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Gore on Capitol Hill revives speculation about '08 bid

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There are many reasons for Al Gore not to run for president again.

First, the Democratic field is already well stocked with candidates, and, more important, Democratic voters are happy with their choices. Second, if he were to announce, the former vice president and Oscar-winning climate change uber activist would immediately descend from his celebrity perch and revive all the old criticisms of his campaign style (usually described as stiff and pedantic) and failed presidential effort in 2000.

Another downside to jumping back into presidential politics: no more big-bucks speeches. Since retiring from politics, Mr. Gore has become a wealthy man. He may be loath to return to the days of dialing for dollars – a practice that once landed him in considerable hot water.

But the much-ballyhooed return of Gore to Capitol Hill on Wednesday to deliver testimony on global warming,could not help but revive the 2008 question: Will he run? He has his ardent supporters. And polls continue to show him scoring well in the Democratic nomination race, even as a noncandidate.

A March 9-11 CNN survey of registered Democrats showed Gore in third place with 14 percent, behind Sens. Hillary Rodham Clinton of New York (37 percent) and Barack Obama of Illinois (22 percent), and in a statistical tie with former Sen. John Edwards of North Carolina (12 percent).

One surefire way to tell if Gore really is thinking of jumping in is to watch his girth – i.e., if it starts shrinking – political observers quip. (Though some raise the counterargument that a less-than-slim Gore makes him look real, and not "overly managed," and that would help average Americans relate to him.)

Gore himself insists he "has no plans" to run. But he always leaves that kernel of doubt. Wittingly or not, it may be helping the global-warming cause he has held dear since his days as a member of the House.

"I think, in the end, he is right now not planning on running, and you take him at his word," says John Geer, a political scientist at Vanderbilt University in Nashville. But "he may decide at some point down the road that he will run. He's keeping the window open, because the context could change."

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