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Draft Gore 2004 Committee

Updated June. 11, 2004 
"...I personally have the energy and the drive and the ambition -- to make another campaign.  But I don't think it's the right thing for me to do.  I -- I think that a campaign that would be a rematch between myself and President Bush would inevitably involve a focus on the past that would in some measure distract from the focus on the future that I think all campaigns have to be about." 
                     -Al Gore on CBS' "60 Minutes," Dec. 15, 2002
Two Years To a Decision
For two years the questions "Will Al Gore run again?" and "Should Al Gore run again?" loomed large over the 2004 race.  If Gore did run again, he would be the frontrunner.  In the Democratic party, views toward another Gore campaign were mixed; some rank and file favored another bid, while a number of Democratic party elites did not want to see another Gore campaign.1

On December 13, 2000 the long presidential campaign and post-election legal battles which had gripped the nation for the past 36 day formally came to an end.  At 9:00 p.m. in the Old Executive Office Building, Vice President Al Gore, addressing the nation, recalled words his father once said, "...that no matter how hard the loss, defeat might serve as well as victory to shape the soul and let the glory out."  Over the next two years Gore maintained a relatively low profile, teaching at several universities, signing on as vice chairman at MetWest Financial, co-authoring a couple of books with wife Tipper, delivering a few policy speeches, and making sporadic political appearances. 

Following the November 5, 2002 midterm elections Gore finally re-emerged fully into the public eye with a 14-city book tour and a well-orchestrated "full Gore" media blitz.  All appeared ready for launch of another campaign.  Gore would talk with his family over the holidays and announce his decision.  However, Gore realized his course sooner than anticipated, and on December 15, 2002 he made his surprise announcement on CBS "60 Minutes" that he would not run [reactions, more reactions].

A Low Profile in 2001
For the first half of 2001 Gore maintained a low profile, confining himself to teaching assignments at several universities:

-   The Graduate School of Journalism at Columbia University   "Covering National Affairs in the Information Age." >
-   Middle Tennessee State University   "Community Building: A Comprehensive Family-Centered Approach."
-   Fisk University   "Community Building: A Comprehensive Family-Centered Approach."
-   Also at UCLA he was visiting professor in the UCLA School of Public Policy and Social Research and a visiting scholar in the Institute for Children, Families and Communities.  Again the focus was "family-centered community development."
In late July and early August 2001 Gore started his re-entry into the political arena.  His official transition office closed on July 20, 2001, and he opened a permanent office in Nashville.  After a European vacation during the first part of the summer, Gore returned sporting a new look--a beard.  One of the first signals of continued political interest appeared early in August when Gore's spokeswomen said he would campaign for New Jersey gubernatorial candidate Jim McGreevey in the fall.  On August 11, he conducted a bipartisan workshop with former Tennessee governor Lamar Alexander at Vanderbilt University.  A couple of days later, also in Nashville, he led a training academy that brought together twenty six young Democrats over several days; this was supported by his political action committee, Leadership '98 (since re-named Leadership '02).  In Fall 2001, those young Democrats were on the ground helping out in New Jersey and Virginia.

Gore delivered the keynote address at the Iowa Democratic Party's annual Jefferson-Jackson Day fundraising dinner at the Polk County Convention Complex in Des Moines, Iowa on September 29.  This was intended to be his first big post-election political appearance, but in the wake of the September 11 attacks on the World Trade Center and Pentagon he instead delivered a call for unity.  On the Friday and Saturday before the speech, Gore traveled around Eastern Iowa in a rental car, using his cell phone to arrange several low-key, unannounced meetings with friends and supporters along the way.  Gore headlined the New Hampshire Democratic Party's "Celebrating Our Democracy" Jefferson Jackson Dinner at the Center of New Hampshire Holiday in in Manchester, NH on October 27.  As he had in Iowa, Gore rented a car and made an unpublicized drive around the state.

Gore continued his focus on family-centered community development in Fall 2001, teaching at Middle Tennessee State University and Fisk University, and serving as a research professor at UCLA (Columbia University is also part of the consortium that is developing this curriculum). 

The Gores held their annual conference, "Family Reunion 10, Back to the Future," on November 19, 2001 at Vanderbilt University in Nashville.  That same day it was announced that he would join the Los Angeles-based financial services firm MetWest Financial as vice chairman "developing private equity strategies in the biotechnology and information technology fields" and looking at expansion into international markets.

Rejoining the National Debate, Sporadically, in 2002
Gore signaled fuller re-entry into the political arena in a February 2, 2002 speech.  Headlining an "Election Kickoff 2002" fundraiser in Nashville for the Tennessee Democratic Party, Gore stated, "For everything there is a season.  And tonight, as a new election season begins, I intend to rejoin the national debate." 

On February 12 Gore delivered his first full foreign policy speech since the election, "A Commentary on the War Against Terror: Our Larger Tasks," to the Council on Foreign Relations in New York.  Gore reiterated his support for President Bush's leadership of the war in Afghanistan and the war against terrorism, but he sought to provide a broader perspective as well.  Responding to the notion of the "Axis of Evil"  that Bush identified in his State of the Union address, Gore stated, "[T]here is another Axis of Evil in the world: poverty and ignorance; disease and environmental disorder; corruption and political oppression."  "'Draining the swamp' of terrorism...must also mean draining the aquifer of anger that underlies terrorism," Gore said.

Gore stepped up his political activity, holding his first fundraiser for Leadership '02 on February 19 at his Arlington, VA home; he did a flurry of Leadership '02 events over the next month.2  He also did his first fundraising appearance on behalf of a 2002 congressional candidate, appearing as a special guest at a March 12 reception for Rep. Richard E. Neal (MA-2), who was the first member of the Massachusetts delegation to back Gore's 2000 presidential campaign.3

When Sen. Fred Thompson (R-TN) announced on March 8 that he would not seek re-election, Gore quickly released a statement saying that he would not run for the seat.  However, within a week word emerged that Tipper Gore was interested in the race.  On March 17, after talking it over with her family and associates, Tipper ruled out a Senate run, stating it was "not right for me, right now."  The same day husband Al shaved the much-commented-upon beard he had worn since summer. 

Gore further ratcheted up his political activity with his speech to the Florida Democratic Party State Conference in Orlando on April 13.  Gore received an enthusiastic welcome from the crowd, which included hundreds of people waving "Still Gore Country" signs provided by an unknown source.  This speech marked Gore's first detailed critique of the Bush administration; he focused his remarks on three areas: the environment, the economy, and the broader notion of values.  "The time has come for to speak out boldly -- not only when we believe the Administration is right -- but to offer constructive alternatives when we believe what they're doing is wrong for America, and a lot of what they're doing, I believe, is wrong for America," he stated. 

In an Earth Day speech at Vanderbilt University on April 22, Gore strongly condemned the Administration on his signature issue, the environment.  He next appeared in the public eye on June 8, addressing activists at the Wisconsin Democratic Convention in Madison.  The Gores capped off the first half of 2002 holding a retreat with major donors June 28-30 at the Peabody Hotel in Memphis.  About 60 people attended; Gore reconnected with his donors and discussed strategy and ideas for 2002.  From this meeting emerged the clearest signals to date that Gore could run again.

A major focus for Gore during the year was his work, with wife Tipper, on Joined at the Heart: The Transformation of the American Familyand an accompanying photo book titled Between Us: The Spirit of Family.  (Interestingly another former vice president chose a similar topic; Dan Quayle with Diane Medved, Ph.D. authored The American Family: Discovering the Values that Make Us Strong, published in 1996 by HarperCollins).

On September 23, Gore delivered a speech on Iraq and the War on Terrorism that generated a fair amount of commentary.  Less than two weeks later, on October 2, he made a speech on Bush's handling of the economy to the Brookings Institution.

As he said he would in his speech on the night of December 13, 2000, Gore sought to mend fences in Tennessee.  In Spring 2002, he continued his teaching on family-centered community development at Fisk University and Middle Tennessee State University.  ("I'm a visiting professor.  That's V-P for short ... It's a way of hanging on," he joked in his political speeches.)  In mid-March, news reports noted that the Gores were considering buying a home in Nashville; they closed on a $2.3 million house in the Belle Meade area of Nashville on June 17.  The Gores held their annual conference, "Family Reunion 11, Families and Youth," October 20-21 at Vanderbilt University in Nashville. 

Gore, who along with Tipper, is represented by the Washington Speakers Bureau,  also did a number of overseas speaking engagements.  In a January 2002 trip he delivered keynote speeches at the Dubtech Conference in Dubai, UAE and an "India Tomorrow" conference in New Delhi, India.  June 13 found him in Shanghai delivering a speech at the 3rd High-Level Forum on City Informatization in the Asia-Pacific Region.  In November, he took a little noticed break from his book tour to speak at an economic forum in Shenzhen, China.  Gore also travelled overseas as part of his work with MetWest. 

From February 2002 through the November 5 midterm elections, Gore campaigned for Democratic candidates in nineteen different states; he did not, however, do the kind of intense work in high-profile, tightly contested races as President Bush had, and the candidates he backed did not fare particularly well.4

A Closing Flurry of Activity
As Democrats cast about for leadership and direction in the aftermath of the disappointing November 5, 2002 mid-term elections, Gore put himself squarely in the public eye with his book tour and media blitz.  Gore and wife Tipper kicked off the tour for their books, Joined at the Heart: The Transformation of the American Family and the accompanying photo book Between Us: The Spirit of Family (Henry Holt), on November 12 in New York City.  On November 15, the media onslaught began with the Gores' appearance on ABC News' "20/20," in an interview taped with Barbara Walters the day after the election, followed by his appearance on the "Late Show with David Letterman" (CBS).  These two shows were but a precursor of things to come, as the Gores seemed to be everywhere on the week of the 18th through the 22nd.  The book tour concluded in Raleigh, NC on December 16, one day after his announcement on "60 Minutes."

Draft Effort, Backing Dean, and More
Gore's announcement notwithstanding, diehard supporters still did not give up; a "Al Gore, We Need You!" petition appeared on Democrats.com, and in January 2003 a Draft Gore 2004 Committee launched with a website and ad [PDF] in the Carthage Courier.  Supporters of the draft effort appeared at various Democratic events throughout the year.  Another pro-Gore effort came from Chris Jackson, a high school student from Loretto, Tennessee who launched the Al Gore Support Center website.  However, on December 9, 2003 Gore threw his support behind former Vermont Gov. Howard Dean stating that Dean "really is the only candidate who has been able to inspire at the grassroots level all over this country the kind of passion and enthusiasm for democracy and change and transformation of America that we need in this country."  Other candidates pooh-poohed the endorsement, and ultimately it did not have much effect; Dean campaign manager Joe Trippi later said one thing about the campaign he would have changed if he had been able to was the timing of that announcement, making it closer to the caucuses. 

Gore continued to appear in the news periodically.  In April  2004 he said he would give $6 million in funds leftover from his 2000 campaign's legal and accounting fund to Democrats, including $4 million to the DNC, $1 million to the DCCC, $1 million to the DSCC, and $250,000 to the Tennessee Democratic Party.  In a strident speech at New York University on May 26 Gore called for the resignations of Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld, CIA director George Tenet and national security adviser Condoleezza Rice.

Strengths and Weaknesses
+ Very well known nationally.
+ Having served as Vice President for eight years, he would be ready for the job of President from Day One.
+ Throughout the 2000 campaign, Gore was hampered by his awkward relationship with President Clinton.  In 2004 he would be able to truly run as his own man.
+ Spending several years in the private sector may make Gore a better, more "in-touch" candidate.
+ Gore still has his share of fervent backers, including those who believe he was robbed in 2000 and deserves a second chance; this core of support could be telling if there is a crowded Democratic field.4

- Many observers believe Gore ran a poor campaign in 2000.  Democrats may not want to give him another opportunity.
- If Gore, as an incumbent Vice President, could not defeat then Governor Bush, it is not likely that he will be able to defeat now President Bush, who will have four years of experience and successful prosecution of the war in Afghanistan under his belt.
- If he runs, Gore would first have to get through a field of candidates in the Democratic primaries.
- Some people simply do not connect or cotton on to Gore, whether it be because of his woodenness or instances such as his sighing one of the debates with Bush.

Readings and Resources
Karen Tumulty.  "The Making of a Comeback."  Time.  November 25, 2002 (on newstands Nov. 18). 

Liza Mundy.  "Mr. Resident." The Washington Post Magazine.  November 17, 2002.

Speeches and Statements
Endorsement of Howard Dean, Dec. 9, 2003.

Speech to  to MoveOn.org, New York University, Aug. 7, 2003.

Letter to Leadership '02 supporters, Dec. 23, 2002.

"Matching our Nation's Economic Course to Our Current Realities," Brookings Institution, Oct. 2, 2002.

Iraq and the War on Terrorism, Commonwealth Club of California, San Francisco, CA, Sept. 23, 2002.

Earth Day Speech, Vanderbilt University, Nashville, TN, April 22, 2002.

"Standing Up," Florida Democratic Party State Conference, Orlando, FL, April 13, 2002 [transcript].  [prepared]

"A Commentary on the War Against Terror: Our Larger Tasks," Council on Foreign Relations, New York, NY, Feb. 12, 2002 [transcript].   [prepared][CFR video]

"For Everything There is a Season," Tennessee Democratic Party's Election Kickoff 2002, Nashville, TN, Feb. 2, 2002.

1. For example, on Feb. 19, 2001 Janet Hessert, an activist from California started the "Al-Gore2004.org" website ("the Internet's largest community of Al Gore supporters"), "dedicated to re-electing Al Gore President of the United States in 2004."  The site, updated regularly, lauded Gore as "an extreme rarity in national politics: a man of principle, who ran his campaign on the issues, as well as accepting campaign spending limits and refusing PAC money..."  In Fall 2001, Dylan Malone, the Everett, Washington father of Ian Malone, an infant whose story Gore took an interest in and who figured in the 2000 campaign, finished work on his Baby Ian site.  Malone stated (4/22/02 e-mail) that he "surveyed the smattering of Gore 2004 sites on the web and felt that is was time to begin a larger scale project with message boards, email services, a news service, newsletters, games, virtual greeting cards, etc."  He and some other webmasters formed the Gore News Network (GNN).  In April 2002, the Al-Gore2004.org site merged into the Malone site to form algore04.com ("The grassroots site dedicated to re-electing Al Gore").   Malone stated, "I've been very lucky to have several talented people step forward and work tirelessly with me on this project--all completely volunteers--we have no payroll."  "The site's visitors provide all the energy that makes things happen on algore04.com," Malone said.  He also formed a committee, The People, Not The Powerful, to raise money for the site.  "I see our mission as building the largest, most energized and organized community of concerned citizens on the Internet," Malone said. 

In terms of party elites, a November 2002 Los Angeles Times poll of DNC members showed many had qualms about a Gore candidacy.

2. After this first event, Gore did a round of Leadership '02 events: Washington, DC on Feb. 22; Miami and Fort Lauderdale, FL on Feb. 27; Washington, DC on March 4; NYC on March 6; and Boston, MA on March 21.

3. Reaction to Gore's re-emergence in the first three months of 2002 was essentially divided into two fields: people who thought he was robbed in 2000 and deserves a second chance, and those who thought he had his shot and blew it.  A number of prominent commentators fell into the second category.  Jack W. Germond, in a Feb. 10, 2002 piece in the Los Angeles Times, wrote bluntly, "The broad and pervasive consensus in the political community today is that Gore is finished as a national candidate."  Ross K. Baker, political science professor at Rutgers, in a Feb. 20, 2002 opinion piece in Newsday ("Should Gore Set Sights on 2008?") was more circumspect, noting that "his reappearance occasioned as many expressions of reserve as of enthusiasm."  Joe Klein in a critical March 27, 2002 piece in Slate ("Run, Al, Run") wrote of Gore that, "He will clutter the race in 2004...and, if nominated, he will lose, decisively this time, to George W. Bush."  Klein nevertheless urged Gore onward, saying he could serve as a "straw man" for other Democratic candidates to cut their teeth upon.  In sum, there was considerable skepticism about the prospects of a second Gore run, although John Harwood in the Feb. 21, 2002 Wall Street Journal did offer a countering view ("Critics Haven't Run Gore Off Road to Nomination in 2004").

4. An outline of Gore's travels in the closing month-plus of the campaign: [Sept. 23-Iraq speech].  Sept. 24-GOTV rally in Santa Fe, NM.  Sept. 25-fundraiser for Richard Romero (NM-1) in Albuquerque, NM; GOTV rally in Las Cruces, NM.  [Oct. 2-economic speech]. Oct. 4-[after seminar at Harvard] for MA gubernatorial candidate Shannon P. O'Brien at farmers market at Harvard Square, fundraiser at U.S. Presidential Museum at the Small Business Services Bureau in Worcester, rally at UMass Memorial Medical Center, fundraiser at the Beechwood Hotel.  Oct. 14-15-campaigning for congressional candidates in IA.  Oct. 16-closed door appearances in Milwaukee, WI.  Oct. 17-House candidate Ed O'Brien at Northampton Community College in Bethlehem, PA.  Oct. 18-fundraiser for gubernatorial candidate Bill Curry at the University of Hartford, Museum of American Political Life in CT.  Oct. 19-with Rep. Jim Maloney (CT-5) in Southbury, CT.  [Oct. 24-public health speech].  [Planned Oct. 26 visit to NH to campaign for gubernatorial candidate Mark Fernald and congressional candidate Katrina Swett cancelled following death of Sen. Paul Wellstone in plane crash].  Oct. 26-Maine Democratic Party dinner in Bangor, ME.  Oct. 28-gubernatorial candidate Jennifer Granholm and Rep. John Conyers at Michigan State University in East Lansing, MI; rally for secretary of state candidate Melvin "Butch" Hollowell in Southfield, MI; several union rallies.  [Oct. 29-Wellstone memorial service in Minneapolis, MN].  Oct. 31-rally with gubernatorial candidate Kathleen Kennedy Townsend before a largely African American audience at Bowie State University, Jewish seniors at Ring House in Rockville, and women in Chevy Chase, MD.  Nov. 1-campaigns in NJ for U.S. Senate candidate Frank Lautenberg and Joseph DiVincenzo for Essex County executive.  Nov. 3-in FL campaigns with Rep. Corinne Brown and Carrie Meek for Bill McBride at three black churches in Orlando area; Bethune Cookman College in Daytona Beach; rally in Miami.  Nov. 4 w/ McBride in Opa-locka.

5. The Draft Gore 2004 Committee, an independent PAC, started organizing soon after Gore made his decision; Monica Friedlander, an editor from Oakland, Calif., chaired the effort and Rebecca Knight of Cookville, Tenn. served as treasurer.  The Committee issued a announced the end of its campaign in a December 8, 2003 statement.
The Leadership '02 website, launched on June 17, 2002. The algore04.com website, an unofficial page, launched in April 2002. [April 2002]. The Al-Gore2004.org website, an unofficial page, launched on Feb. 19, 2001, and continued through April 2002. [April 2002].
Draft Gore 2004 website launched in January 2003. [January 2003].

Copyright © 2001, 2002, 2003, 2004  Eric M. Appleman/Democracy in Action