Gore Joins Calif. Special Election Fight
Former Vice President Al Gore is entering the fray in tomorrow's special election in California's 50th District, recording a phone message urging Democrats to turn out.
"I'm asking you to join me in sending a strong message to President Bush and the congressional Republicans that we've had enough," says Gore.
In the message, Gore says a vote for former Rep. Brian Bilbray (R) would be sending another "energy industry lobbyist" to Congress -- echoing one of Democrat Francine Busby's major campaign themes. "Francine Busby will fight to break the foreign oil stranglehold and make America energy independent by 2020," Gore says.
Gore's call appears in the final hours before voters head to the polls to pick a temporary replacement for Randy "Duke" Cunningham (R), who resigned last fall year after pleading guilty to accepting millions of dollars in bribes from a defense contractor.
The special election, which at first seemed an easy hold for Republicans, has tightened considerably with both sides acknowledging that either Busby or Bilbray could win.
The National Republican Congressional Committee has poured roughly $4.5 million into the race (considerably more than its Democratic counterpart) in an attempt to counter the toxic political environment created by Cunningham's ethical breaches and the continuing decline of President Bush's job-approval ratings. (Speaking of Bush, he is doing a robo-call on behalf of Bilbray as is Republican Rep. Darrell Issa, who represents a neighboring district.)
But as any loyal Fix reader knows, it is Gore's decision to involve himself in the race that fascinates us. The past few months have seen Gore reemerge on the national stage after a self-imposed political exile that followed his 2000 presidential election loss.
The ostensible reason for Gore's resurfacing is to promote the release of "An Inconvenient Truth" -- a documentary detailing his decades-long campaign to draw attention to the issue of global warming. But Gore's higher profile this year has led to speculation about another presidential campaign, especially among rank-and-file Democrats drawn to Gore's unwavering opposition to the war in Iraq and his outspokenness on the domestic wiretapping program.
Gore addressed all that and more during an interview yesterday on "This Week with George Stephanopoulos" -- his first Sunday show appearance in more than three years. On the show, Gore was suprisingly careful on Iraq, refusing to endorse a specific timetable for withdrawal -- a step many potential 2008 candidates have taken in recent months. "I think the setting of a deadline is intended to -- sometimes it's described as a way to set in motion forces that will improve our options and improve the situation on the ground," said Gore. "It's possible that setting a deadline could set in motion forces that would make it even worse."
Instead of a specific deadline, Gore laid out two goals for moving forward in Iraq -- removal of American forces at the earliest possible date, but only if the United States can ensure that Iraq will not descend into civil war when the U.S. military leaves.
As for the possibility of running again for president, Gore left himself very little wiggle room. "I have no plans to be a candidate for president again," he said. "I haven't made a so-called Sherman statement because it just seems unnecessary, kind of odd to do that."
Conspiracy theorists out there (of which The Fix occasionally is one) will parse Gore's words and note that he never absolutely ruled out a run; not planning to run is not the same as not running. But at this point a Gore candidacy seems a real stretch; he seems genuinely content with his role as an agitator at the perimeter of the political debate rather than a candidate at its center.
June 5, 2006; 4:18 PM ET
Categories: Eye on 2008 , House
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