- The Washington Times - Monday, February 26, 2007

A gold statuette and a moment of goofiness have garnered Al Gore considerable public buzz after his big night at the Oscars. It’s not necessarily presidential buzz, though.

An Academy Award for “An Inconvenient Truth” has further cemented Mr. Gore’s name to a single issue: global warming. But Mr. Gore’s fame could be fleeting because the issue does not resonate with most Americans.

“Winning an Oscar and making a joke in the pop culture arena will definitely raise his profile. Mr. Gore will get attention over the next few weeks as everyone repeats the question, ‘Are you going to run?’ ” said Morgan E. Felchner, editor of Campaign & Elections magazine.

“But Gore is focusing solely on global warming, which is not topping public awareness polls,” Ms. Felchner said. “The popularity bump will last a few weeks, then most likely fade away.”

Indeed, global warming is not a “top-tier issue,” a Pew Research survey of 1,708 adults found last month. The survey ranked global warming near the bottom in a 23-item list of policy priorities for the White House and Congress. Only 19 percent said they had “deep concern” about climate change.

Regardless of his new ebullience, Mr. Gore does not dominate favorability polls. He ranks fourth among Democrats behind Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton of New York, Sen. Barack Obama of Illinois and former Sen. John Edwards of North Carolina in a Pew survey of 1,509 adults released Friday. Only a quarter of Democrats agreed that Mr. Gore had “a good chance” of winning their vote.

A Harris poll of 3,423 adults released Feb. 14 also found Mr. Gore fourth behind the trio of senators. Such sentiment has some history.

“There are no signs that Gore’s high-visibility focus on global warming has produced changes in his standing with the American public,” a Gallup survey released in August concluded.

A previous change of image — hip earth-toned clothes and a Rolling Stone magazine cover — did not cement a win for Mr. Gore in 2000 either. But he has left a cultural mark, said Robert Thompson, director of the Bleier Center for Television and Popular Culture at Syracuse University. Mr. Gore could ride a “big wave” post-Oscar, he said.

“There’s a larger lesson though,” Mr. Thompson added. “Al Gore has shown other politicians that they can communicate to the public in ways beyond the traditional podium and microphone.”

Meanwhile, “An Inconvenient Truth” made $45 million at the box office. The book sold 300,000 copies last year and 3,000 copies so far this year, according to Nielsen BookScan. The film was released to DVD in November. Yesterday, it was bested on Amazon.com’s DVD sales charts by dramatic movies “The Secret,” “The Departed,” “Babel” and “Casino Royale.”

Mr. Gore’s efforts to bring his film to public-school systems has not entirely panned out. In December, the National Science Teachers Association declined offers to distribute it free to 50,000 classrooms. Frosty Hardison, a father of seven in Federal Way, Wash., began a campaign in January to ban the film in his local public school system.

“Al Gore’s video has no place in my kids’ public school classroom any more than condoms,” Mr. Hardison said at the time.

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