Read Gore's lips: He is not running
WASHINGTON - He's the darling of the Internet and Hollywood, a passionate lecturer, a Nobel Peace Prize nominee and has commanded standing ovations at the Oscars and, just a few days ago, among students at the University of Miami.
But Al Gore is not running for president, say those closest to him - including Fort Lauderdale, Fla., friend Mitchell Berger, a top Gore fundraiser and part of his legal team when the 2000 presidential race deadlocked in Florida.
Those who want Gore to jump back into politics have started a list of Web sites such as draftgore2008.org, algore.org and other variations on the theme. And maybe a telling sign that someone thinks he might run again is a conservative think tank's attack on him last week based on his energy use.
But Berger and others close to Gore flatly say he isn't running and that his attention is on the dangers of global warming. That's the topic of his book and the movie "An Inconvenient Truth," which won an Academy Award.
"It's important to state why he's not running for president: He thinks the planet is dying. That's kind of important, don't you think?" Berger said.
Gore has urged his supporters to move on politically, and Berger has done so by adding his fundraising talents to the campaign of former Sen. John Edwards of North Carolina. Berger said Gore supporters are strewn among the camps of the major Democratic candidates, such as Edwards, Sen. Hillary Clinton of New York, Sen. Barack Obama of Illinois, Sen. Joe Biden of Delaware and New Mexico Gov. Bill Richardson.
But as candidates such as Clinton and Edwards squabble about their past support for an Iraq war that is especially unpopular among Democratic primary voters, Gore can tout his opposition. And his Oscar buzz and attention for global warming have warmed up his formerly stiff image.
"The other candidates are having their spats. He's building political good will," said Doug Hattaway, Gore's national spokesman during the 2000 campaign that ended with the controversial recount in Florida after Gore won the popular vote but not the election. "Republicans would see him as a formidable candidate since he beat them last time."
A conservative think tank wasted no time going after Gore after the Oscars, accusing him of hypocrisy for living in a 10,000-square-foot Nashville mansion that uses tens of thousands of dollars in energy each year. The Tennessee Center for Policy Research said Gore's average monthly electric bill was $1,359 and average natural-gas bill was $1,080.
Gore spokeswoman Kalee Kreider said Gore pays extra to Nashville utilities to use wind, solar and other renewable-energy sources. And, she said, he pays to develop renewable energy in other parts of the world to offset the effects of his energy use. His profits from the book and movie go to global-warming education, she said.
And that topic is the only campaign he's interested in, Kreider said. Gore hasn't refused to ever enter the race. But, Kreider said, "He truly has no intention of running."
Hattaway said Gore has the name recognition to jump into the race later this year. But the nomination for the 2008 presidential candidate is creeping closer. Florida and numerous other states are considering moving their primaries up to Feb. 5, meaning much of the race will come in a flurry next January and February.
John Constantinide, the speaker of the student senate at the University of Miami, said Gore's message has piqued the interest of many students. Constantinide, a Republican, said Gore was well received Wednesday night by the 6,800 people at the University of Miami speech.
"A lot of students would like to see him run," Constantinide said. "The second time is the charm is a phrase that works for a lot of candidates."