04/08/2008 05:12 am ET | Updated May 25, 2011

It Won't Be Gore, Will It?

Here's the thing about a 6-week lull between nominating contests: political journalists, bloggers, and pundits need something to talk about. And in the Internet age, they need a lot to talk and speculate about, even if that something is spinning out endless "could be" scenarios. Enter Joe Klein, who wrote in a column for TIME, that Al Gore could be the unlikely savior for the Democrats come convention time if both Obama and Clinton have limped into Denver, too bloodied by the extended primary to be viable against John McCain. You really can't fault Klein for speculating, even he recognized the slim odds of such a scenario actually playing out. Or perhaps Klein was looking to make a few bucks on Intrade, and figured that priming the rumor mill would boost Gore's stock.

The threshold for the Gore scenario is that the Democratic contest actually continues to the convention. Only under such time pressure and duress would the Gore option be feasible. But despite Senator Clinton's vow to fight until Denver, her threat is a mostly empty one, obviously designed to bolster her candidacy and reassure her constituents in the short term. Party leaders have been voicing their concerns about a drawn-out fight and intimating for weeks that the contest will be over soon after the last primary voting. Yesterday, Politico reported that indeed, the Democratic party elite--think Pelosi, Reid, Dean (though probably not Gore)--has set the wheels in motion to ratify the nominee in June, almost two months before the convention. As far as team Clinton is concerned, the rationale for why June would be too early to select the nominee is that a resolution to the Florida and Michigan delegations may not have been reached--or at least not a resolution acceptable to Clinton. But you can bet that the same Democratic leaders preparing for the June solution are figuring Florida and Michigan into their plans.

Part of the Clinton rhetoric about her long-term strategy has centered on the idea of taking the Florida and Michigan issue to the Credentials Committee. But reports detailing the selection and working of the Credentials Committee have undermined the possibility that involving the Credentials Committee could realistically benefit Senator Clinton. Put simply, Clinton is unlikely to control a majority of the committee and thus will be unable to resolve Florida and Michigan in a way that will sufficiently tilt the delegate count in her favor. In the short term, the problem for Clinton is that the same party leaders working for a tidy June resolution will surely be cognizant of the weakness of her Credentials Committee argument, and know that there's no reason to delay the candidate ratification if nothing would change in Denver.

In effect, Gore's prospects are aligned with Clinton's. Unless the contest comes down to the convention, neither is likely to emerge the nominee. To the extent that Gore truly does want the presidency, he has every incentive to prolong the fight (the current Clinton strategy). And if you were looking for a hidden reason why Gore has not endorsed Obama, consider that his doing so would probably doom Gore's chances, a fact of which his aides are doubtlessly well aware. That is not to say that Gore will not eventually endorse Obama, particularly if a June coronation is all but assured. But the more likely it appears that the fight will continue to the convention, the more likely Gore will remain silent.

It's ironic that the Gore's chances are bound up with Clinton's, given that he would need her assistance in prolonging the race, since the most likely Gore-led ticket is Gore-Obama, not Gore-Clinton. All this Gore talk is not to suggest that he would purposefully muddy the waters in order to preserve his role as savior. Rather, it's just to highlight the longshot of reaching the convention without our nominee already chosen, which leaves no opportunity for Gore to maneuver to the head of the class. Given the wheels now in motion to wrap up the Democratic nomination ASAP, the race probably won't go to the convention and that means that it simply won't be Gore. Okay... it probably won't be Gore.