Back in 2004, when Al Gore threw his weight behind Howard Dean, his endorsement didn't mean so much. But since Al-the-Bore's extreme makeover, in which he magically transformed from a grizzled, depressive also-ran into a Nobel Prize–winning environmentalist and Hollywood darling with a powerful economic voice (he's on the board of Apple and a consultant to Google, among other things), Gore's blessing has become very prized indeed. "Gore is, without question, the biggest 'get' when it comes to the fight for endorsements on the Democratic side," the Washington Post noted earlier this fall, and Ted Kennedy's endorsement of Barack Obama the other day was barely out of his mouth before pundits started wondering when, or if, the Goreacle might speak.
But despite Gore's pronouncement that he would endorse a candidate before the end of primary season, and despite the fact that he met with several of the candidates early in the process, he's so far kept mum. "Whether Kennedy's alliance will persuade Gore to end his neutrality remains to be seen," the Guardian wrote, somewhat hopefully. But last night, a close adviser told the Atlantic that Gore had no plans to make an endorsement anytime soon, and some suggest he may never. "In many respects, he has transcended partisan politics," a former aide, Christopher Lehane, told the Sun last month. "I think he'll be extremely sensitive about doing anything that could potentially impact his global brand."
Certainly Gore's abstinence from the process would be a relief for Hillary Clinton, since it's highly doubtful Gore would endorse her campaign. As everyone knows, there's no love between the Clintons and Gore, who was critical of the president back in 2000, and Hillary was the only top-tier Democratic candidate Gore hasn't met with.
Even without the spite factor, Gore's ideals align better with Obama, who, like him, opposed the war in Iraq from the beginning. But will he do it? Some people think that the nature of Gore means he might not be able to help himself. "If he has a chance to make an influential endorsement … does he have the willpower to refrain?" asked David Roberts on the environmental blog Grist. "I don't see how. It would be such sweet balance to his botched endorsement of Howard Dean in '04 … If the Dem. primary reaches the point where Gore could become kingmaker, I suspect the temptation will be irresistible." And will the temptation to knife his old pal Hillary be just as strong? Combined with the Kennedy endorsement, a Gore endorsement of Obama — and maybe even more important, the un-endorsement of Hillary from another champion of the party — would likely deliver the Democratic base to Obama, and, as Michael Crowley wrote on the New Republic's blog, "deliver something close to a death blow," to Clinton's campaign. Will the Goreacle be beneficent or evil? It must keep her awake at night.