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March 21, 2006

The Gore-Leaf Clover that I Overlooked Be-Gore

by Nicholas Beaudrot of Electoral Math

I found Ezra's Gore article fascinating, but I ended up somewhat bearish on his Presidential ambitions  (Gore's, that is; Ezra, when you're ready to become the First Jewish President, let me know if you need a field director or a pollster). That is, I'm not entirely sure he's running for President. The first reason is that upon assuming the Presidency, if not during the campaign, he would be forced by political pressure to end his work with Current TV and other media enterprises. The main reason, though, is same reason I think some of Ezra's latest comments land off the mark:

No longer. Dean -- unlike Bill Bradley, or John McCain, or Gary Hart -- did not win any of the early primaries. He lost them. What was unique about his insurgency is that he went from darkest, quietest horse to frontrunner in a matter of months, without winning a single state. He did it through direct communication with the small core of party activists who can singlehandedly make a candidacy. And they made his, until poor ads, some major gaffes, and an overly-mational focus lost him Iowa. But in 2008, that core will enlarge, and the media will be watching them closely. Win them over, and you might well win the nomination.

First of all, Bradley didn't win any primaries. He gave Gore a scare in New Hampshire, but exit polls showed Bradley winning wealthy Democrats and young Democrats, while Gore carried the stolid working class demographics that he rode to victory in states that have fewer "yippies". Political observers knew it was all over after New Hampshire. (Similary, Paul Tsongas's pyrrhic victory in New Hampshire follows similar trends, though Clinton had to dig himelf out of a much bigger hole).

Second, the proof seems to be in the pudding. As Ezra concedes, every candidate who seeks to excite the activist base ends up losing primaries. Hart's campaign came the closest to winning, but we need to remember that it was Jerry Brown and Paul Tsongas who sought the yuppie/yippie vote in 1992. The Trippi/Dean/Klein theory of Presidential campaigns suggests that the Internet allows candidates to get their message to activists at a blindingly fast pace, creating a giant network to influence the main news narratives of the day. But why should Gore have an advantage heredel? In 2008, unlike Dean in '04, Gore would have to compete for activists' bandwidth (literally) with Edwards, Feingold, Clark, and others, each with their own internet loyalists. And social stratification means that heavy internet users -- who have more formal education, higher incomes, and are more likely to be urban and single -- won't spend that much time talking about politics working class voters with a high school or maybe a two-year college degree. So I just don't see MoveOn and similar "viral marketing" techniques being able to "infect" the entire nation.

Coincidentally, Ezra's article is up for debate on the same day that Mark Penn writes an op-ed in the Washington Post on the continued importance of swing voters. Penn -- who was Clinton's pollster in 1996 and is currently Hillary's pollster -- points out that these voters are the anti-activists: "[t]he two or three or 10 voters who are the quietest in focus groups, who never demonstrate and who belong to no political party ...". But that doesn't make their votes less important on election day. So while I love Gore's attempts to create a more community driven media environment, and his challenge to the notion that objectivity the holy grail of professional journalism, I don't think it's the start of his Presidential campaign.

March 21, 2006 in Democrats | Permalink

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Gore Not Planning to Run for President
By ROSE FRENCH
Associated Press Writer

March 20, 2006, 9:46 PM EST

MURFREESBORO, Tenn. -- Former Vice President Al Gore said Monday he's not planning to run for president in 2008 but hasn't ruled out a future in politics.

"I'm enjoying what I'm doing," Gore told an audience at Middle Tennessee State University, where he gave a lecture on global warming, one in a series.

"I'm not planning to be a candidate again. I haven't reached a stage in my life where I'm willing to say I will never consider something like this," he said. "But I'm not saying that to be coy; I'm just saying that to be honest -- that I haven't reached that point."

Gore, a Democrat, lost the electoral vote to George W. Bush in 2000 in one of the closest presidential elections in history. Some Democrats still keep him in mind for another presidential run, according to several early polls on potential candidates.

Since his loss, Gore, who turns 58 next week, has occasionally delivered speeches on global warming and other political issues, often criticizing Bush policies.

He also co-founded a television network, Current TV, which started in August and mostly features documentaries by young filmmakers.

"An Inconvenient Truth," a documentary on Gore's global warming awareness campaign, premiered this year.

Copyright 2006 Newsday Inc.

Posted by: Al Gore | Mar 21, 2006 7:09:15 PM

"As Ezra concedes, every candidate who seeks to excite the activist base ends up losing primaries. Hart's campaign came the closest to winning"

FWIW, Hart's campaign wasn't about exciting the activist base. The best analogy to the '84 race would be the '00 GOP race, with Hart in the McCain slot of the independent, charismatic challenger against Mondale in the Bush slot of the loyalist party favorite.

Hart was closer to the center than Mondale, much like McCain was closer to the center than Bush. That is not a trait you find in campaigns that excite the activists.

Posted by: Petey | Mar 21, 2006 7:22:48 PM

Well, thank you, "Al", but of course, that statement leaves things open a bit, right? "I'm not planning to be a candidate again" is not the same as "I will not run", right?

Posted by: Nicholas Beaudrot | Mar 21, 2006 7:23:14 PM

"Ezra for President!"...it certainly has a nice ring to it. Unfortunately, Ezra won't "legal" until about 2020. I hope the US will be ready for a Jewish president before that. If not Feingold, then Spitzer. (God forbid, Lieberman.)


Posted by: Lindsay Beyerstein | Mar 21, 2006 9:03:21 PM

"Ezra won't "legal" until about 2020."

He could always get a fake ID...

Posted by: Petey | Mar 21, 2006 9:21:04 PM

Nick,
Shame on you for the title. "Be-gore" indeed.

I enjoyed Ezra's article on Gore. But I don't think he's convinced me. Not by a long shot. I think that it's great that Gore has loosened up, found his voice and is speaking so cogently and doing so much good work. But do I think he should be given a second shot? Hell no.

Everybody mentions the fact that he has baggage. But baggage can be overcome. What I'm more concerned about is the night-and-day difference between Gore the effortlessly articulate spokesperson for the left and Gore the stiff, stuffed presidential candidate. Ezra has his heart set on one Gore, but who knows which one would show up if all the responsibilities, the crushing pressures, the sheer importance of it all falls upon his shoulders again?

Gore is like the Sasha Cohen of politics in that way. We know that they both have the ability to get the job done, but there's something about high-pressure that does not bring out the best in some people.

Posted by: battlepanda | Mar 21, 2006 10:23:06 PM

"What I'm more concerned about is the night-and-day difference between Gore the effortlessly articulate spokesperson for the left and Gore the stiff, stuffed presidential candidate."

I think it's worse than that. Gore the effortlessly articulate spokesperson for the left is still an awful TV performer. We love the new Algore because we love the content of what he's saying. But if you pretend you don't understand the content (a good way to judge TV performance), the new passionate Algore comes off as rather unhinged.

Gore has always had only two presentation modes: the low-key stiff schoolmarmish lecturer and the bombastic, overly theatrical lectern pounder. He's missing a middle speed and intensity that all good performers have.

Posted by: Petey | Mar 21, 2006 11:37:27 PM

Gore the effortlessly articulate spokesperson for the left is still an awful TV performer.

That's really not true at all. How many of his speeches have you seen? He's far more engaging at a podium than the vast majority of national politicians, including the two would-be frontrunners, Hillary and McCain. Of the other prospective candidates, Edwards is better, but Edwards has a fantastically limited range (and personally rubs me the wrong way - rhetorically he engages in fluff, which irritates me. I realize fluff sells, but again, he only deals in one type of fluff; he also seems congenitally incapable of looking tough, which is a killer on anything national security-related).

In his speeches over the last few years, Gore has been consistently entertaining, quick-witted, eloquent, and forceful; his more strident moments have ended up out of context as "crazy Gore" shots on the Drudge Report, but that's nothing that couldn't be said for (pre-scream) Howard Dean, who also consistently looked good on television (with the exception of his terrible campaign ads). The fear that Republicans might misrepresent Gore or take his soundbites out of context doesn't make him an "awful TV performer," nor is Gore more prone to this than other candidates; any Democrat will be slimed and smeared by the GOP, no matter how bright and TV-friendly they are.

Also, what's up with calling him "Algore"? I realize Rush Limbaugh popularized this among wingnuts a few years back in one of those intensely awkward "it's funny because Rush Limbaugh says it's funny" moments, but I still really don't get it.

Posted by: Iron Lungfish | Mar 22, 2006 1:43:19 AM

"Howard Dean, who also consistently looked good on television"

Ummm... If you want someone who makes Gore's performance style look good in contrast...

"In his speeches over the last few years, Gore has been consistently entertaining, quick-witted, eloquent, and forceful"

OK. Now ditch the "entertaining", "quick-witted", and "eloquent" words. They're all about content.

Like I mentioned above, to get a sense of whether or not a politician is good on TV or not, you've got to be able to separate their performance from the content of what they're saying.

Imagine they're speaking a foreign language you don't understand. Or imagine they're from the opposite party than they actually are.

I've watched a couple of Gore's recent speeches in their entirety, and performance-wise, it's still pretty atrocious. To say something good about him, he seems to have realized his best bet is to ape his performance at the '00 Dem convention where he spoke in a flat monotone, but quickly. He's been using that mode more often than he used to, which is good. But when that's your best bet, that's bad.

The reason performance separated from content is important is that's basically how apolitical swing voters are evaluating the candidates. They don't care what's being said. They're just trying to evaluate the human qualities of a candidate based on interpersonal cues.

And based on the interpersonal cues he communicates over the TV set, Gore is still not anymore of an attractive candidate than he was six years ago.

-----

"Also, what's up with calling him "Algore"? I realize Rush Limbaugh popularized this among wingnuts a few years back"

I'm not up on the Rush oeuvre, so I didn't realize that's where it was coming from. It just seemed to me to capture a bit of Gore's essential flatness. But if that's really where it came from, I'm no longer comfortable using it. (I still cringe when lefties use "MSM" because of the provenance of that acronym.)

Posted by: Petey | Mar 22, 2006 2:17:17 AM

Nick and everybody,
Ezra's article is really complicated, and could use some diagrams to help it. The difficult part is the way the mechanism he's proposing will work. It's very easy to draw false conclusions about what he's saying, so I'm going to try to lay out what I think that is:

Gore gets a ton of support from yuppies like me on the net. THIS IS IMPORTANT PRIMARILY BECAUSE IT BECOMES THE NARRATIVE THE MEDIA TELLS. As much as Ezra talks about Gore trying to bypass the mainstream media, his actual mechanism is actually about using them properly. In order to do that, you have to be able to connect with a relatively (millions) small group of activist types.

The reason Howard Dean got anywhere was that in the beginning the media narrative was about how popular he was, how all these democrats were supporting him, how revolutionary his campaign was etc...
Unfortunately, that was only half the narrative--the crazy liberal Howard Dean story got told too.

Ezra tells us that Gore's problem in 2000 was the lack of enthusiastic support from anyone. That created a story that the media easily ran with. If, however, the big story is how popular Gore is and how much support he has in the party, then that's what the media will report. And it will shape voter's perceptions of Gore and help him win. Now, maybe there'll be a nasty counter-narrative, but what can they throw at him? The man was vice president for eight years, the stiff and unpopular story won't stick anymore, so they'd have to call him a crazy liberal. That was a lot easier to do to Howard Dean.

Please correct me if I'm wrong. I think a lot of the arguments against Ezra aren't focused on the nitty-gritty of what he's proposing, so they're not good arguments.

Posted by: Cliff | Mar 22, 2006 2:56:15 AM

Grading the '08 Contenders as TV Performers:

Edwards A+ Uncommonly good. In the same league as Reagan and Clinton.
McCain A- Better in one on one interviews than in lectern speeches. Can seem harsh.
Allen A- Better in lectern speeches than one on one interviews. Very sunny.
Romney B Perfectly competent as a performer, but not exciting.
Clinton B- Very limited range. Has trouble when she tries to get loud. Has trouble projecting empathy.
Gore C- Plenty of range, but has trouble in all of them.
Kerry D+ Makes Gore look good in comparison. Always seems distant and unfriendly.
Warner Inc Seems competent, much like Romney. I haven't seen enough of him to give a grade.

Posted by: Petey | Mar 22, 2006 2:57:42 AM

Now ditch the "entertaining", "quick-witted", and "eloquent" words. They're all about content.

Since when has "entertaining" and "quick-witted" referred to anything other than presentation? Those terms don't refer to content at all. I'm obviously not going to convince you if you've decided that Gore is simply a bad performer; anyway, it really just sounds like you've just seen excerpts of his Iraq and Patriot Act speeches around the time of the '04 campaign and have used that to make your trite "bombastic podium thumper" generalization. The fact that you thought Dean was a bad performer discredits your ability to guage this wildly; Dean wildly outperformed anybody in the primaries, including John "I Have One Speech And I Will Repeat It For The Rest Of My Political Career" Edwards.

Posted by: Iron Lungfish | Mar 22, 2006 3:17:37 AM

Edwards A+ Uncommonly good. In the same league as Reagan and Clinton.

Reagan and Clinton both could talk on multiple subjects. Edwards can talk on poverty annnnd... that's it. And he'll do pretty well for when he's talking on poverty. But when, for instance, the Republican he's running against inevitably calls him a weak, namby-pamby terrorist-hugger, he'll have to do more than bat his eyes and tell us the one about the two Americas again.

Posted by: Iron Lungfish | Mar 22, 2006 3:36:58 AM

"it really just sounds like you've just seen excerpts of his Iraq and Patriot Act speeches"

Well, I said upthread that I'd seen a couple of recent Gore speeches in their entirety. If you think I'm a liar, I can certainly understand why you wouldn't value anything I said. Cheers.

Posted by: Petey | Mar 22, 2006 4:15:49 AM

The Trippi/Dean/Klein theory of Presidential campaigns suggests that the Internet allows candidates to get their message to activists at a blindingly fast pace, creating a giant network to influence the main news narratives of the day.

This is precisely what happened and the media lapped it up. So, what DID happen two weeks before the scream, when Dean really started to go down hill? The non-activists started to actually pay attention. This is precisely why I think Petey is right. We here in the attentive political blogging/activist world get lost in our favorites and seem to not really have a grasp on how alot of the people who should be a part of our party thing. The whole out of touch with the mainstream claim (although not in the same way our conservative friends would have us believe.) Its not about whats is coming out of a candidate's mouth, its how its coming out. Alot of those Iowans (sp?) didn't like the way Dean looked or sounded or something to that effect. Some of these people when polled 3 weeks or earlier prior to the caucas may have tossed his name out, but only because thats what the media and maybe some of their friends, relatives and neighbors were saying. When it came time to really give it thought, they didn't "like" him. And like had nothing to do with Deans plans and policy, but everything to do with Dean the man.

I really have no comment on Gore. But just to say that just because a candidate excites the base, the people who pay attention way before its time to cast a vote, doesn't make that person actually appeal to the majority of would-be voters, Democrat or otherwise, who phase out until its time to vote. I specifically remember there being a bunch of undecideds up until voting time as well, they did not break the way I expected them to.

Posted by: Adrock | Mar 22, 2006 10:51:31 AM

Anybody who puts Edwards at an A+ for presentation shouldn't be acting so authoritative, in my opinion. Edwards is nice, he's sunny, but he let Cheney walk all over him and whenever he's asked a question he hasn't directly prepared for, you can actually smell the bullshit as it comes out of his mouth. It's like he has no idea what he's talking about. Some of his Primary Debate performances were embarrassing. To me, he's just not substantive enough to be President.

I don't know, I know I'm biased. I love Gore, always have. And with each passing year, it becomes clearer that our country would be a very different, and much better place if he had won in 2000. For everyone.

Posted by: spike | Mar 22, 2006 11:08:36 AM

"I don't know, I know I'm biased. I love Gore, always have."

Sure. I'm a Gore fan too. The trick is in trying to see how Gore comes off to folks who aren't biased.

Personally, I'm biased toward Dennis Kucinich. I voted for Kucininch in the '04 primaries because Edwards was dead by the time my state rolled around. But I still know Kucinich has some major problems with being telegenic.

Posted by: Petey | Mar 22, 2006 12:55:44 PM

"When it came time to really give it thought, they didn't "like" him. And like had nothing to do with Deans plans and policy, but everything to do with Dean the man."

Yup. Or more precisely, Dean the man as projected through the TV box.

-----

My own history in discovering Dean:

I went to a couple of anti-war rallies in late winter '03, and noticed that Dean had a huge amount of buzz. This intrigued me, as I vaguely knew about Dean through his governorship, and thought he might be able to be a viable candidate.

Fast forward to spring '03, and the first Democratic debate. I'd never seen Dean on TV before, and was excited to get to see him perform. Five minutes into the debate, by the end of Dean's first answer, I was no longer excited or intrigued. I have no idea what he said, but the interpersonal cues he was communicating said to me that he was not a viable candidate for the Presidency.

Just by being here at this blog, we're more politically clued in than 90% of American voters. We actually care about the substance of what a candidate says. But there's a far more superficial level that sways the vote of a huge chunk of more apolitical voters, and that superficial level is mostly about how the candidate appears on TV.

Posted by: Petey | Mar 22, 2006 1:09:05 PM

I think that Gore would be a fantastic president, but I am worried that he would be a lousy candidate too. Unlike the Republican candidate, our candidate has to appeal to the unengaged voter. The Republican can be an illiterate, cross-eyed stiff and get the "charisma" and "steely-eyed" label applied while a Democratic candidate like Clinton (W.J.) or Obama is viewed through the media haze as just barely tolerable.

Posted by: J Bean | Mar 22, 2006 3:24:39 PM

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Posted by: peterwei | Oct 22, 2007 12:58:11 AM

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