WASHINGTON Now that former Vice President Al Gore has won the Nobel Peace Prize, will he use the buzz from the award to launch a late bid for the presidency in 2008?
People close to Gore, 59, do not think so but thousands of Democratic activists are pleading with him to reconsider and join the crowded Democratic field.
In brief remarks in Palo Alto, California, on Friday, Gore did not address the presidential race but did not rule it out either.
"I will be doing everything I can to try to understand how to best use the honor and recognition of this award as a way of speeding up the change in awareness and the change in urgency," Gore said.
An organization called www.draftgore.com said the award "will only add to the tremendous tidal wave of support for Al Gore and the growing demands that he become a candidate for president in 2008."
"We believe that under these circumstances he has no choice but to take the one step left to have the greatest impact in changing policy on global warming -- run for president," it said.
But a Gore adviser, Michael Feldman, said after Gore's remarks: "He's not planning a campaign for president. What you saw today is a guy fully focused on the issue he's been working on for 30 years. He's trying to figure out a way to solve the climate crisis."
Another Gore adviser, Carter Eskew, said he talks to Gore about once a week and thinks chances of him running are extremely slim.
"He's making no moves and no sounds to indicate to me that he's going to run," Eskew said.
Gore spokeswoman Kalee Kreider also said he has no intentions of running for president in 2008.
The Nobel award was in many ways a vindication for Gore, who in 2000 lost the closest presidential election in U.S. history to Republican George W. Bush, and who was derided during the 1992 election as "ozone man" by then-President George H.W. Bush.
It would be hard, but not impossible, for Gore to run. It would require a major organizational effort given that the first contest on the road to November 2008, the Iowa caucuses, are less than 100 days away.
Also, said Democratic strategist Jenny Backus, "The Democratic base is not unhappy with our current choice of candidates -- in fact we have an embarrassment of riches."
If Gore were to leap in, he would become just another Democratic candidate and "he would go quickly from being the guy, to being one of the guys and gals in the race," Backus said.
DOESN'T FEEL RIGHT
Gore, whose global warming crusade was the topic of the Oscar-winning documentary "An Inconvenient Truth," has said recently that "it doesn't feel like the right thing for me to be a candidate at this point," and that it might be better to focus solely on climate change challenges.
"It may well be that the best use of whatever skills and talents and experiences that I have gained is to concentrate on creating that sea change in mass opinion about this issue, so that whoever is elected will face a groundswell from the people themselves," Gore told 02138 Magazine, which focuses on Harvard University.
Former President Jimmy Carter told MSNBC he has hoped for some time that Gore would run again.
"I don't think there's any doubt that Al Gore would be the best qualified person to be president of the United States," he said.
The pressure on Gore is rooted to some extent in worries among some Democrats that candidates Hillary Clinton, Barack Obama and John Edwards could be beaten by the Republican nominee in 2008.
Clinton, Obama and Edwards all issued statements of appreciation for Gore, as did Bush.
At a time when the United States is approaching the most wide-open presidential race in more than 50 years, former aides like Julia Payne say Gore does not talk much about politics, recalling that she saw him at the wedding of a former staffer recently in Nashville, Tennessee.
"The last time I talked with the vice president, we talked light bulbs, not politics," she said.
(Additional reporting by Jim Christie in San Francisco)
(To read more about the U.S. political campaign, visit Reuters "Tales from the Trail: 2008" online at blogs.reuters.com/trail08/)