Al Gore never quite closed the door on running for president again and his many loyalists are now pinning their hopes on Norway's Nobel committee, in the belief that the prize must be his, this year of all years.
The Nobel Prize will be announced on Friday in Oslo and for many, Mr Gore is head and shoulders above the other 181 candidates. The Nobel committee also has a reputation for making political choices. A peace prize may soon be added to the Emmy he won for his Current TV channel and the Oscar that was awarded last February for his call to arms on climate change, An Inconvenient Truth.
With little debate among candidates about America's role in causing global warming, the Draft Gore movement has been growing by leaps and bounds. It boasts a website that puts most official presidential candidates to shame. It has petitions to sign, a campaign song to sing, Draft Gore buttons, DVDs and ways to contact other Gore enthusiasts. Pre-written opinion articles are on hand on the site urging Mr Gore to run which his supporters are encouraged to plagiarise and send to their local newspaper.
The supporters' group has already gathered about 127,000 signatures this year - 10,000 of them in the last week of September alone - and is planning to take out full-page advert in The New York Times as an open letter urging Mr Gore to run. "We feel that if [Mr Gore] wins the Nobel Prize ... then he can't not run for president," Roy Gayhart, the man behind California's Draft Gore group, told Newsweek.
Mr Gore has said nothing to indicate he might run, and his Nashville headquarters is silent on the question. But people close to the former vice-president are convinced that he is looking for an opportunity to jump in the race as a candidate who really is prepared to bring about urgent change in the face of the looming disaster posed by global warming.
So far in the presidential campaign, candidates have run shy of embracing aggressive measures to deal with America's contribution to climate change. Hillary Clinton, the leading Democratic candidate, has the weakest environmental record of all. And Barack Obama took until this week to come up with proposals that won favour with environmentalists, after first backing a disastrous scheme to subsidise turning coal into petrol.
Mr Obama's plan is full of proposals drafted by climate scientists, including limits on carbon emissions, energy-efficiency targets and billions of dollars for energy research. There is not a word about turning coal into liquid.
The next few weeks are considered crucial for a Gore candidacy. A petition drive for New York State must gather 5,000 signatures between the end of October and early December if he is to be legally entitled to be on the ballot. In Michigan, Gore supporters must get more than 12,000 signatures, and a signed statement by Mr Gore himself to get on next year's primary ballot. His backers are hopeful, however, looking to a recent local TV poll that had 36 per cent of Democratic voters backing him, beating Mrs Clinton with 32 per cent.
But even those who expect him to get the Nobel Prize are unsure they can persuade Mr Gore to run. "I know it's still a real long shot that he'll run," said Fred Koed, of the Massachusetts Draft Gore group. "If I were in his shoes, after the devastating and painful loss in 2000, I'd really have to search inside myself to see if it was all worth doing again. He'll have to determine if this is right for him."
© 2007 The Independent