October 12, 2007

AP sacrifices stylebook on the altar of expediency (and/or reactionary politics)

According to the AP's own Stylebook (scroll 2/3 of the way down to "I sometimes read in the newspaper"), shouldn't the object of the headline in this story be "gunyouth"?

Al Gore should now run for ...

Al Gore should now run for ...

... vice president.

Think about it.

With his secular canonization this morning capping off his 7-year public reinvention, Gore is virtually untouchable in the public arena right now.

Yes, he could leverage that into a run at the top spot.

However, being this late to the Party presents a host of difficulties, not least of which would be a disastrous lag in fundraising and committed donors, bundlers, and ”backers.” There’s also the issue that virtually all of the prominent experienced Dem campaign operatives are committed to Clinton, Obama, or Edwards.

Who, exactly, would primarily fund a Gore campaign? Yes, he’d instantly command a surge of small-donor contributions – but that surge wouldn’t be sustainable, unless he has a Deane/DNC-esque database that he’s kept under wraps (a possibility which, of course, isn’t out of the question). He might get some sympathy/consolation cash from the big donors, but they’d all be loath to alienate their primary dance partners.

And who, exactly, would run a Gore campaign? While there’s certainly the snark factor that, given the relative incompetence and feebleness of the contemporary Dem consultancy, having them all committed to working for one’s opponents could be seen as a boon more than as a hindrance, there’s the more immediate practical effect of not having any ground operations in place, let alone national organization for media and messaging. (The tighter clustering of primaries this cycle could potentially mitigate this factor, or could make it all the more crucial. It certainly reduces the chance of picking up the team of an also-ran who quits early in the sequence—in past years, post-Iowa or –New Hampshire.)

Add to the practical challenges the fact that Gore has repeatedly insisted that he’s sick and tired of the dumbing-down and ameliorism necessary to head a national ticket, as well as the practical and ideological concessions and deal-making incumbent on the top of the ticket, and it’s hard to see how running for president in this cycle has any practical or personal appeal to Gore.

But if he were to conduct a sub rosa campaign for the second slot …

Look: none of the current Dem candidates have any value whatsoever as a second banana. All of their value is tied up in their personalities and framing, which would be for all practical purposes eliminated in the second slot. Not to mention the fact that none of the Dems would provide any crossover or appreciable Red-state appeal as the #2. And there really aren’t any other prominent or likely Dems with established national presence who would.

Gore, on the other hand, would be massively valuable as a Dem VP candidate. As the down-ticket option, he’d be freed up to deliver red meat to the Dem base (I guess the more apposite metaphor would be “tofu”), to pitch his messaging as noble and highfalutin’ (or, for that matter, as dirty and street-fightin’) as he wants, and to address his own signature concerns (environment, science/technology, sensible defense) without watering them down. And he’d bring instant cache, credibility, and celebrity that no one else can.

What’s more, in a post-Cheney/Addington administrative political environment (and with burgeoning Dem majorities in Congress), Gore could have an entirely unfettered hand as a sitting VP to definitively act on those signature concerns in ways he never could have in the ’90s. Just as on the campaign trail, in office as vice president he’d be able to narrow his focus – and act and speak as a more direct partisan – in ways that he couldn’t as president.

The way I see it, Gore for the second slot – under any of the first- or second-tier Dem candidates – would be a win-win-win-win situation: for Gore himself, for the Party, for the nation, and for the world.