Will Al Gore Run?
With voters donating money to Democratic candidates in record numbers and Republican President George Bush's approval ratings falling below 30 percent, it is remarkable that no current Democratic candidate has emerged as a clear favorite.
A financial reporting requirement by candidates at the end of the second quarter showed the combined Democrat candidates have out raised their Republican opponents by over $30 million.
It is still early in what has become an increasingly long American presidential campaign. Although it is 16 months before Americans will vote for their next president, the hopeful candidates are doing their best to appeal to voters now. These candidates realize they must win in an early primary schedule before they can face their Republican opponent.
In the all-important money race, the candidates begin to get whittled down. The second quarter cash on hand reports show Sen. Barrack Obama (IL), with $34.5 million, holding a slight lead over Sen. Hillary Clinton (NY) at $33 million, followed by John Edwards (NC) with $13 million. New Mexico Gov. Bill Richardson's $7 million and the rest of the Democratic candidates combined did not equal Mr. Edwards's totals.
The previous record for cash on hand at the end of the second quarter was $10 million by Sen. John Kerry (MA) in 2003.
Unfortunately, the primaries have been moved up significantly with the hope that the Democratic nominee will be chosen by early February. This makes money on hand at this time a critical factor in their success.
The Maryland primary has been moved up to February 12, 2008, with hopes of attracting more attention from the candidates as opposed to the March 2, 2004, primary election when Maryland was one of many states that made up what became known as "Super Tuesday."
In the early polls, Mrs. Clinton has been unable to increase her 36-38% of the vote - the same she had when she announced her candidacy. Senator Obama has maintained his 23-25% and former North Carolina Senator Edwards continues to be competitive with 13-15% of the vote.
The other candidates who have filed are all in single digits with only Governor Richardson appearing to have a slim chance to catch on with the voters. The rest will be history by the close of the polls in New Hampshire, the one-time second, now third Democratic Primary state.
The wild card is former Vice-President Al Gore (TN), who continues to come in third in the polls receiving an intriguing 15-16% of the vote even though he is not an announced candidate.
Trying to handicap a race that does not have a frontrunner who is receiving a majority or more of the vote is a challenging exercise.
Many factors determine how voters cast their ballot. All of the candidates benefit by the "anyone but Bush" attitude of the Democratic voters. However, voter identification of the candidate, money, message and organization continue to be the four main factors that impact the vote.
Senator Clinton certainly has name recognition, money, and organization. However, she continues to develop her campaign message. She is also considered more of the same - her election would mean that for the last 24 years either a Clinton or a Bush had occupied the White House. Being the wife of former President Bill Clinton is both a plus and a minus to the voters.
Senator Obama's main attraction is that he is new and not part of the Washington political establishment. His frank and open approach to the voters is eclipsing - by far - the appeal Republican Sen. John McCain (AZ) and his straight-talk express had in the 2000 election. Senator Obama's fundraising has been phenomenal and his organization continues to grow with the aid of the Internet.
Former Senator Edwards, like Senator McCain, is finding the second time around tougher than the first. His fundraising slipped in the second quarter as he continues to focus on ending poverty in the United States. He has been attacked for the mansion he lives in, and his $400 haircuts have been the focus of many jokes on late night TV. The poverty that exists in America is real and his three day "Road to One-America" tour this week is an admirable and worthwhile pursuit.
However, he is no Robert F. Kennedy, whose focus on poverty in the 1968 election captured the hearts of many Americans.
Bill Richardson's time as governor, dealing with immigration issues in a border state combined with his international relations experience, may make him the most qualified candidate. Yet, his fundraising is lagging far behind the front runners; and without money he can not compete. His best bet to be on the Democratic ticket next year continues to be as the vice-president candidate.
Political maneuvering by the candidates will proceed with one question: Will any of these top four candidates drop out and endorse one of the remaining candidates? With no candidate receiving a majority of the votes, the Democratic nominee could easily be determined by the votes from supporters of a candidate who drops out of the race.
With Mrs. Clinton's "take no prisoners approach," it is extremely doubtful Senator Obama, ex-Senator Edwards, or Governor Richardson would consider joining her on the ticket. Mr. Edwards has already gone the vice-president candidate route and lost with John Kerry in 2004, so that will not happen.
That leaves Governor Richardson dropping out and joining Senator Obama or Mr. Edwards. He won't do it with Mr. Edwards, for he believes he is going to pass him in the polls. Don't look for Mr. Obama to ask Mr. Richardson to be his vice-president for he won't bring enough support to put Mr. Obama firmly in first place.
It is unlikely Mrs. Clinton will be asked to be a running mate, nor would she seriously consider such a request. So, it appears this will continue to be a slugfest at least through the new "Super Tuesday" on February 5 when at least 17 states hold their primary election.
A stimulating thought is one of a brokered Democratic Party Convention at where the elected delegates would determine the next presidential candidate. Maybe, Maryland will still be important in determining the nominee when its voters go to the polls on February 12th.
All of this makes an entry into the race by Al Gore not only a possibility, but one that he could win. He already has voter recognition and his political organization, combined with his own wealth, would instantly finance a formidable campaign.
Former Vice President Gore has been busy developing a message that resonates with the voters. His movie "An Inconvenient Truth" and the recent around the world "Live Earth" concerts have brought much needed attention to global warming, conservation and the need for alternative energy sources.
In addition, his recently published book, "The Assault on Reason," has generated a lot of attention as he writes about politics today. His website has a synopsis of the book which states ".analysis of how the politics of fear, secrecy, cronyism, and blind faith has combined with the degradation of the public sphere to create an environment dangerously hostile to reason." This book sounds like a must read.
One powerhouse scenario would be Al Gore, after a strong showing in Iowa and New Hampshire, asking Senator Obama to join him on the ticket as his vice-presidential candidate, promising to nominate Mr. Edwards as HUD Secretary, and Mr. Richardson as Secretary of State. This would ensure him a victory over Mrs. Clinton in the remaining primaries and earn him the Democratic Party nomination for president.
A Gore-Obama ticket is a captivating thought. Will it happen?