- The Washington Times - Wednesday, December 13, 2006

NEW YORK — Al Gore is waging a fierce campaign for recognition and an Oscar statuette for his global warming documentary, while reviving talk that he’s pursuing a bigger prize: the presidency.

His recent itinerary has been the ultimate in high profile. The former vice president made self-deprecating jokes on “The Tonight Show With Jay Leno,” offered ideas on preserving the environment to Oprah Winfrey and parried questions on Iraq from Matt Lauer on the “Today” show.

On Saturday, Mr. Gore is hosting a network of 1,600 house parties across the country to watch and discuss his documentary, “An Inconvenient Truth,” with the Democrat planning to address the gatherings by satellite hookup. The movie is on the short list of feature-length documentaries being considered for Oscar nominations.

Mr. Gore insists that, for now, he is not planning a return to politics.

“I am not planning to run for president again,” Mr. Gore said last week, arguing that his focus is raising public awareness about global warming. Then, he added: “I haven’t completely ruled it out.”

The possibility of another presidential bid by Mr. Gore delights many Democrats still upset over the 2000 election, in which they argue a few more votes, a state other than Florida and a different Supreme Court could have put Mr. Gore, not George W. Bush, in the White House.

Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton, New York Democrat, is the front-runner, but a polarizing one for some Democrats. Illinois Sen. Barack Obama is the electrifying newcomer but limited in his experience. Mr. Gore remains, for many party activists, the Democrat and popular vote-getter done wrong.

“He won the election in 2000 — he just lost the [electoral] count,” former Democratic National Committee Chairman Don Fowler said. “If I were he, I wouldn’t rule out a run. It’s an uncertain field, and he’s a person who is widely respected.”

In many respects, Mr. Gore is better positioned for a political comeback than in his previous bids.

He has won fame for “An Inconvenient Truth,” the highest-grossing documentary of the year. His outspoken environmentalism and opposition to the Iraq war has drawn raves from many Democrats, who have been frustrated by the caution among some party lawmakers on those issues.

Perhaps most important for his future political endeavors, Mr. Gore has new wealth. Thanks to a range of business ventures, including a longtime advisory relationship with Google and a seat on Apple Computer’s board of directors, aides say he could spend as much as $50 million of his own money to begin a credible presidential run.

But Mr. Gore has given plenty of signals that he does not intend to become a candidate.

While Mrs. Clinton, Mr. Obama and other likely contenders have begun courting activists and building their organizations, Mr. Gore has steered far from campaign mechanics.

“I see no signs of Gore organizing supporters right now,” said Donna Brazile, Mr. Gore’s presidential campaign manager in 2000.

Neither Mrs. Clinton nor Mr. Obama has announced plans to run. Iowa Gov. Tom Vilsack has declared his candidacy, while Indiana Sen. Evan Bayh has formed an exploratory committee. Other likely candidates include Massachusetts Sen. John Kerry, the 2004 presidential nominee; former North Carolina Sen. John Edwards, the 2004 vice presidential nominee; Delaware Sen. Joseph R. Biden Jr.; Connecticut Sen. Christopher J. Dodd; and New Mexico Gov. Bill Richardson.

Despite his protestations to the contrary, some Democratic strategists think Mr. Gore could be persuaded to enter the race.

Joe Trippi, who managed Howard Dean’s Internet-fueled presidential campaign in 2004, said Mr. Gore would be a formidable candidate and probably could wait longer than others to enter the field.

“If anything, he’s more relevant than anyone in the race because of his positions on the war and global warming,” Mr. Trippi said. “And that’s really tough to do in the Democratic Party, which treats its failed presidential candidates like members of leper colony.”

The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences will announce the Oscar nominations Jan. 23, with the 79th Oscars slated for Feb. 25. Iowa caucuses would be less than a year after that.

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