4th July special: back to the Nineties

4th July special: back to the Nineties

Gore and Gingrich reflect on their chances
Bill Clinton, Al Gore, Newt Gingrich
Last August, when I last covered the 2008 US presidential election, the favourites for the nominations were Hillary Clinton by a considerable margin on the Democratic side, and John McCain and George Allen roughly neck-and-neck for the Republicans.

Eleven months later, Clinton and McCain have remained strong in the betting while Allen has faded. Tradesports rates Clinton a 43.45% chance for the Democratic nomination; on the GOP side McCain is at 41.15% and Allen 16.15%.

Meanwhile, as Chris Cillizza in the Washington Post points out, two figures from the last century are emerging as possible contenders. Al Gore, vice-president under Bill Clinton and narrowly defeated for the presidency in 2000, has been edging his way back into national politics for some time — to the extent that Cillizza claims that the top concern of the other candidates’ campaigns is: “What do you hear about Gore?”

Less well publicised has been the possibility of a run by Newt Gingrich, the former Republican Speaker of the House of Representatives who is generally considered the chief figure in winning the House for the GOP in the 1994 elections. But he too has said that he ought to be seen as “potentially available”.

What of their chances? The problem for Gore is that Hillary Clinton has already entrenched herself as the frontrunner and got in there first with the supporters who were associated with Bill Clinton’s administration. If Gore and Clinton fight it out for this support, it seems unlikely Gore could come close to winning: but he could open the race enough to let someone else through the middle. Mark Warner, the former Governor of Virginia, is generally regarded as the best shot from the rest of the field, and can currently be bought for 19.6% on Tradesports. The alternative for Gore — and it is quite feasible given that he and Hillary Clinton have roughly swapped positions on the left–right spectrum over the last 15 years — is to go for the support that Howard Dean attracted in the last race. But this wasn’t enough to take Dean all the way.

As for Gingrich, he has spent quite some time in relative obscurity — and some of the incidents surrounding his divorces have looked rather unattractive. But the current price of 3.7% to back him is surely too cheap for someone with a formidable record of political success in the past.

Philip Grant
Guest editor

Mike Smithson returns on 10th July.

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