LOS ANGELES - Al Gore has had a heartwarming February: a big night at the Academy Awards, a Nobel Peace Prize nomination and former president Jimmy Carter's endorsement for the 2008 presidential campaign.
Even so, these dream assets for a politician and the added pressure they're bringing to enter the race are unlikely to sway Gore to jump in, Democrats who know the former vice president said Monday.
Gore, 58, played with the idea Sunday night, when An Inconvenient Truth, the documentary on climate change that he stars in, won Oscars for best documentary feature and best original song. In pre-planned clowning, Gore had begun to announce a political "intention" when the band cut him off.
Two members of Norway's Parliament nominated Gore for the Nobel Peace Prize Feb. 1 for bringing attention to global warming. Carter told ABC News' This Week Sunday that "if Al should decide to run - which I'm afraid he won't - I would support Al Gore."
Backstage and at post-Oscar parties, the 2000 Democratic presidential nominee repeated his longtime assertion that he is not "planning" to run again. Political players read Gore's statement as falling short of an ironclad pledge to stay out. "He's obviously left a little crack in the window or the door," said Chris Lehane, a Democratic strategist and Gore's 2000 campaign press secretary.
"At no time did he say, 'I'm not running,' just three little words," said Monica Friedlander, spokeswoman for DraftGore.com, one of several grass-roots groups pushing for a Gore candidacy.
Friedlander said the Oscars would be "huge" in augmenting the 42,000 signatures the group has collected for a petition asking Gore to run. An additional 1,000 signatures came in Sunday, she said.
Allies of Gore said they take him at his word. "I would like him to run, but I haven't been very persuasive, either," said Elaine Kamarck, a professor at Harvard's Kennedy School of Government and Gore's former policy adviser. She was one of a number of former supporters who met in Boston this month to consider how to jump-start a Gore campaign.
If Gore should decide to run, he'd be in a strong starting position. In a USA TODAY/Gallup Poll of Democratic voters taken Feb. 9-11, Gore trailed only Sens. Hillary Rodham Clinton of New York and Barack Obama of Illinois.
Though Gore was criticized during the 2000 campaign for a stiff manner, "clearly he's far more comfortable with himself" now, said Anita Dunn, a Democratic campaign strategist who worked for Gore's opponent for the 2000 nomination, Bill Bradley.
The new accolades "will fuel further enthusiasm for him to enter the race" but won't influence Gore, said Carter Eskew, a former campaign adviser to Gore.
Gore remains involved on global warming, serves on Apple's board and is an adviser to Google. "He has a full plate," Eskew said.
Carter told ABC that Gore is resisting the calls to re-enter politics. "I don't think he will," Carter said. "I've put so much pressure on Al to run that he's almost gotten aggravated with me."
Eskew said Gore is feeling as fulfilled by the growing impact of his efforts on global warming as he ever did in politics. "Our biggest audience in the 2000 campaign was the 20 million who watched his convention acceptance speech," Eskew said. "Well, (Monday) night a billion people were watching, so you really can have an impact outside of the normal boundaries. He is smart enough to understand how to leverage that."
Ginny Terzano, a former spokeswoman for Gore and now a spokeswoman for Microsoft, says, "He's getting a great deal of personal satisfaction out of changing lives without some of the strings and constrictions that you have running for public office."
"The guy is enormously happy, " Lehane said. "For him, the decision is: 'Let's see, could I make a lot of money and be on stage in front of a billion people, or would I want to be spending the next two years in a Holiday Inn in Dubuque, Iowa?' "
By Martin Kasindorf, USA TODAY