Al Gore has said he

Al Gore has said he will not run in 2004. Is this a positive development for conservatives? My initial reaction is that it doesn’t make much difference. The 2004 election will be a referendum on President Bush. The chances that the identity of the Democratic nominee will change the outcome are very slight, in my opinion. In addition, the Democrats are unlikely to nominate a candidate who differs significantly from Gore. That is, the nominee will almost surely be a left of center opportunist.
To the small degree that Gore’s apparent choice not to run could make a difference, my initial take is that it is not a positive development. If the election is close enough that the identity of Democrat matters, I suspect that the Democratic nominee (Mr. or Ms. X) will be a stronger candidate than Gore, who is carrying a good deal of baggage and just isn’t a particularly good candidate. Some will say that this possible downside to Gore’s withdrawal is offset by the fact that Gore won’t be there to claim the spoils if things go badly for Bush. However, as I suggested above, Mr./Ms. X (and it could be Ms. Clinton) is not likely to be much better than Gore. The one area where we could see a real difference is foreign policy. And keep in mind that, for all his faults, Gore seems to have better instincts on foreign policy than the average top Democrat. He did vote to support war with Iraq in 1991 and has always been a strong backer of Israel (or at least has talked a good game). He seems comparatively unafflicted by the semi-pacifist tendencies of his party. But then, I’m often too quick to see the negative side of things.

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