Al Gore to the Rescue?

Stumper's Take: He foresaw global warming. He "took the initiative" on the Internet. And he knew exactly how Iraq would turn out. Who's to say that Al Gore hasn't known all along that the Democratic race would descend into some weird state of gridlock--and that only he, the Goracle, could rescue the party from civil war? Read on for the what if's...

By Eleanor Clift

Al Gore on the second ballot: A scenario that a few weeks ago seemed preposterous is beginning to look plausible to some nervous Democrats looking for a way out of the deadlock between Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama. It goes like this: We love them both, but neither is a sure bet when it comes to electability. It's not about gender and race, each has more mundane vulnerabilities. Hillary's negatives will drive white men to John McCain; Obama's inexperience will require a gut check on the part of voters. What if the super delegates decide not to decide, denying either candidate the requisite number of delegates to secure the party's nomination. Democrats want to win. The new rallying cry: Gore on the second ballot.

The last time a political convention went to a second ballot was 1952, but this is a year with so many twists and turns that nothing is impossible. Gore would be tempted on so many levels. He would only have to endure two months of campaigning, not long enough for voters to remember what they didn't like about him eight years ago. Gore has sat out the primary process, refusing to offer even so much as a hint of where his sentiments lie. Years of playing second-fiddle to Hillary in the White House no doubt precluded his endorsement for her. Surely he would happily take Obama as his running mate, ending the Clinton dynasty and positioning the Democrats for a potential 16-year reign at 1600 Pennsylvania Ave. A Gore-Obama ticket would be unstoppable, the thinking goes, matching the presumptive Republican nominee, McCain, on national security and experience, while embodying a powerful message of change.

The Gore second-ballot scenario isn't being seriously considered by Democratic Party leaders (as far as we know). But a number of individual high-profile Democrats are talking about it, along with any number of other ideas to end the seemingly intractable stalemate.

How could this unfold? Superdelegates are not bound to any candidate. They can do what they want, including changing their mind or withholding an endorsement until the balloting begins. Delegates won in the primaries go to the party's convention with a signed pledge of support for a particular candidate, but one of the biggest myths of the delegate selection process, according to a Democratic National Committee document, is that delegates are bound to follow that pledge on the first ballot. A delegate is asked to "in good conscience reflect the sentiments of those who elected them," a provision designed in part to make the convention a deliberative body. If Hillary's attempts to secure the nomination are seen as illegitimate, and they fail, yet Obama is not seen as a clear victor, Gore's name could be introduced. All it would take is a delegate perhaps from Tennessee, his home state, to raise a point of order, and with backing from five other state delegations, Gore's name could be put in play as a prospective nominee.