Al Gore's decision to pull out of the 2004 presidential race, announced on CBS' 60 Minutes, was an above the fold story in nearly all newspapers. Was this the action of a man weary of hardball politicking, or is it the canny decision of a politician already plotting his return? Commentators like the American Enterprise Institute's Bill Schneider told NPR this morning that he believes that Gore's chances of ever running again are next to zero.
But perhaps Gore has his eye cocked toward the "Comeback Kid" of the 1960s, Richard Nixon. Like Gore, Nixon lost a close election in 1960—most likely through the fraudulent voting of deceased Democrats in Cook County, Illinois. In response to Nixon's defeat, the Republicans went to their rightwing base in 1964 and nominated Barry Goldwater. Goldwater suffered a huge defeat in 1964. History may repeat itself; it seems that the 2002 Democrats, under the leadership of Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) in the House of Representatives, seem ready to let loose their rabid leftwingers.
In the wake of the 1964 debacle, Nixon rehabilitated himself as a moderate and won the presidency in 1968. My bet is that Gore figures that Bush will likely remain popular through the 2004 election cycle, especially if the Democrats immolate themselves in a frenzy of far leftwing extremism. Also, in the brutal 2004 Democratic primary campaign and presidential campaign, a number of Gore's potential rivals for the Democratic nomination will wear themselves out. Thus, calculates Gore, he will re-emerge as moderate, a la Nixon, and lead his party at long last to victory. It could happen.