Al Gore will go to Iowa for a climate change event in May, and evidently a trip to Iowa fuels speculation even for ex-politicians. Gore has been out-of-the-loop politically for many years, yet that might be one of his many advantages. If he shows any interest, the 2016 presidential race might come down to Gore vs. Bush, again.
Talking about an Al Gore presidency means talking about his primary issue for the past 15 years: climate change (technically he’s been working on the issue since 1976).
Pollsters at Pew Research say that views on climate change are divided along partisan lines. In 2014, 79 percent of Democrats believed there was solid evidence the Earth was warming, compared to just 37 percent of Republicans.
Ezra Klein on Vox, who many credit with stirring up the media speculation on an Al Gore run, pointed out in her article “Al Gore should run for president” that no other politician has as much credibility and authority on the issue than the former vice president. That science cred could help him rally the Democratic base around an issue that is becoming more pressing.
With the world on course to warm by four degrees Celsius, more organizations see climate change as an existential threat, and according to the Pentagon, an issue of national security.
Still, those dire omens don’t necessarily add up to vote-grabbing attention. Only 68 percent of Democrats believe climate change is an actual threat to the United States (25 percent for Republicans). For the American population as a whole, only 48 percent see climate change as a threat, well behind concerns like ISIS (67 percent).
Al Gore’s principal topic seems even less attractive considering that only 29 percent of Americans considered climate change a “top policy priority,” according to another Pew survey in early 2014.
That being said, Gore does have other strong points as a potential candidate. He has more political experience than Hillary Clinton, serving on the Hill from 1976 to 1992, first in the House and then in the Senate, followed by eight years as vice president. He’s won more political campaigns than Clinton too (he actually got the Democratic Party’s nomination). He may be a target for every conservative Super PAC donor in the country, but he’s got plenty of wealthy friends of his own in Silicon Valley (he’s also incredibly wealthy himself).
According to the New York Times, even Gore’s doom and gloom lecturing and death-by-Powerpoint style has softened to a more optimistic Al that talks more about the great successes in the fight against climate change rather than the idea that civilization will collapse.
Of course, all of those positive notes come with their own negative footnotes. His finances are complicated, his personal life less than ideal (he and Tipper Gore divorced in 2010), and he carries plenty of political baggage from his many years as a politician. It’s not clear if a man who described himself as a “raging moderate” can succeed in today’s Washington.
On the other side, Jeb Bush is looking more like a potential front-runner for the Republican nomination. A hypothetical political battle between Gore and Bush might sound like Big Oil versus Big Solar to some, but it’s not all that cut and dry. The National Journal reports Bush has fought to keep oil drillers off of Florida’s coast, and bought up millions of acres of wetlands for restoration purposes.
He may not be his brother, but a Gore vs. Bush presidential race still brings up memories of the 2000 race, still a sour moment for Democrats. The urge to avoid a repeat might be enough to get people to the polls.
Nevertheless, Al Gore has not shown any signs of running, as confirmed by his close friends according to MSNBC, but it’s still fun to speculate.
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