Gore's book tour dominated by campaign speculation
CHICAGO - Some people arrived at dawn. Supporters were selling T-shirts and buttons. There was a fiery speech. And reporters and photographers were tripping over each other.
Al Gore's visit to a Chicago bookstore Wednesday was officially to promote his new book, but it had all the trappings of the typical campaign appearance.
Still, as he has done for months, the former vice president insisted that he has no plans to run again for the nation's highest office.
"I'm not planning to be a candidate again," he said, after a six-minute, campaign-style speech that touched on everything from his trademark issue of global warming to the Iraq war.
But that didn't keep people in the crowd at the Borders on State Street from chanting "run, Al, run." Some of his most loyal followers had arrived at the bookstore before sunrise to wait in line for the midday event.
Even while not in the race, recent polling has put Gore not that far behind Democratic presidential hopefuls Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama, garnering support from about 15 percent of those surveyed.
Gore launched his nationwide book tour late last month, one of several events in the coming weeks that will boost his visibility and likely continue to fuel speculation about his political plans.
His documentary film "An Inconvenient Truth" won two Academy Awards this year and is scheduled to headline a series of "Live Earth" concerts in July meant to raise awareness on the threat of climate change.
Gore had little to say when asked about the current Democratic field.
"I'm not going to pick and choose or give a critique," he said. "It's way too early and there are a lot of good people in the race."
Dressed in a dark-blue suit, blue shirt and blue tie, Gore's policy wonk nature was on full display as he talked about global warming.
"Many of the consequences the scientists have warned us about are happening, and they are happening much more quickly than even the worst of the computer-model projections had led them to believe," he said.
The corny humor is still there, too: "Thank you for the standing ovation," he joked to the several hundred fans standing in line for a signature inside one or both of his books, "The Assault on Reason" and "An Inconvenient Truth."
His biggest applause line came when he talked about the need to end the Iraq war, which he compared to global warming. "In both cases, the facts were ignored," he said.
As some of those moved past the signing table, Gore was repeatedly urged to jump into the Democratic primary field.
"I'm not planning on it, but I appreciate it," he told one fan.
"I appreciate that sentiment. I'm not planning to do it, as you know," he told another.
Still, that wasn't enough to quell the demand of many of those who wore Gore 2008 stickers, buttons and T-shirts.
"I hope he will run again," said Steve Jensen of suburban Burbank, who volunteered for Gore in Iowa in 2000. "I think he could win the Democratic nomination by a landslide."
For now, Gore seemed to be happy signing "Al Gore" with a thick ink pen. He moved at a brisk pace, working up a sweat and explaining to one fan why he keeps his signature short.
"I used to be Albert Gore Jr.," he said. "But I wised up."