Local News

Gore: Race Against Bush Would Be Too Focused On Past

Posted December 16, 2002 5:26 a.m. EST

— Twelve years of presidential campaigns are enough for Al Gore, who said Monday he decided against running for president in 2004 even though he realized it would probably be his last chance to seek the office.

Gore, who won the vice presidency in 1992 and 1996 on a ticket with Bill Clinton, announced Sunday on CBS' "60 Minutes" that he would not try again for president, an office he first sought in 1988.

He won the presidential popular vote by a half-million votes in 2000 but conceded to George W. Bush after a tumultuous 36-day recount in Florida and a 5-4 Supreme Court vote against him.

The attention on that race was a primary reason for his decision, he said Monday.

"Because a race this time around would have focused on a Bush-Gore rematch, I felt the focus of that race would inevitably been more on the past than it should have been, when all races should be focused on the future," he said.

"I made the decision in the full awareness that that probably means I will never have another opportunity to run for president, and I'm at peace with that."

Gore and his wife, Tipper, were in Raleigh to sign copies of their book, "Joined at the Heart: The Transformation of the American Family." His appearance at Quail Ridge Books is scheduled for 6 p.m. Tickets are required. His appearance was scheduled long before Sunday's announcement.

The decision took many by surprise. Some close aides had expected him to start making calls to political and financial advisers, then make his decision over the Christmas holidays.

Gore said he had those conversations in the past week as friends and family gathered in New York to watch him as guest host of NBC's "Saturday Night Live."

"I felt I'd rather make the decision sooner rather than later," he said. He told CBS reporter Leslie Stahl of his plans on Friday, then kept the decision to himself until Sunday's broadcast.

During the "60 Minutes" interview, Gore, 54, said he still had the energy and drive to run again. But he said "there are a lot of people within the Democratic Party who felt exhausted (by the 2000 race) ... who felt like, OK, `I don't want to go through that again.' And I'm frankly sensitive to that feeling."

With Gore out of the running, the field of Democratic challengers to President Bush in 2004 could grow. U.S. Sen. John Edwards of North Carolina has been mentioned as a possible candidate, along with Senate Democratic leader Tom Daschle, Missouri Rep. Dick Gephardt, Massachusetts Sen. John Kerry, Vermont Gov. Howard Dean and U.S. Sen. Joseph Lieberman of Connecticut, Gore's running mate in 2000.

Gore said he hadn't decided whether to endorse any of them.

"I have not ruled anyone in or anyone out. I probably will endorse someone," he said. "I have contacted directly senators Edwards, Lieberman and Kerry, and each of them has asked for my support and I am grateful for that."

He added with a laugh: "It's not just my support. I'm very influential with my wife and children - and take it from me, a half a dozen votes could make a difference."