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Gore's Prospects for the 2008 Presidential Race

ED GORDON, host:

I'm Ed Gordon and this is NEWS AND NOTES.

The American electorate may not have seen the last of Al Gore. That at least is the conclusion of some pundits who've seen a new documentary featuring the former Democratic presidential candidate.

For more, we go now to our NPR Senior Correspondent Juan Williams in our Political Corner. Juan?

JUAN WILLIAMS reporting:

Thanks, Ed.

I'm joined now by Donna Brazile, former campaign manager for Democratic presidential nominee Al Gore in 2000. Maybe Al Gore this time around, too, Donna?

Ms. DONNA BRAZILE (Democratic Political Consultant; Former Campaign Manager for Democratic Presidential Nominee Al Gore): I don't think so.

(Soundbite of laughter)

WILLIAMS: Donna now runs her own political consulting firm in Washington.

And that laugh is coming from Reverend Joseph Watkins, member of the Government Relations Group at Buchanan Ingersoll. Reverend Watkins was a member of the first President Bush's White House staff. He joins us today from WPHT in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.

Thanks for joining me on Political Corner.

Ms. BRAZILE: Thank you, Juan.

Reverend JOSEPH WATKINS (Member of Government Relations Group, Buchanan Ingersoll): Thanks for having us.

WILLIAMS: Let's start by talking about presidential politics. We have two people in the House who have worked with presidential sorts - George Bush the first and Vice President Gore and his presidential - I mean, Donna, so what are you hearing about Al Gore coming back into the race? I saw where he told The New York Times, no, he's not running. Although, he's got a movie out about the environment, he's not running for president. Should we believe him?

Ms. BRAZILE: Absolutely. For now, we should because this movie, Inconvenient Truth, is a documentary about the threat that global warming pose on our planet. Al Gore has been going around the world with this slide show for as long as I can remember. This documentary is getting rave reviews. It was sold out in New York and Los Angeles last week, where it opened to, you know, wonderful reviews. It will be a nationwide sensation, I think, by July 4th.

Al Gore is not planning to run right now, but he is a very outspoken national statesman in Iraq. If Al Gore decides to run, I think Al Gore would be the frontrunner. He would be right up there with Hillary Clinton as somebody to beat in 2008. But right now, all indication is that Mr. Gore has found another way to serve and that is to help remove the dangers that global warming pose to our planet.

WILLIAMS: Well, Joe Watkins, how does Al Gore look, from the Republican side? Do you see Al Gore as old news or do you see him as a new threat?

Rev. WATKINS: Well, he may be on his way to becoming the next action movie star, as one of the newspapers said about him - about the reception of the movie. Of course, the movie has done very, very well so far. It's opened to rave reviews. And clearly, lots of candidates are able to advance themselves by being non-candidates. Clearly, Al Gore is somebody who not just has national name ID - and now international name ID - but he is a major league player for the Democrats.

And the Democrats have some problems, some challenges. One of the problems that they have, of course, is the fact that Hillary Clinton really is leading the field. She's drawing up monetary sources for other would-be candidates out there. And there're a number of others who would like to be president or would like to run for president as Democrats.

Many Democrats feel that if Hillary Clinton is the nominee of the party in 2008 that the Democrats are sunk; that they are stuck with a losing candidate and the Republicans will take the election in 2008. So Al Gore offers a very attractive alternative to Democrats. He's somebody who's run before for president. He served two terms as vice president.

He had a very, very close race in the presidential runback in 2000. And now, of course, he's become very popular during this period of time when he is a non candidate. He could very, very easily emerge as a very strong and attractive alternative for Democrats who are looking for a candidate for 2008.

WILLIAMS: Donna Brazile, if African-Americans had to pick a Democratic nominee and the choice was Al Gore, Hillary Clinton, John Kerry, John Edwards, where do you think the black vote would go?

Ms. BRAZILE: I think they would be split between Hillary Clinton and Al Gore. Look, they love the Clintons. They love Bill Clinton. There's no question that Bill Clinton remained very, very popular. But they also have enormous respect and affection for Al Gore. Al Gore did receive the popular vote. He had a large black turnout in 2000.

And then I think that in many key states, Al Gore would do better, perhaps, than Hillary, maybe in the South, maybe in some midwestern states. But if Hillary Clinton decides to run and she's not challenged by Al Gore or somebody with significant name recognition and money, Hillary Clinton will not only win the nomination - and I challenge Joe - she can flip a couple of those red states. Joe, look, she can flip New Mexico, she can flip Nevada. I think she can flip Ohio, perhaps Florida.

WILLIAMS: So the black vote gets split between Hillary...

Ms. BRAZILE: No question.

WILLIAMS: ...and Al gore.

Ms. BRAZILE: Absolutely. They love the Clintons and I think Al Gore can continue because of his strong position on Iraq. Remember, African-Americans are deeply opposed to this war in Iraq. Hillary Clinton has been a strong and consistent supporter, although she has criticized the president's management of Iraq. That would separate Hillary Clinton from Al Gore.

WILLIAMS: What's your prediction, Reverend Watkins?

Rev. WATKINS: Sounds like he might be a candidate to me.

(Soundbite of laughter)

Rev. WATKINS: Sounds like he might be a candidate to me.

(Soundbite of laughter)

Ms. BRAZILE: Bring on John McCain, huh?

(Soundbite of laughter)

Rev. WATKINS: That's right. We've got so many exciting candidates on the Republican side of the aisle. 2008 is going to be an exciting year.

WILLIAMS: Any hope for a candidate that African-Americans might get behind, Joe Watkins?

Rev. WATKINS: I think so, on the Republican side, yes.

WILLIAMS: Who's that candidate?

Rev. WATKINS: Well, there are several candidates that will be attractive to Republicans to...

WILLIAMS: No, to African-Americans.

Rev. WATKINS: ...African-Americans, that is. John McCain certainly would be attractive to African-Americans. He is a maverick and he's somebody who speaks his mind. And I think he would do very, very well with African-American voters. And he's also got a lot of crossover vote as well. I mean, he's a very attractive candidate.

You've got Rudy Giuliani. You've got Mitt Romney. You've got...

WILLIAMS: Wait a second. Hold on. Rudy Giuliani? I remember that African-Americans in New York City were very...

Rev. WATKINS: Well, that's...

WILLIAMS: ...antagonistic.

Ms. BRAZILE: Reenergized him.

Rev. WATKINS: Well, that's in New York City. But I think, as a national candidate, Rudy Giuliani is very, very attractive.


Rev. WATKINS: He's a strong, no-nonsense kind of guy. His biggest challenge, of course, comes from conservatives within the party, within the Republican Party, who might not be too terribly attracted to some of his social perspectives.

WILLIAMS: All right. Donna Brazile, former campaign manager for Al Gore in 2000. She now runs her own political consulting firm here in Washington. And, Reverend Joseph Watkins, a member of the Government Relations Group at Buchanan Ingersoll, and a member of the first President Bush's White House staff. He joined us from WPHT in Philadelphia.

Donna, Joe, thanks so much for joining us on Political Corner.

Ms. BRAZILE: Thank you, Juan.

Rev. WATKINS: Thanks, Juan.

WILLIAMS: Back to you, Ed.

GORDON: Thanks, Juan. And don't forget to join us every Thursday for Juan Williams and his Washington Insiders right here on Political Corner. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Juan Williams
Juan Williams, one of America's leading journalists, is a news analyst, appearing regularly on NPR's Morning Edition. Knowledgeable and charismatic, Williams brings insight and depth — hallmarks of NPR programs — to a wide spectrum of issues and ideas.
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