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WEB EXCLUSIVE | SCOT LEHIGH

The push to get Gore to run heats up

They've found their candidate.

They've got volunteers.

They've put up a website. Several of them, in fact.

They are raising money for ads.

Signatures are pouring in. Across the country, meetup groups are said to be, well, meeting up.

They are the faithful trying to lure Al Gore into the presidential race, the people behind sites like DraftGore.com and Mass4Gore.com.

Things are going well, they aver -- at least as far as they can tell.

How big is the effort? Hard to say.

"We have 12,000 or so on our signup list," says Monica Friedlander, an Oakland, Calif., communications manager who works regularly on the effort.

Interest surges each time Gore makes it into the headlines in a big way.

He's done that twice recently, first in February, when "An Inconvenient Truth," the documentary about Gore's long efforts to spur the country to action against global warming , took home an Oscar. Last month, he made national news when he urged Congress to address the issue.

"The traffic picked up tremendously in the weeks before and after the Oscars, and it spiked in a very similar way after his Congressional testimony," says Friedlander.

Certainly the petition the group has posted is also attracting more and more signatories. Its message is pithily summed up in the first few lines: "Dear Vice President Gore: Americans from every corner of our nation are calling on you. Please listen to our plea and run for the Democratic nomination for the presidency of the United States in 2008."

"We were at 25,000 sometime in January," Friedlander says. "Now we are at 64,000. We hope in another couple of months to hit 100,000 and hopefully take it to a tipping point where it starts growing fast by itself."

In pursuit of that tipping point, the group hopes to place a full-page ad in a national newspaper to draw attention to their candidate-courting cause.

As I've written before, the logic for a comeback by the former vice president is certainly strong. Gore, after all, won the popular vote in 2000. He would be, hands down, the most experienced candidate in the race. He was a strong figure standing against the tide on Iraq, urging against an invasion back in 2002. And, though dissenters certainly remain, a scientific consensus now sees global warming as the serious concern Gore has long insisted it is.

"He is more than a leader," says Geoffrey Day, a Cambridge consultant who says he is working 40 hours a week or more on the Gore effort. "He is working globally to build a coalition that has never existed before to address a problem no one else has taken this kind of leadership on."

"We understand that Gore is not running right now," adds John Pitkin, a Cambridge-based demographer active with the group. "The question is, what is it going to take to persuade him to run?"

A good question, that. One erstwhile staffer who spoke to Gore recently to sound him out on his intentions says the former vice president didn't betray any interest in getting back in the hunt.

"He didn't say absolutely, cross-my-heart, I will never do it, but he was not encouraging," this person says. "But I think he, if flattered and intrigued by the interest . . . I think he would love to be president, but he just doesn't want to run for it."

Officially, Gore's position hasn't changed: He has no plans to become a candidate.

Kalee Kreider, a spokeswoman for the Gores, says Gore has his hands full with all his other projects, from his now famous slide show to two companies he is involved with to the book he has coming out next month.

But, she says, Gore appreciates the interest people have taken, and the sentiments he encounters as he travels around the country.

"He feels the warm messages that he receives here at the office, that he gets at airports, at speeches around the country," she says. "It means a great deal to him just to hear people be so excited to hear him talk about global warming, to ask about his future plans. He takes it in the heartfelt way in which it is intended. But that said, he really has been very consistent that he has no intention of running."

That, however, isn't about to deter Gore's fans -- not yet, anyway.

"I take it as a good sign that they are not asking us to stop," says Friedlander. "We are a phone call away. If they didn't want us to do it, we wouldn't do it."

Scot Lehigh's e-mail address is lehigh@globe.com.

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