- The Washington Times - Monday, October 8, 2007

State movements to draft Al Gore for a presidential bid are strengthening, with his fans from Iowa to California pledging not to give up and saying they are undeterred by the former vice president’s insistence that he won’t run.

As speculation mounts about whether he will win the Nobel Peace Prize on Friday, supporters in California today will start collecting signatures to put his name on the Feb. 5 ballot, timed with a Gore speech in the Bay Area.

Reports out of Oslo suggest that the Democrat is a favorite to win the Nobel for his work on climate change, an accolade that will likely reignite calls for his candidacy.

California Draft Gore organizers think that time is running out for him to make a decision about 2008, so they timed the petition kickoff with his speech to personally send him a loud message. In case he ignores that one, some Gore believers have set it to song and will perform “Run, Al, Run” at an Iowa concert in his honor next month.

Concert organizer Peter Ryder said the goal is to show Mr. Gore that “there’s a lot of people who have genuine interest and who would support your candidacy again.”

Mr. Ryder, a retired telecommunications project director, said nothing will stop him from attending his Cedar Rapids caucus for Mr. Gore come January.

“All the other candidates are fine, but Al Gore is the one person who has international stature, the intelligence, rigor and experience,” he said.

Politicians, former staffers and fundraisers say they are convinced that he won’t run. Longtime supporters who a few months ago said they would wait for Mr. Gore’s decision have moved on, picking a favorite candidate as the days on the electoral calendar before the first votes dwindle.

“I wish I could tell you that Al was running because I really want him to run, but I just don’t think it’s going to happen,” said Warren Gooch, a Tennessee lawyer who was a major Gore fundraiser in 2000 but now supports John Edwards. “Obviously as you go longer into the fall, people who are still holding out hope he’s going to get in the race will have to make a decision.”

But the draft movements aren’t taking no for an answer. Volunteers leading the movements — which are growing in such states as Missouri and Washington — say this is their first entry into politics and swear they have no fallback plan should Mr. Gore sit this one out.

“I haven’t thought about a second choice for president. I’m doing this because I think he’s the only answer,” said Roy Gayhart, 57, an entrepreneur from San Diego leading the California petition drive. “The passion that’s going on in the Draft Gore movement is around the idea that he’s the only one and we want to win in November.”

Eighteen Gore groups have come together under the America for Gore network. They are raising money, writing letters and pushing radio and Web ads. It would be hard for a candidate to score a higher global profile than Mr. Gore. His starring role in “An Inconvenient Truth” propelled the documentary to an Academy Award. His network, Current TV, won an Emmy. His book “The Assault on Reason” is a best seller.

He’s shared stages with rock stars and famous actors, and he’ll play himself on an upcoming episode of Emmy-winning comedy “30 Rock.”

Mr. Gayhart said California Draft Gore grew from 300 volunteers to 1,200 in a matter of weeks. To get Mr. Gore’s name on the ballot, the group must collect 500 signatures in each of the state’s 53 congressional districts by Dec. 4. In some districts, they have enough volunteers that each will only need to gather 10 signatures.

Mr. Gayhart said the drive will also prove Mr. Gore’s immediate ground strength in large states such as California, adding: “I call it a militia.”

Mr. Gayhart said he hopes the petition will “help inspire Al to make his decision, to build this thing up from a low roar to a loud cheer” and “make as much noise as possible to influence other states.”

Monica Friedlander of national Draft Gore said the group has more than 128,000 petition requests for Mr. Gore to run, and expects more buzz if he wins the Nobel.

“I think it’s increasingly obvious that contrary to conventional wisdom, Democrats are not satisfied with the choice of candidates and are tired of all the waffling on Iraq,” she said.

Still, there remains a disconnect between the enthusiasm of Gore supporters and the belief among his one-time inner circle that it’s too late.

“Al Gore is quietly closing the door on 2008,” lamented James Boyce, a Democratic political strategist. “And while, to their credit, there are people every day working to get his name on the ballot especially in California and Iowa, it, sadly, is somewhat irrelevant if he, himself, does not want it there.”

“It would be very difficult at this stage to get people rallying around a new candidate because Hillary is doing so well,” agreed New Jersey state Sen. Raymond Lesniak, a former Gore fundraiser who was pushing a Gore candidacy as recently as the spring but switched to supporting Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton of New York after former President Bill Clinton called to ask for his support.

But, as one blogger noted at DailyKos: “Mr. Gore has not said to stop.”

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