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Will Gore Run?

October 11, 2007

Will the former vice-president be able to stop Hillary?

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Until recently, I was very sceptical about Gore’s chances of even joining the Democratic contest. After all, in addition to Hillary, Gore would have to contend with Barak Obama, Bill Richardson, John Edwards and a possible Mark Warner re-entry into the race. Also, I was sceptical about the extent to which he would be able to transcend his single-issue focus on the environment and the fact that he had moved considerably to the left on most issues. However, many of these hurdles have simply disappeared, since even Obama’s most prominent supporters seem to have accepted that the Audacity of Hype simply lacks the experience and qualifications to be President. At the same time neither Edwards’s nor Richardson’s campaign is going anywhere soon (and Warner will now be running for the Senate). Finally, Gore is the only one of the serious candidates who has more experience than Hillary, while his disengagement from current politics gives him a blank slate to define himself on.

Ironically, another deciding factor is that Hillary’s main advantage, that she is very likely to deliver a small victory against Giuliani, Thompson or Romney (McCain is just about likely to beat her while Hukabee would be hard pressed to carry more than 100 EVs), is fast becoming superfluous. Indeed, with a clear plurality of people identifying themselves as Democrats, and the possibility that the Democrats might gain a filibuster proof majority, there is a compelling argument for selecting someone who doesn’t guarantee a minimum Republican turnout on Election Day. Of course it is possible to overstate this case since the Al Gore of 2008 is different from that of 1988, or even 2000 and he will face tremendous pressure to go even further leftwards. It also might be embarrassing for him, if he wins the nomination, to have to face the person who he put on his ticket in 2000 at the bottom of the Republican ticket.

So what are his chances and what should he do to maximise his chances of winning? It goes without saying that Gore will have to get into the race as soon as possible, the fact that he’ll know one way or other about the Nobel Prize tomorrow will mean that could enter it by the week-end. Gore should also take care not to drift too far to the left and find another cause, beyond global warming, to take up. He should remind voters of his previous health care plans from 2000 and he should also emphasise political reform, hoping that the remaining memories of the Clinton-era fundraising scandals attaches to Hillary rather than him. He should also emphasise his experience as vice-president at every opportunity, reminding voters that while Hillary may have shared (or not as the case may be) a bed with Bill Clinton he was a successful vice president.

Of course, Hillary will still be the favourite in this contest. After all, she has the money, the staff and a commanding lead in the polls. She also is a much more skilled operative, while Gore’s long rest from politics may have blunted his political skills. Gore may simply repeat the mistake of Edwards and go too far to the left, after all he endorsed Howard Dean in 2004 and has took a very defeatist line on Iraq. My back of the envelope calculations seem to estimate that there is about a 70% chance that Gore will run and a 30% chance that he could beat Hillary if he did so. This works out to roughly 21% chance that he could win the nomination. Given that contracts on him winning the nomination are trading at 13.0-13.1, Gore seems to be undervalued.

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