The decision not to run, Gore says, took shape over many weeks and months, taking into account several factors, not the least of which was the last campaign's toll on his personal life. Then there were the political considerations: many, including Gore himself, insist the only way the Democrats and the rest of the country can escape the memory of the 2000 election is by crafting an entirely fresh ticket. And there are Democrats to whom the idea of bringing Gore back for another round was tantamount to surrender to a Bush reelection drive.
Meanwhile, as the two-time presidential candidate is still flicking the settling dust from his shoes, those who would replace Gore are lining up to ask for his endorsement. Ironically, the man who was seen as a long shot to beat Bush is being held up as the "get" of the pre-election warm-up. Lieberman, Kerry and North Carolina's John Edwards have each asked Gore for his support, and he has gone out of his way to heap praise on Tom Daschle and Dick Gephardt, both of whom are also entertaining the idea of running. Who will Gore back? For the moment, anyway, the former candidate is playing coy. "It's really early to make any kind of accurate assessment of what their strengths and weaknesses, respectively, will turn out to be," he told reporters this week.
Is Gore, who says he decided against running for the collective benefit of the country, his party and his family, experiencing a few pangs of regret? Perhaps, but to his credit, you'd never know it to watch his almost jovial exchanges with the press this week. After carrying the burden and the stigma of the 2000 election for more than two years, Gore looks like a man who finally has other, infinitely more important things to worry about.