Wherefore, Gore? Inconvenient Al Makes Party Wait

Every one of Mr. Gore’s current and former associates interviewed for this story pointed to what they said were very real reasons for him not to get involved.

His intervention on Mr. Obama’s behalf, they say, would be seen by Clinton loyalists as a betrayal. If he acted but failed to settle things, he could cement his reputation as something of a jinx. (His endorsement of Howard Dean in 2004 was followed soon afterward by the implosion of that campaign.) And his presence in the race could overshadow the cause of Democratic reunification.

“He would think that any visible step he took to participate in the process would come with so much focus on him that it would cause a distraction,” said one.

To the extent that Mr. Gore makes his decision on that basis, one question he’ll have to weigh is whether he could possibly be more of a distraction from the party’s desired goals—presumably, to produce a nominee who can win in November—than the ongoing tug of war over a few hundred party insiders.

The Clinton campaign, after all, is basing its case at this point on the notion that Mr. Obama can’t win in a general election.

“They have been giving the electability and numbers argument,” said Alaska-based superdelegate Blake Johnson, describing the pitches he has received from the Clinton campaign.

Mr. Obama, meanwhile, is practically begging for the proceedings to be brought to a close. “He was trying to persuade me that it would be good if we all came together right now,” said Robert Rankin, an uncommitted superdelegate and California union veteran who supported John Edwards until he dropped out of the race. “To a degree, he has a point. But there are still 10 states left, and we need to hear from these people.”

Another question Mr. Gore would have to weigh is whether his endorsement would matter.

“I have known Al Gore for a long time and I have great respect for him,” said Pat Waak, the chair of the Colorado Democratic Party and an undecided superdelegate. “But I would say there are other considerations for me—each of us state party chairs have to figure out what is best for our own states.”

“Al’s done well since the election was stolen from him,” said Bob Mulholland, an undecided superdelegate from California. “But no, it wouldn’t be important to me. It might be important to other people.”

It’s all academic until Mr. Gore makes a move. And the party, for now, is still waiting for a sign.

“He enjoys the life he has, and he certainly doesn’t have to convince anybody what he is passionate about,” said Mr. Kessler. “But it’s not as though he has completely walked away from the party. It’s his party. I would look, at some point, if this thing looks like it is going to carry on till late August and to the convention, for Al Gore to step forward to sit down with the candidates and all interested parties to see if there was some way to work something out here.”