Al Gore, the former US vice-president, on Thursday overtook Barack Obama in a closely watched futures betting market on the next Democratic nominee fuelled by speculation that he would pick up the Nobel Peace Prize on Friday.
Although the Nobel committee never informs the winner in advance, online speculators drew energy from the fact that Mr Gore cancelled his attendance at a global warming event in San Francisco on Thursday night, citing an unspecified overseas event on global warming.
Mr Gore also cancelled his attendance as the keynote speaker at a Citicorp conference in Delhi in early December, which coincides with the Peace Prize ceremony in Oslo. Mr Gore’s odds of winning the Democratic nomination for president moved up to 13 per cent on Intrade, the online betting shop, against 11.5 per cent for Mr Obama and 47 per cent for Hillary Clinton.
Mr Gore’s staff did not return calls on Thursday. However, political analysts said it was highly unlikely that he was planning a late entry into the race for the presidential nomination. They pointed out that Mr Gore has moved steadily downwards in the opinion polls since he hit a peak of 18 per cent support last June. His support level is now running at 10 per cent against 43 per cent for Mrs Clinton and 24 per cent for Mr Obama.
“I know of nobody who believes there is even a one per cent chance of Gore entering the race,” said Charlie Cook, one of Washington’s most seasoned analysts. “The Democratic field is already well set with Hillary Clinton in a commanding lead. It is the Republican field that still has gaps and where the race is still wide open.”
The fever around an unlikely Gore entry was bolstered on Wednesday when the New York Times ran a full-page advertisement from a group describing itself as the “Draft Al Gore” group, which said it had gathered 136,000 signatures in favour of his presidential candidacy.
“Many good and caring candidates are contending for the Democratic nomination,” said the advert. “But none of them has the combination of experience, vision, standing in the world, and political courage that you would bring to the job.”
Even if Mr Gore won the prize, few believe he would change his mind about 2008 having repeatedly told reporters he has no plans of throwing his hat into the ring. Competitive candidates would need at least $80m in cash to compete with either Senator Clinton or Mr Obama, both of whom have raised roughly that sum in the first nine months of this year.
In addition, the deadlines for potential nominees to file their candidacies fall over the next few weeks in the states that will be holding the early caucuses and primaries in January. “Normally if a candidate is denying they are running but still planning to do so, then their staff are working on it behind the scenes,” said one Democratic consultant. “None of Gore’s staff are doing that.”