- The Washington Times - Tuesday, May 8, 2007

Prominent political fundraisers who backed Al Gore’s 2000 presidential campaign are reserving support for the current slate of 2008 Democrats in hopes the former vice president will swoop in for another White House bid.

H.E. “Sonny” Cauthen Jr. told The Washington Times he has been flattered to get calls from candidates asking for his help this time around, but said he is hesitating on picking one while he waits to see what Mr. Gore decides.

“If he wants to run, I would be very supportive of that,” said Mr. Cauthen, a founding partner of the Washington lobbying firm Cauthen Forbes & Williams and a 2000 fundraiser for the Gore campaign.

“I just don’t see any reason for him not to run,” Mr. Cauthen added. “He’s the only prospective candidate we have who has already won one time. He didn’t serve — he was denied the presidency — but he won that race.”

Of the 25 major players who helped raise at least $100,000 for Mr. Gore for the 2000 campaign, at least 12 have not donated or publicly committed to a candidate.

“People are still somewhat reluctant to get fully engaged at this point, and part of it is that people hope that Al would consider getting into the race,” said Warren Gooch, a managing partner at the Tennessee law firm Kramer Rayson and another Gore fundraiser.

Mr. Gooch is backing former Sen. John Edwards of North Carolina, but said that if Mr. Gore entered the race, he would switch support to his longtime friend.

“Some people still believe or still hope that Al will reconsider, and the fact the campaign has started so early, the front-runners can’t possibly keep up the pace that they are at now,” he said.

Some of the Gore fundraisers have opted to help other Democrats, especially Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton of New York and Sen. Barack Obama of Illinois. But several, especially those in Mr. Gore’s home state of Tennessee, are open to his potential candidacy.

“There would be a lot of support” locally for another Gore run, said Rep. Steve Cohen, Tennessee Democrat. “He has really grown in the public’s mind.”

Several key staffers and donors from the 2000 campaign also have not chosen a candidate so far.

Former campaign manager Tony Coelho told Rolling Stone magazine this winter that Mr. Gore could wait it out before announcing another presidential bid, and Peter Knight, Mr. Gore’s chief of staff during his congressional terms, is holding an informal reunion of the Tennessee native’s longtime supporters, the New York Times reported recently.

Joel Hyatt, who joined Mr. Gore to co-found the Current TV youth news network, was a top fundraiser in 2000 but has not publicly backed any candidates.

Orin Kramer of New Jersey, a 2000 Gore fundraiser who helps the former vice president with his global-warming efforts, has agreed this time around to support Mr. Obama because he believes “people are ready to turn the page on politics, and he connects to that impulse.” Three other major Gore donors are helping Mr. Obama’s campaign.

Mrs. Clinton has nabbed 2000 Gore backers Gerald and Elaine Schuster and Stan Shuman as major fundraisers for her campaign, along with five others. But New Jersey state Sen. Raymond Lesniak, one of the major fundraisers in 2000, thinks Mr. Gore is the one candidate who can restore America’s standing abroad.

“A perfect storm is brewing that could sweep Al Gore back into the race,” Mr. Lesniak said. “There is no one emerging from the field of Democrats. … That sets it up beautifully for Al Gore.”

The undecided financial heavyweights remain loyal to the former vice president and represent a growing group who think he should run and that he would win.

Numerous polls about the 2008 presidential field show Mr. Gore solidly in third or fourth place with from 14 percent to 18 percent of the vote, behind Mrs. Clinton, Mr. Obama and Mr. Edwards.

After his starring role helped the global-warming documentary “An Inconvenient Truth” pick up an Academy Award, Mr. Gore testified on Capitol Hill to push action on carbon emissions. He is training a national team to deliver the slide show upon which the film is based and also was nominated for a Nobel Peace Prize. The winner will be announced in October.

The former vice president will turn up the heat on the Bush administration this month with the May 22 release of his new book “The Assault on Reason.” According to Amazon.com, where the book is already ranked at 1,602, the book will explore the “damage” Mr. Gore says has been done by the Bush administration “to the functioning of our democracy.”

It also will “explain how the public sphere itself has evolved into a place hospitable to reason’s enemies … [and] lead us to an understanding of what we can do, individually and collectively, to restore the rule of reason and safeguard our future,” the description reads. His book tour includes stops in Washington, New York, San Francisco, Los Angeles, Denver and Chicago.

Gore spokeswoman Kalee Kreider said her boss is dedicated to the climate issue and “has been very clear that he has no intention of running for president.”

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