While senators Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama will be busy spinning their second-quarter fund-raising results next week as they vie for the Democratic Party's presidential nomination for 2008, former Vice President Al Gore will be rocking out at the Live Earth concert at Giants Stadium in New Jersey.
The difference highlights Gore's focus not on the presidency, but instead on his campaign to promote awareness of the threats posed by global warming.
Yet somehow he has a lead in the polls in an early primary state where U.S. presidential aspirations live free or die: New Hampshire.
The latest New Hampshire presidential poll conducted by WHDH-TV and Suffolk University shows that local Democrats in the Granite State prefer Gore to any of the candidates who are actually running.
When Gore is excluded from the poll, Clinton has a solid lead over her rivals, with support from 37% of respondents, but when he is added to the mix, she loses a quarter of her support and the Oscar-winning environmental crusader wins a majority, with 32% support.
Gore is no stranger to winning majorities. Back in 2000, he won the popular vote in the national presidential election, but President Bush laid claim to the White House thanks to the electoral college tally after controversial vote recount in Florida ended with a 5-4 Supreme Court decision in his favor.
Now, as the country heads toward a crucial election, Gore is back on the national stage. As a candidate, he could match Clinton's claim to experience given his military service in Vietnam, his time in Congress and his eight years in the executive branch as vice president. He could also rival Obama's claim to sound judgment, given his own outspoken opposition to the ill-fated invasion of Iraq.
But as a latecomer to the fund-raising game, could he keep pace with the massive war chests being amassed by the current Democratic front-runners?
"Mr. Gore is not a candidate or potential candidate, therefore he has no fund-raising activities," says Gore's spokeswoman, Kalee Kreider.
Clinton's campaign said Thursday it expects to have raised $27 million in the second quarter of 2007, which ends on Saturday. That tops her record-setting haul of $26 million in the first quarter, and her campaign said it expects Obama's results for the recent period to be even higher.
"The amounts that are currently being raised by candidates at this point in the season are unprecedented in history, so it's hard to say whether Gore could be competitive now if he started from scratch," says Douglas Weber, a researcher with the
Center For Responsive Politics, a nonpartisan organization that tracks money and influence in U.S. politics.
"That said, it's still early," he adds. "We have more than six months to go before the primaries start, and the candidates are showing that they can raise large amounts of money very fast. Gore has obvious connections in the Democratic Party, he's a recognizable figure to the public and he has been very successful personally, so he might be able to finance his own campaign."
While Gore has not been raising funds for a presidential bid, others have been raising money for him. An all-volunteer group boasting tens of thousands of activists is waging a grass-roots campaign to raise money online for him at sites like AlGore.org. There, the senior counselor for Gore's 2000 campaign, David Moorehouse, is quoted saying, "Gore can wait longer than other candidates, because he can raise money on the Internet. ... Should he decide to run, he can raise $15 million in two days."
Personal Financial Ties
While he's not a candidate, Gore has been raising money for the Alliance for Climate Protection, a charitable organization based in that Silicon Valley that he chairs.
The group promotes civic action on global warming, an issue that Gore forced into the national discourse with his Academy Award-winning documentary
An Inconvenient Truth
. He also wrote a book by that title, and more recently, he published a book called
The Assault on Reason
, an indictment of the Bush administration's alleged rejection of reason in favor of "the politics of fear, secrecy, cronyism and blind faith." He also founded an independent media start-up called Current TV.
The current details of his personal finances are not available to the public, but Gore has presumably raised a fortune for himself through these efforts as well as his various causes. He's also chairman of Generation Investment Management LLP, a London-based asset management firm that makes investments focusing on "sustainability factors, including social and environmental responsibility and corporate governance."
As of March 31, that firm had holdings in stocks including
Meanwhile, Gore has ties to some heavy hitters in Silicon Valley who could come to his aid if he jumps into the race. He sits on the board of
and is friends with its CEO, Steve Jobs. He also has been an adviser to
and its CEO, Eric Schmidt.
Back east, the billionaire mayor of New York City, Mike Bloomberg, has publicly encouraged Gore to enter the race, saying it would be "good for the country."
Even with all these factors in his favor, Gore has consistently said it's highly unlikely he will enter the race, but he also has left the door ajar.
"I want him to run, but he's not running," says Donna Brazile, Gore's former campaign manager. "Maybe if we all stop talking about it, he'll decide to run then."
For more on the 2008 campaign, check out John Fout's politics blog and TheStreet.com's series examining the investment ties of the 2008 presidential candidates.