Thursday, October 11, 2007
Please Al, run!
Susan Hines of New York Draft Al Gore waited for Mr. Gore at an appearance in Manhattan. Photo: Keith Bedford for The New York Times
The New York Times
Gore Supporters’ Movement Lacks a Candidate
By JIM RUTENBERG
Published: October 11, 2007
WASHINGTON, Oct. 10 — With talk of a Nobel Peace Prize in the air and election deadlines looming, supporters of Al Gore have been raising hundreds of thousands of dollars for petition drives and advertising campaigns in a last-ditch effort to draft him into the Democratic presidential primaries.
Draft Gore, a national group that for several years has been trying to pull Mr. Gore into a presidential race, ran a full-page advertisement in The New York Times on Wednesday, as well as commercials on liberal radio talk shows, saying he had an obligation to seek the presidency again and address from the White House a variety of moral issues facing the country.
The group said it had collected small donations over the Internet to pay for the ads. The Times advertisement alone cost roughly $65,000, a standard rate for ads not slotted to run on a particular day, a spokeswoman for the newspaper said.
Other groups, from New York to Iowa to California, are running drives to put Mr. Gore on primary ballots or make him an option in caucus rooms.
Yet, as of now, the movement is without a candidate.
Mr. Gore’s representatives say he has no plans to run or interest in doing so. He himself has been coy. Roy Gayhart, an organizer of a group trying to get him onto the primary ballot in California, said Mr. Gore, walking by a petition booth as he left a speaking engagement Tuesday night in the city of Cupertino, merely smiled, waved, shook hands with a volunteer and offered a simple “thank you.”
Mr. Gore declined an interview request Wednesday, but his representatives stopped short of declaring that he absolutely would not run. “He really deeply appreciates where this comes from, and what people are trying to say to him,” said Kalee Kreider, a spokeswoman, though adding, “I think he’s said it many times, that he has no plans or intention to run for president.”
Organizers from several of the groups seeking a Gore campaign say they take the lack of a definitive no as a green light to keep working, especially as ballot registration deadlines loom.
“I want to hear him say, ‘If called, I will not serve my country,’” said Draft Gore’s treasurer, Eva Ritchey, a former local Democratic chairwoman in western North Carolina.
The organizers say their movement is driven by a belief among some Democratic activists that the presidency rightfully belongs to Mr. Gore after a disputed 2000 election outcome many never accepted, and that it is time for him to stand up and claim it. But it is also fueled by dissatisfaction within the party over the crop of Democratic candidates.
Though the Democratic field is widely considered attractive, some Democrats worry that even Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton, who is doing well in the polls, could be beaten in the general election. Some also say they are dissatisfied with the extent of the candidates’ commitment to ending the war in Iraq.
Draft movements are often suspected of being nothing more than stealth organizations set up on behalf of would-be candidates. But organizers in this case say they have had no contact with Mr. Gore.
“We’ve never gotten any encouragement, or discouragement,” said Monica Friedlander, a public relations manager who started Draft Gore from her kitchen in Berkeley, Calif., before the 2004 election.
“He has the combination of vision, experience, leadership, standing in the world and, I think very importantly, ability to win that none of the other candidates have,” Ms. Friedlander said.
Michael Feldman, a former White House aide whose firm, the Glover Park Group, has worked with Mr. Gore to promote “An Inconvenient Truth” — the book and the Oscar-winning film that sprang from it — said, “There isn’t some secret campaign being put together here.”
Still, Mr. Feldman and others said Mr. Gore had been flattered and delighted by the attention. The former vice president has undergone an extraordinary metamorphosis, after all, publicly evolving from likely president-elect to stunning loser to lost soul to national and even international hero. Committed to bringing attention to global warming and other environmental issues, he has a new sense of purpose in that effort, which has earned him a nomination for the Nobel Peace Prize. (The winner will be announced Friday.)
Mr. Gore’s associates say his office is not tracking state ballot registration deadlines. But several “draft Gore” groups around the country are, and they are using them to marshal their efforts — and perhaps as leverage to prompt a more definitive declaration from him.
One such group in Michigan, for instance, is trying to collect the roughly 12,000 signatures required to get him on the ballot before an Oct. 23 deadline. But before placement on the ballot becomes official, Mr. Gore must sign a required affidavit.
Bob Alexander, a co-chairman of the Michigan group, said he believed Mr. Gore just might do it, especially if he won the Nobel Prize.
“Hopefully,” Mr. Alexander said, “the euphoria of winning the Nobel Peace Prize, plus all this other positive stuff, will be enough for him to say: ‘O.K., this thing is taking off. We’re ready to run.’”