I checked around with some Gore watchers the other day about what he is likely thinking politically. Here’s what I gleaned from them:
He is one of those people who wants to be president, but doesn’t really want to run for it. So he wants the party to come to him. In keeping with this desire, the movie is a painless way to advance his political ambitions: if the buzz around it doesn’t increase his standing in the polls, he can say, “Hey, what’s the big deal, it was only a movie about an issue I care about, and never had a political purpose”; if, however, it does create some sustained political momentum, he can capitalize on it if he wants. Apparently he is telling the people closest to him what he is saying in public, that he isn’t interested in running. People are all over the map, though, on whether he will ultimately run or not. The conventional wisdom seems to be correct: that he will only do it if he sees a clear path to victory.
Certainly, he is well-positioned. He has benefited from the Iraq war going much more badly than expected. From a Democratic perspective, he got the two Iraq wars right. He voted for the first one and against the second one. He is a better-credentialed and more serious representative for the anti-war wing of the party (which is most of the party) than Feingold or Edwards.
Because Gore can be a bit of a cold fish, he doesn’t have a network of long-time fundraisers that he can rely on. He’s going to have to raise money on-line on the Dean model, so the enthusiasm of the left-wing blogosphere is essential. And he has that. The thinking is that he probably waits longer than other candidates to get in, and feel out the field before making a decision. Hillary’s perceived strength, or lack thereof, will be central to his decision. Armchair psychologists split on his thinking regarding Hillary. Some think he so loathes her that he would do anything to keep her from being president, so his animus makes him more likely to run. Others think he so loathes her that he can’t stand the idea of losing to her, so his animus makes him less likely to run.
Gore-watchers often repeat the old saw that America loves a non-candidate, noting that Gore’s best day politically will be the day before he gets in. Gore surely is aware of this too.
But no one doubt this: he is very much enjoying his new-found acclaim, and that he plays his cards very close to his chest. He will be fascinating to watch…