Now that Al Gore has won the Nobel Peace Prize for starring in a documentary, the net is abuzz with speculation about whether or not Gore will enter the 2008 Presidential race.
He won’t. As many people have pointed out, Hillary Clinton’s lead is unassailable and Gore’s Nobel, while very pretty and very shiny, won’t translate into the kind of money he’d need to run. However….
As I said a while back, I think Gore will be the VP nominee. I don’t think he particularly relishes that role; after all the accolades he’s received this year, playing second fiddle to the Clintons (yet again!) will be a difficult pill to swallow. I also think that Hillary will resist that nomination if only to further differentiate her candidacy from her husband’s presidency. But I do think she’ll offer and that he’ll accept. Since that seems contradictory, let me explain my thinking.
Hillary needs to create a distinction between herself and her husband in the primaries so that she doesn’t lose the progressive vote entirely. There are significant blocs of democrats who still resent Bill’s efforts to move the party to the middle. Hillary will need to stay to the left of her husband to win the primary. But in the general election, Clinton nostalgia (prosperity, relative peace, saxophone solos) will be a positive. Even the sex scandals will be blunted as Hillary can turn those scandals into personal triumphs. Essentially Hillary needs to keep left during the primaries and then suddenly swing back to the middle for the general election. But that swing to the middle could end up angering the progressive left — and it’s the hard left progressives that have given the last two general elections to Bush by jumping ship and voting for Nader. Gore, especially now, could blunt the Nader challenge and convince many of the hard line eco-progressives to vote the ticket. So despite Hillary’s misgivings, Gore offers her something no other candidate can. She gets to stay middle and court nostalgia with a Clinton/Gore 2008 campaign and she gets to stay left and piggy-back on Gore’s progressive credentials (Obama might hold some progressives to the ticket, but would drive more moderates away).
For Gore, it will be a matter of swallowing some pride, biting the bullet, and keeping his focus long-term. Gore could be a huge nightmare for the Democratic party. If Gore wanted to, he could run on the Green Party ticket (maybe with Nader) and guarantee the Dems a loss in 2008. But he can’t win the Dem nomination outright this year (maybe he could, but the fall-out would be so fractious that the party would be left in tatters). Gore can be a spoiler in 2008 if he wants to, but he can’t be president in 2009. However, if Gore swallows his pride, accepts the nomination for VP and runs arm in arm with Hillary, he positions himself to be the no-question Democratic nominee in 2016. Sure, that’s eight years away, but Gore is young; he can wait. The question for Gore is does he want to run for President in 2016, or does he want to run in 2012? If he plays spoiler in 2008, he can run in 2012, but he’ll run against a Republican incumbent. If he signs on with Hillary, he stands a good chance of running in 2016 as a four-term VP.
Of course, I’ve been wrong before….