Gore campaign team assembles in secret
By Tim Shipman in Washington, Sunday Telegraph
Last Updated: 11:59pm BST
Friends of Al Gore have secretly started assembling a campaign team in preparation for the former American vice-president to make a fresh bid for the White House.
Al Gore is third favourite for the Democratic nomination
Two members of Mr Gore's staff from his unsuccessful attempt in 2000 say they have been approached to see if they would be available to work with him again.
Mr Gore, President Bill Clinton's deputy, has said he wants to concentrate on publicising the need to combat climate change, a case made in his film, An Inconvenient Truth, which won him an Oscar this year.
But, aware that he may step into the wide open race for the White House, former strategists are sounding out a shadow team that could run his campaign at short notice. In approaching former campaign staff, including political strategists and communications officials, they are making clear they are not acting on formal instructions from Mr Gore, 59, but have not been asked to stop.
His denials of interest in the presidency have been couched in terms of "no plans" or "no intention" - politically ambiguous language that does not rule out a run.
One of his former campaign team said: "I was asked whether I would be available towards the end of the year if I am needed. They know he has not ruled out running and if he decides to jump in, he will have to move very fast.
"He hasn't asked them to do this, but nor has he told them not to."
In an interview on Thursday, which touched on the prospects for next year's presidential election, Mr Clinton commented: "You've got the prospect that Vice-President Gore might run."
The most recent opinion polls show Mr Gore as third favourite to take the Democratic nomination, on about 17 per cent support, only a whisker behind Barack Obama
, 45, who is aiming to become the first black US president, and ahead of John Edwards, 53, the senator whose wife was recently diagnosed with cancer.
Vice-President Gore's allies believe that Hillary Clinton
, 59, the frontrunner, is unable to win the presidency. The most recent poll shows a growing number of voters think negatively of her, in contrast to Mr Gore, who enjoys far greater popularity than when he lost the 2000 presidential race despite polling more votes nationally than the eventual winner, George W Bush.
The second aide approached by Vice-President Gore's allies said: "There is no love lost between Gore and Hillary. They don't think she can win and they're probably right. If Gore runs, he's got a really good chance of getting the nomination. And he has a good chance of pulling off the election, too."
Gore-watchers believe that a new book he is publishing next month on the state of US politics will keep his name in the public eye. Many of his supporters helped to run the unsuccessful presidential campaign of John Kerry in 2004. But since Sen Kerry abandoned his presidential aspirations this year, many of his leading advisers have yet to align themselves with any of the other candidates.
They were expected to join the campaign of Sen Edwards, who was Sen Kerry's running mate last time.
The former aide, who has himself signed up with Sen Edwards, said: "The question is: where have all the Kerry people gone? The answer for most of them is nowhere. Now ask yourself why."
Among the senior officials not yet committed is Michael Whouley, who was national field director for the successful Clinton-Gore 1992 presidential campaign, national campaign manager for Mr Gore when he stood for re-election as vice-president in 1996, and then a senior adviser to Mr Gore in 2000.
Considered one of the most talented Democratic "ground war" experts, he masterminded John Kerry's political resurrection in the New Hampshire presidential primary three years ago, putting him on course for the nomination. Last year, he oversaw the Democratic victory in the mid-term elections.
Two months ago, a former Gore aide, Elaine Kamarck, convened a group of former aides in Boston to consider the possibilities of a Gore campaign.
James Carville, President Clinton's former strategy chief, suggested last week that Mr Gore, who has piled on the pounds, could shed weight over the summer to make himself more media-friendly for a White House run.
"I wouldn't be surprised if he lost 15lb or so," said Mr Carville. "And I think if people thought he could get us out of the mess we're in with Iraq, they wouldn't care how fat he is."
A poll of leading Democratic and Republican strategists found that one in four thought Mr Gore would emerge a strong contender. "He already has emerged - he just has to announce," a Democrat told the magazine Opinion Journal.
A Republican said: "Gore could be the toughest Democrat to beat."
At least eight websites are campaigning to "Draft Gore" into the election. More than 70,000 people have signed an online petition, and more than 120 groups of Gore supporters meet each month around the country to promote the case for a Gore presidency. One website offers the chance to download a song called Run Al, Run!
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