Will There Be an Obama/Gore Ticket?
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"Take it from me: Elections matter!" Al Gore shouted to the knowing cheers of the crowd that had gathered to hear the former Vice President endorse Barack Obama. "Elections matter!"
Painting the November presidential contest between Republican John McCain and Democrat Obama as one offering a stark choice between continuation of the failed policies of the past eight years and the renewal of the promise denied when the Supreme Court intervened to make George Bush President, the 2000 Democratic presidential nominee detailed the differences that divide this year's candidates on issues of war and peace, economic justice, civil liberties and even food safety.
Recalling the tainted pet foods that entered the US because of unwise trade policies, stymied regulations and lax inspections during the Bush years, the former Vice President joked, "Even our dogs and cats have learned that elections matter."
With humor, history and a good deal of passion, Gore -- who has advised Obama on climate-change issues for months -- formalized his support for the senator whose election he promised would provide America with "not only a new president, but new policies ... not only a new head of state, but a new vision."
There was no surprise in Monday night's endorsement.
No one doubted that Gore was going to back Obama for president.
It was just a matter of when.
"When" finally came Monday afternoon.
The former vice president posted the "My Endorsement" notice on his AlGore.com website. The statement from the last major Democratic figure to formally climb aboard the Obama bandwagon read:
A few hours from now I will step on stage in Detroit, Michigan to announce my support for Senator Barack Obama. From now through Election Day, I intend to do whatever I can to make sure he is elected President of the United States.
Over the next four years, we are going to face many difficult challenges -- including bringing our troops home from Iraq, fixing our economy, and solving the climate crisis. Barack Obama is clearly the candidate best able to solve these problems and bring change to America.
I've never asked members of AlGore.com to contribute to a political campaign before, but this moment and this election are too important to let pass without taking action.
That's why I am asking you to join me today in showing your support for Barack Obama by making a contribution to his campaign today: https://donate.barackobama.com/support
Over the past 18 months, Barack Obama has united a movement. He knows change does not come from 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue or Capitol Hill. It begins when people stand up and take action.
With the help of millions of supporters like you, Barack Obama will bring the change we so desperately need in order to solve our country's most pressing problems.
If you've already contributed to Barack Obama's campaign, I ask that you consider making another contribution. If you haven't, please join the movement right now:
On the issues that matter most, Barack Obama is clearly the right choice to lead our nation.
We have a lot of work to do in the next few months to elect Barack Obama president and it begins by making a contribution to his campaign today.
The Obama camp took the endorsement from the 2000 Democratic presidential nominee very seriously. The announcement headlined the candidate's official website and the Obama campaign emailed the news to millions of supporters Monday afternoon.
Gore's warm written endorsement left open only one question. Would the line "I intend to do whatever I can to make sure he is elected President of the United States" be read as an acknowledgment that he would accept the Democratic nomination for Vice President.
Gore's appearance with Obama in Detroit on Monday night - before an enthusiastic crowd that packed the sprawling Joe Louis Arena - only fed the speculation.
The last time Obama unveiled a major endorsement, it was also in Michigan - when former Senator John Edwards appeared with the presumptive Democratic nominee in Flint last month. The Obama-Edwards appearance spurred substantial ticket talk.
But, in many senses, Gore is an even stronger vice presidential prospect than Edwards. He has far more legislative and executive-branch experience. He has global respect. He is recognized as a moral leader in the environmental debates that will be central to defining the 21st century. And no one is better positioned to unite Democrats. Always popular with the party base, the Nobel Peace Prize winner is arguably even more well-regarded now - especially with core Democratic constituencies that may still be smarting over Obama's defeat of New York Senator Hillary Clinton in the race for the party's 2008 nomination.
The notion of a former vice president or other top figure in a national political party joining a new ticket is hardly radical.
In 1980, Ronald Reagan seriously considered -- and almost agreed to -- selecting former President Gerald Ford, who had also served as vice president, to a GOP unity ticket. In 1964, there was much talk about making United Nations Ambassador Adlai Stevenson, who had twice been the Democratic nominee for president, Lyndon Johnson's running mate.
In Gore's case, the argument for ticket speculation is even stronger than it was for Ford or Stevenson.
After all, Ford and Stevenson were both defeated in their runs for the presidency.
Gore, on the other hand, won the popular vote for president in 2000.
And the bitter experience of being denied the office that a clear plurality of Americans wanted him to occupy has taught the former vice president the essential lesson of American politics: "Elections matter."
Gore understanding of that fact could make him an invaluable addition to an Obama-led ticket.
John Nichols is The Nation's Washington correspondent.