans. I wrote a blog about this quite a while ago. His endorsement may be sought after by either of the 2 dem candidates and he popular with the Hollywood elite, but I think there is bad blood between the Clintons and Gore. He snubbed Bill pretty bad in 2000 not using him in his campaign. I think he will wait and endorse whomever the nominee ends up being. He is not a seasoned politician in my book he is an out of control crazy man and a sore loser....Al is where he intends on staying, a hero to the earth and the world, not an American President. His audience is too big right now. President of the U.S. that is small potatoes for the "Global" big shot. interesting post and topic....and it would be interesting to watch a bitter democratic base try to achieve some justice from an election that most to this day feel was stolen....Al likes being the martyr who won the popular vote and lost the election to the Supreme Court and an idiot......even though most dems feel robbed, most Americans see a man who took the low road to defeat and let's not forget the "dry" SNL skits that portrayed a stiff Al Gore......his election should have been in the bag and he lost. It shouldn't have even been close the way the Clinton utopians touted the previous 8 by those two. But the economy was declining when Bush took office and Gore may have "intellectually" stimulated the libs but his demeanor is stiff and snobbish. I think it is a bad choice and he is too busy serving a greater cause than to run. I don't see any crossover vote for Al. Al is a laughing stalk to conservatives. Obama will get crossover vote as will McCain. great topic.

Anthony Palmer said...

Anonymous,

If Obama makes it to the convention with more states, more delegates, and more popular votes, he should obviously be the nominee. My point was that if Clinton is able to overtake Obama in the popular vote (or even in pledged delegates) because of Michigan or Florida, things will get very nasty very fast, as both candidates will have a legitimate claim to the nomination. This is where Gore could come in. He won't throw his hat in the ring, but remember that delegates can vote for whoever they want. So Gore could essentially be nominated without even being a candidate. This is why people have been prompting him to make a Shermanesque statement like "if nominated, I will not run; if elected, I will not serve." I reworded my original post to make this point a bit clearer.

As for the Clintons, they and Gore are not on the best of terms, but voters don't care about this so much. Gore is his own person and voters will probably give him credit for the good parts about the Clinton-Gore years without tying him to the scandals.

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Brett,

Yes, it is unlikely. But I think it's still plausible, especially if the following happen:

1. Clinton and Obama tear each other apart so much that nobody wants to vote for either of them or they become so weakened that the risk of sending them into the general election is too great as damaged goods.

2. There's a split between pledged delegates and the popular vote. This is why Michigan and Florida are so important. Even though Obama is leading in all indicators right now, these two large states could flip the popular vote to Clinton.

3. Some unsavory development renders one or both of these candidates unelectable. (Think NY Gov. Spitzer)

It's just speculation at present, even if I agree that a Gore nomination is highly unlikely. But given how crazy everything has been so far, anything could happen, right?

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Nikki,

I think a lot of moderate Republicans and conservative Democrats who voted for Bush will go for Gore this time because he has been acquitted by history, both in Iraq and in the Bush White House. People voted on personality instead of ideas in 2000 and what we have is a pessimistic electorate with a struggling economy and an unpopular war. Against McCain, Gore's personality shouldn't matter because both candidates can be "stiff."

I think most of the criticism of Gore comes from Republicans who ridicule his personality deficiencies and spend less time attacking his ideas (other than global warming). Independents don't care as much about towing the party line and may be more willing to look past this. Given McCain's views on Iraq and Iran, I think his appeal among independents may be a bit overstated. And by using your same point about the declining economy before Bush came into office, the same argument could be made for a Gore victory in 2008. I am about 75% sure that it will be McCain vs. Obama in November, but in the event that it's not Obama and not Clinton, it seems Gore would be the most logical candidate to look to next.

Thanks as always for the comments!

Anonymous said...

Nikki, I must admit, you couldn't be more wrong in what you wrote.

For one, Gore is MORE popular than back in 2000, not less as you suggest. Both anecdotal stories as well as approval ratings polls back this fact. You don't think there are a whole lot of Republicans out there you really, really regret not voting for the guy back in 2000? C'mon.

Yea, this scenario is a longshot, but it's not impossible, especially if a) Hillary wins Pennsylvania handily and b) Hillary and Obama continue to beat each other up for the next 3+ months. In that case, you think Democrats are going to nominate someone that is unelectable? I think not. Instead they'll turn to the man, as the author suggests, that should have been President the past 7+ years.

In addition to this one, the number of stories speculating about this scenario is rapidly increasing with each and every day - Newsweek, Huffington Post, and many others. Again, if Hillary does well in PA, I expect the mainstream media to start talking about the idea of a compromise candidate A LOT.

Oh and as an FYI, DraftGore.com is reactivated today. This could get real interesting.

Nikki said...

ANONYMOUS and Anthony, I think it is a ridiculous notion to suggest that republicans would be willing to abandon their conservative philosophies and support a liberal like Al Gore.....Gore is more popular with dems and libs not conservatives just like in 2000, he only appears to be more popular because he is now rubbing shoulders with movie stars and gets awards that only some deem as legit. I don't know any republicans who would support him, he is in the same category as the Clintons. And as far as him being aquitted? from what? a disasterous 7 years? popular rhetoric in my mind.....I don't think there are any far right voters who would stick up for Al and wish he were the Prez. I love how because the President is unpopular that means that we are all suddenly liberal or going to switch parties. How does that make sense. Abandoning a candidate is one thing leaving ones ideology is another.

Anthony Palmer said...

Nikki,

Reread my original comment carefully. I said that "moderate Republicans and conservative Democrats" would be more likely to vote for Gore. "Far right Republicans," as you termed them, would NEVER vote for Gore. I don't dispute that at all. There is a huge difference between Gordon Smith Republicans and Orrin Hatch Republicans. Moderate Republicans may vote for Gore, but conservative Republicans won't. "Republican" does not always equal "conservative," the same way "Democrat" does not always equal "liberal."

However, there are more voters in the US than just conservative Republicans, and these nonconservatives and non-Republicans are very, very dissatisfied with Bush's presidency. Since Hurricane Katrina, Bush's numbers have been stuck below 40%. And that's been the case for more than two years! Conservative Republicans may like him, but the broader electorate does not approve of his presidency.

I'm not a Bush-basher, but I think Katrina, Scooter Libby, Iraq, waterboarding, government secrecy, warrantless wiretapping, abusing signing statements, a lack of intellectual curiosity, not holding his staffers accountable for their transgressions, overly simplistic thinking regarding world affairs, presiding over gas prices that have more than doubled since he first came to Washington, and accusing Americans of supporting the terrorists if they don't agree with him are issues that don't go over too well with most objective people. While nobody knows what kind of president Gore ultimately would have been, I think Bush has acquitted him in that it's hard to see how he would have been any worse than the current president.

Nikki said...

Anthony.....where is Al moderate on ANY ideology? I don't see him appealing to moderates, he is NOT a moderate himself. I am not sure where the Bush bashing comment came from, I didn't accuse anyone of bashing Bush. My point was to state that the "if" scenario works because the president is unpopular....it has no legs because it is imaginary. I understand that not all republicans are conservative however I would say that they adopt a form of the party philosophy or they wouldn't be republican. They may be neo-cons and hawkish or Ron Paul-ites and fiscal conservatives and anti-war republicans. I understand the different ideologies within a party. But which philosophy has Al adopted to stretch himself to the center to appeal to those who are moderates?.....and is it a ruling philosophy in which a person would inherently adopt an Al option? To me he is more liberal than Obama. Because I am a republican and not an idependant does not make me more partisan nor does it make my objectivety less than yours. I see things differently that is all. I don't think it is fair to claim Al would have been better than the current President when all that is offered is a big IF. I appreciate the stated Bush negatives, however, they are tiresome and I have heard them before. The issue was Al and I disagree that he is an attactive option. I understand it is an analysis but my 2 cents is only to state that he is further left than any candidate available and I don't see moderates drifting from a true moderate like McCain. And these non republicans and republicans are MORE dissatisfied with Congress who is sporting an approval rating in the teens....As I have stated before he isn't the only unpopular politician. :)

Phillip said...

Anthony, it's the kind of scenario that might have played out at a convention in 1920 or so, but it's hard to imagine now. Although who knows, right? It would be fun to see ol' Al run a loosey-goosey campaign with all the stops out, exorcising those regrets he must still have for the way he blew the 2000 run.

Al's main problem is Hillary's main problem: they both represent the past, to debates of the 80's and 90's, to the Clinton years. Don't undersestimate the opposition out there in conservative circles to the whole global warming crusade. I would differ with you to the extent that I think Al is nearly as polarizing a figure as Hillary. Not quite, of course.

Boy, though, I would love to see him as President.

Reginald Harrison Williams said...

I'm going to have to agree with Anthony. Choosing Gore would be a concilatory choice for a Democratic nomination.

Yes, I do think it is possible (albeit via some heavy, heavy deal0making behind the scences among superdelegates), and I do think that moderate Republicans and independents fed up with the Bush and his Republican supporters may vote for him.

I think, though, a Gore-Obama ticket could, again, alienate those people who wanted Clinton on the ticket. They may, consequently, stay home from the polls in Novemeber.

If Gore ran, he should choose someone like Richardson or the former Governor Warner of Virginia to keep down the fuss.

Anthony Palmer said...

RHW,

Thanks for dropping by. Larry Sabato of the University of Virginia likened the Democratic race to a near perfect tie. Even if both candidates render each other unelectable, at least one of them will have to be somewhere on the ticket, even if the delegates decided to draft someone like Gore. And remember, the nominee is the one who selects the VP, not the delegates. (This is why you would never see a Gore-Richardson ticket, for example.) Gore would probably choose Obama simply because he doesn't care much for the Clintons and Obama seems more in line with Gore in terms of where he wants to take the Democratic Party in the future.

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Phillip,

Gore is unique in that he represents both the past and the future. He was a part of the Clinton White House, obviously, but he is not nearly as tarnished by it as Hillary Clinton is. A lot of voters look at their current situations and then look nostalgically at the 90s. Gore offers them the good part of the 90s without the Clintons' scandals from the 90s. If Clinton is somehow able to wrest the popular vote away from Obama, the Dem race would officially be a free-for-all and nobody would like whoever the delegates chose.

All I can say is that this is one reason why so many people absolutely hate politics and political parties. But it's a political junkie's dream.

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The reason why I mentioned Bush's failings was because I said Gore had been acquitted by history and used Bush's unpopular administration as a basis for comparison. Regarding the dismal approval of Congress, you have to consider the following:

1. The Democrats only have nominal control over the Senate. Sen. Tim Johnson of South Dakota was incapacitated and Sen. Joe Lieberman of Connecticut votes with the GOP on defense/war issues. So a lot of what the House passes dies in the Senate.

2. When the Democratic Congress actually gets a bill to Bush's desk, he often vetoes it or adds a signing statement which gives him permission to ignore certain provisions of the very laws he signs.

3. #1 and #2 cause Democrats and liberals to get frustrated at the inability of the Democratic Congress to get anything done, thus causing their approval ratings to sink. Republicans and conservatives probably disapprove of Congress automatically because it's not under their control. This blind disapproval is similar to Democrats' near reflexive disapproval of Bush.

4. The Democrats have overpromised or been unable to deliver on some of their campaign issues. They haven't changed much in Iraq, the economy is still sour, ethics are still sketchy, etc.

And finally, if Obama is the most liberal senator, then how come he's attracting so much support from independents, moderates, and yes, even Republicans? Gore is further to the right when it comes to immigration.

Anonymous said...

Although I like Gore, its just not gonna happen. The likelihood is less then 1%.

1) Obama is going to have the greater number of delegates and popular vote in the end. Period. Even if they give Florida to Clinton, Obama still wins both and there is NO WAY they will count the original Michigan vote when he wasn't on the ballot. Its not going to happen! And Dean, Pelosi, and Reid have all hinted at this - not to mention their nods to Clinton to get out... Even now after PA and even if she wins IN, WV, KY and Puerto Rico she still won't win by a big enough margin in any of them to overtake Obama in anything.

2) Thus rendering Clinton inconceivable, there is no reason for Obama to take the vice presidency. Not to mention that both of them are polling pretty well nationally considering all Clinton does it bash Obama nowadays and neither of them focus much on McCain. With all of that everyone is polling pretty equally, which is bad for McCain once a Dem is chosen. Thus, there is no reason for Obama to relinquish the presidency. Once this becomes even more obvious after IN and NC, super delegates will start coming out en-masse. And Obama doesn't need that many Super Delegates to win...

Anthony Palmer said...

Anonymous,

I agree that Gore has a less than 1% chance of winning the nomination. I don't dispute that he will end with the most delegates and the most popular votes. But I think superdelegates could get spooked by Jeremiah Wright and the strength of Clinton's polling in the must-win blue states of the Midwest to look for an alternative. Again, I think this is very, very unlikely to happen, but that seems to be the only path for Gore at present.

Thanks for the comment.

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