Hundreds of loyal "Draft Gore" activists in California and around the nation hope Gore hits a trifecta of public recognition on Friday when the 2007 Nobel Peace Prize is announced. The award of a Nobel Prize could prompt the 2000 Democratic presidential candidate to change his mind and launch a 2008 presidential run, they believe.
"It's like waiting for Grateful Dead tickets to go on sale, back in the day," says Eric Schiller of Moss Beach, an activist with the California arm of America for Gore (americaforgore.org), one of a coalition of 19 independent groups pushing Gore to run for the White House.
Schiller's group collected hundreds of signatures this week at "Draft Gore" tables set up inside Cupertino's Flint Center, where Gore addressed packed audiences for two nights this week.
"He's the favorite, and we're waiting for him to get into the race," said Schiller, whose group has orchestrated a "Two Cents" campaign urging Gore supporters to send the former vice president a simple message of support - two pennies in an envelope. "And we'll have campaigns launched the minute that happens."
Another California-based group, Draftgore.com, took out a full-page "Open Letter to Al Gore" ad Wednesday in the New York Times, paid for by 2,000 donations. The letter implored Gore to enter the race, saying, "You say you have fallen out of love with politics and you have every reason to feel that way. But we know you have not fallen out of love with your country... and your country needs you now."
Monica Friedlander of Oakland, founder of Draftgore.com, said the group has upward of 145,000 signatures online supporting a Gore run and could get another 40,000 by Friday. She said efforts to put Gore's name on presidential ballots in states across the country have been generated by supporters who see him as a Democrat who was prescient in his opposition to America's incursion into Iraq and has shown international leadership on environmental issues.
"I don't think he knows himself the depth and breadth of support he enjoys," she said. "We're getting letters from people who are desperate, who are pleading with him. ... It's overwhelming."
The suggestion that Gore is on the short list to win the Nobel Peace Prize - the coveted award that has recognized a wide range of achievement - has created buzz from the activists at Daily Kos to the oddsmakers at Betsafe.com, who put his chances to win at 3 to 1.
Gore has retained huge affection among the Democratic Party faithful since he won the popular vote but lost the Electoral College vote in the bitterly contested 2000 presidential race against Republican George W. Bush. He regained national stature with the documentary "An Inconvenient Truth," which warned about the danger of global warming and won an Oscar. His television network, Current TV, based in San Francisco, won the Emmy last month for outstanding achievement in interactive television service.
With about three months until the first contests of the 2008 presidential season, and top-tier Democratic presidential candidates Hillary Rodham Clinton, Barack Obama and John Edwards engaged in a spirited contest for their party's nomination, political observers say another Gore candidacy is more wishful thinking than reality.
"Global warming Al Gore" is a lot more popular than "presidential candidate Al Gore," said Phil Trounstine, who heads the San Jose State University Survey and Policy Research Institute.
"There's a huge difference between leading an international environmental movement, in which Gore is both effective and popular, and being a presidential candidate in a (Democratic) field that has three very strong candidates ... who have deep campaign operations already in place."
But such arguments haven't dampened the persistent campaign among the "netroots" activists on Internet sites like the Daily Kos, said Bill Katovsky, author of the recently published book, "The World According to Al Gore: The Incredible Vision of the Man Who Should Be President."
"There's a lot of different threads going on, a very active Internet presence ... which has no connection to his people in Nashville," Katovsky said. "Gore refuses to even acknowledge it. He's coy and even smart. He doesn't want to put himself in the position of being thrown into the race if he's not 100 percent sure."
Though Gore has said repeatedly that he isn't interested in running for president, those involved with the "Draft Gore" movements aren't deterred.
"There's so many things that make it clear he's got the door open," Schiller said.
Schiller insists that for independent groups imploring Gore to run, "it's been green lights all the way. If he had decided not to run for sure, he would have let us know. We don't know whether he wants to be pushed into the race, but he's done nothing to stop us."
Friedlander, too, said her independent movement is "realistic" about getting Gore to jump in and won't continue such efforts forever.
But, she added, "he hasn't made a final decision. ... We're going on as long as he doesn't stop us - and as long as there is still a possibility for him to jump in."
But Gore's 2008 prospects are a longshot in an era when White House campaigns cost tens of millions of dollars and require extensive political ground operations. Already, for example, Clinton has a 30 percentage point lead in the polls in delegate-rich California, a network of prominent endorsers and about 20,000 volunteers - all of which Gore lacks.
Still, Peter Ryder, a Cedar Rapids, Iowa-based activist with Algore.org - which has scheduled a Nov. 11 concert to raise money for its "draft Gore" effort - said even in a state crawling with Democratic presidential candidates, some loyal Gore activists are holding out.
"I was thinking about which candidate to support ... and they're all OK, but no one really strikes me as having all we need," Ryder said. "And then I thought about Gore.
"He has a set of values," and he will approach the campaign "with rationality rather than the politics of fear," he said. "If he will run ... a lot of people think he would be, by far, the best president, potentially a great one."
E-mail Carla Marinucci at firstname.lastname@example.org.
© 2007 The San Francisco Chronicle