THE NOTE: Does Nobel Win Push Gore Toward ’08?

Why try to be president when you already rule the world?

This time, the exit polls were right: The Nobel Peace Prize earns its place on Al Gore's crowded mantle, alongside the Oscar, the Emmy, the Presidents' Trophy (best regular-season record, 2000), and -- of course -- the lockbox and the Internet.

And so the remarkable rehabilitation/vindication/celebration of Albert Arnold Gore Jr. is complete. But the speculation (round 219) has only just begun.

The ragtag "Draft Gore" folks know nothing if not timing, and this is their last best chance. They don't seem to care that Gore has shown approximately zero interest in running for president again -- and that the smart money says he's too happy with his life to jump back into dirty politics, that he doesn't need it now like he once did.

Gore remains the single individual with the most power to shake up the Democratic race for president. He is a vessel for the hopes and aspirations of countless dispirited Democrats who still think the presidency was rightfully his, who have grown more frustrated with every passing year of the Bush presidency, and who love the storyline of a triumphant return.

And (though the disaffection with the candidates is nowhere near what it is on the Republican side) the interest in Gore speaks to lingering concerns about the Democrats who are actually running -- particularly frontrunner Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton, D-N.Y.

"Gore's 2007 has been a breezy stroll down the red carpet, and a near endless loop of will-he-or-won't-he speculation surrounding a potential second run for the White House," ABC's Nitya Venkataraman writes. "For the former vice president's legion of grassroots supporters, the suspense has been agony as they wait for the 'Gore-acle' to divine, what they deem to be, an infallible political future."

The peace prize, she writes, "could provide the most 'climatic' and climactic opportunity to date for the Democratic presidential nominee of 2000 to announce White House intentions for 2008."

"The Nobel is a vindication that could impact the upcoming presidential race: Gore's supporters have repeatedly urged him to enter the race, and the luster of the peace prize may add to that push," Howard Schneider and Debbi Wilgoren write on The Washington Post's Website. "But the former vice president, whose background includes a Harvard education and deep roots in Tennessee politics, has seemed disinclined to enter the fray. He has focused more on undertakings like last summer's 'Live Earth' concerts."

Gore confidantes aren't optimistic.

Former Gore campaign manager Donna Brazile tells The Note, "I don't know if this will re-shape him or allow him to move back gracefully into politics. I believe Gore wants to be above the fray and not back in the middle."

But, Brazile said, he can wield his enhanced power with an endorsement (one he hopes turns out better than his support of Howard Dean, of course): "With the Nobel Prize now his to claim, Gore can play kingmaker and help the Dems win the White House in 2008."

The other candidates say they're quite thrilled with Gore's victory, but how long would those sentiments last if he made noises about getting in the race? Or if (and when) he makes an endorsement? (And we're sure Howard Wolfson is concocting some plan to get Sen. Clinton to win "American Idol" -- the domestic Nobel.)

Gore will make his first post-Nobel public appearance at 1:30 pm ET in Palo Alto, Calif., at the offices of the Alliance for Climate Protection, ABC's Kate Snow reports.

Find out (in case it's hard to guess) why Al Gore is ABC's "Buzz Maker of the Week."

This is about Congress, not the race for the White House, but it's a different slice of the same (red) meat: Congressional Democrats are finding that their own worst enemies are part of the liberal base, David M. Herszenhorn of The New York Times reports.

"The tension between Democratic lawmakers and their base has been most visible on the Iraq war," he writes. "To the delight of Republicans, it has also played a role in a host of other issues, including a fight over increased fuel economy standards in the energy bill, and demands for more spending on environmental programs in the farm bill."

Former mayor Rudolph Giuliani, R-N.Y., had a pretty good week himself, punctuated by his debate exchange over Iran with former governor Mitt Romney, R-Mass.

He seemed energized and pleased with himself when he sat down with ABC's Jake Tapper to expand on his criticism of Romney's remark about checking with lawyers before responding to a nuclear threat from Iran.

"I think the governor knows he made a mistake," Giuliani told Tapper in South Carolina on Thursday. "You're faced with imminent attack on the United States, I don't think you call in the lawyers first. I think maybe the generals [are] the ones you call in first, they're the ones you want to talk to."

But, Tapper writes, "Giuliani's eyes only truly sparkled when making fun at the spending proposals offered by the Democratic presidential frontrunner."

Rudy's got a "Hillary list" -- and has worked up a whole comic riff centered on Clinton's spending proposals, including the "baby bonds, and now her new 401(k) proposal."

"And boy she's just begun," Giuliani said as the crowd's giggles subsided, per Tapper. "Hillary has just begun to spend your money."

And, on Friday, Rudy picks up the endorsement of former governor Tommy Thompson, R-Wis., who dropped his presidential candidacy after the Ames Straw Poll.

"Rudy Giuliani has shown that he is a true leader. He can and will win the nomination and the presidency," Thompson is to say, per ABC's Jan Simmonds.

Flashback to ABC's August debate: "I think any candidate that's pro-choice is going to have a difficulty with the party faithful and those individuals that have come to this district and the state and national meetings and have avowed time and time again that this party, the Republican Party, is a party of pro-life," Thompson said. "So anybody that's not pro-life is going to have difficulties. That's the question."

Mitt Romney (of Belmont, Mass.) attempts to clarify his Iran position in a letter to the editor of The Wall Street Journal, expressing disappointment with Thursday's sharply critical editorial.

"If there is any confusion, let me be very clear: As president I would not shrink from the use of military force when grave threats confront America," Romney writes. "At the same time, when time and circumstances permit, I would indeed seek the involvement of Congress as required by law and the Constitution."

And Romney's got a new ad up in Iowa where he outlines his commitment to defeating "this century's nightmare, Jihadism -- violent, radical Islamic fundamentalism."

Says Romney, "As President, I'll strengthen our intelligence services, increase our military by at least 100,000, and monitor the calls Al-Qaeda makes into America. And we can and will stop Iran from acquiring nuclear weapons."

Back in the land of the Democrats, Sen. Barack Obama, D-Ill., sure wants us to believe that there are huge differences between him and Clinton.

But maybe they aren't so different after all: Clinton criticized Obama as "naïve" for saying he'd meet with the president of Iran without preconditions, but AP's Holly Ramer has her endorsing a (very) roughly similar approach on the stump in New Hampshire: "I would engage in negotiations with Iran, with no conditions, because we don't really understand how Iran works."

That's not quite what Obama said -- he'd meet personally with leaders of rogue nations in his first year as president -- but the AP write-up blurs that distinction. Obama plans to address what his campaign is labeling the "newfound Clinton position" on Iran in his 11:30 am ET speech today at Drake University in Des Moines.

Then there are earmarks: Obama's got his $2 million for brain trauma research at the University of Chicago -- where his wife was a vice president -- while Clinton's got her $3 million for alternative-fuel development at General Motors -- "whose lobbyists include one of her biggest fundraisers" -- per The Washington Post's John Solomon and Matthew Mosk.

Obama releases his requests publicly, which makes for handy-dandy lists like this one, from $3 million for the Adler Planetarium to $500,000 for the Carpentersville Community Response Team.

Obama is growing sharper in his criticism of Clinton, as he enters what he's calling the "next phase" of his presidential campaign, per the Chicago Tribune's John McCormick. "It may be bye-bye Mr. Nice Guy," McCormick writes.

Obama on CNN: "Now is the time where we're going to be laying a very clear contrast between myself and Sen. Clinton."

That contrast is focusing on the Iran resolution. Per the New York Daily News' Michael Saul, "Triggering rapid-fire shots at Clinton - with a newspaper column, a Web ad and a national TV interview -- Obama launched a new phase of combat in his fight to erase Clinton's poll lead."

"Zinged" the Clinton camp: "It's unfortunate that Sen. Obama is abandoning the politics of hope and embracing the same old attack politics as his support stagnates."

Clinton herself, last night on MSNBC: "I think people have either misunderstood or decided to misrepresent the meaning of that vote."

Obama's speech this morning, in Des Moines, will (again) mark the fifth anniversary of the Iraq war resolution.

And how much does the Obama camp want to return to 2002? So much so that Obama has recorded a new version of the speech (the campaign only had a measly 14 seconds of the old one to work with) for use in the campaign's new online ad, Jim Rutenberg reports in The New York Times.

Said Obama spokesman Bill Burton: "The last time Barack recorded an audio version of his written words he won a Grammy, so he thought he'd give it another shot."

Obama is winning at least one contest, per Bloomberg's Heidi Przybyla and Julianna Goldman: "the Sister Souljah primary."

Obama "has talked up tougher emissions standards in Detroit, gone to the Nasdaq Stock Market in New York to chastise Wall Street executives over tax loopholes and their 'what's good for me is good enough' mentality and told black men in South Carolina that they need to 'stop acting like boys' and face up to parental responsibilities," they write.

As for Clinton, her "reluctance to offend even extends to baseball: At a Sept. 26 debate, she equivocated about whether she roots for the New York Yankees or the Chicago Cubs."

Clinton, meanwhile, appears set to pick up the endorsement of another former Democratic presidential nominee: Walter Mondale.

The Hill's Alexander Bolton reports that Mondale's endorsement "could prove especially valuable in Iowa, which borders his home state of Minnesota. Mondale won Iowa overwhelmingly in the '84 primary." So it's Mondale, George McGovern, and of course Bill Clinton lining up behind Sen. Clinton -- can Al Gore be far behind? (Yes.)

Also in the news:

Former senator John Edwards, D-N.C., is denying the National Enquirer report of him having an extra-marital affair.

"The story is false. It's completely untrue, ridiculous," Edwards told reporters Thursday after he was asked about story, per the AP. "I've been in love with the same woman for 30-plus years and as anybody who's been around us knows, she's an extraordinary human being, warm, loving, beautiful, sexy and as good a person as I have ever known. . . . So the story's just false."

Most media outlets avoided reporting on the allegations until Edwards made his public denial.

Meanwhile, Politico's Ben Smith points out that "a key owner of the Enquirer is a prominent New York investment banker and one of Hillary Clinton's key backers, Roger Altman. Altman was an official in the first Clinton administration, and his name is often mentioned as a possible Clinton Treasury Secretary."

The Boston Globe's Scott Helman profiles Obama, focusing on his 2000 loss in a Democratic congressional primary. And add another nickname to his dossier: the "Kenyan Kennedy."

"Some of Obama's friends and advisers say he was morose after the loss to [Rep. Bobby] Rush; others recall his resilience," Helman writes. "The congressional campaign gave him reason to feel both: He got a glimpse of what he could be as a political leader, but he had chosen the wrong race to break into national politics and not run a strong campaign."

Clinton didn't engage on questions about Social Security options at the latest Democratic debate, but she went a bit further in Iowa, per AP's Nedra Pickler. "The Democratic presidential contender told an Iowa voter she would be willing to consider an idea that her Democratic rival John Edwards has been promoting -- raising Social Security taxes on high-income earners," Pickler writes.

The Chicago Sun-Times' Jennifer Hunter complains that Clinton doesn't answer questions from the reporters who follow her around the country.

"She is cautious, poised and very, very smart, and she is risk-averse when it comes to the press," Hunter writes. "Hillary often talks about the American people being invisible to their government. Well, Sen. Clinton, reporters are people, too, and we don't like being invisible, either -- it would have been great if you had held a little news conference in between stops. It's not whining, just a suggestion for the future."

Add Dick Armey to the list of Republicans who are convinced 2008 is Hillary's year. "I don't see any way that Hillary Clinton won't be president," the former House majority leader, R-Texas, tells Anjeanette Damon of the Reno Gazette-Journal. "She is more well-organized, she is more intelligent. . . I don't admire her. But I don't discount her ability. She is ruthless and she is tough."

Gov. Bill Richardson, D-N.M., unveiled his education plan yesterday in New Hampshire, and "chided other Democrats for offering 'timid' ideas that he says fail to help American schools," per the Concord Monitor's Meg Heckman.

"Just as they trusted George Bush on the Iraq war and the Patriot Act, they trusted him on No Child Left Behind," Richardson said of his opponents. "Sen. Hillary Clinton says reform it. I also have two words for No Child Left Behind: Scrap it."

More Bernie Kerik distractions for Giuliani: "Bernard Kerik's legal nightmare is about to get worse, with federal prosecutors expected to file charges against the former police commissioner that will likely include allegations of bribery, tax fraud and obstruction of justice," Greg B. Smith reports in the New York Daily News.

The Nation's Ari Berman looks at Giuliani's money connections -- and the important role of Bracewell & Giuliani in his campaign.

"Partner Giuliani wanted to become President Giuliani. He needed money and, more important, political connections," Berman writes. "Bracewell offered a gateway into the lavish world of Texas Republican fundraising and easy access to the same titans of industry who had helped make the Bush family rich and propelled W. into the White House. The former mayor of one of the bluest cities in the country had just inked a whole lot of red."

Romney could be in line to unite social conservatives -- but that's a big "could," Time's Nancy Gibbs and Michael Duffy write. "It is too soon to know if most of the nation's 50 million evangelicals will take the cue and give Romney a closer look," they write. "But the evangelical voters are one of the few real prizes in the Republican primary campaign -- and one that Romney, who has stumbled a bit of late and trails both Giuliani and Thompson in many polls, could sorely use."

Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., outlined his healthcare plan on Thursday.

Per ABC's Bret Hovell, the plan "is designed to create a competitive health care market that rewards positive medical outcomes, provides tax credits to individuals who have health insurance, and to institute a sense of personal responsibility into all levels of the health care system."

McCain would also change Bush administration policy and allow drug reimportation from Canada.

So you don't want to play with us? What if we MAKE you play?

Most of the Democratic candidates (save Clinton and Sen. Chris Dodd, D-Conn.) filed papers to get themselves off the Michigan primary ballot, but Michigan lawmakers won't take no for an answer.

"Michigan leaders of both political parties are considering legislation that would place the names of four boycotting Democratic candidates back on the Jan. 15 primary ballot," write the Detroit News' Gordon Trowbridge and Charlie Cain.

Said Debbie Dingell, a Michigan representative on the Democratic National Committee: "We have to be prepared to play hardball."

On Sunday, ABC's George Stephanopoulos sits down with House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., on "This Week."

And when the show's over, don't forget Green Room Girl (watch out, Google Guy).

The kicker:

"Every time I answer, I limit." -- New Hampshire Secretary of State Bill Gardner, to The Washington Post's Joel Achenbach, on his famously inscrutable answers about the primary date.

"Right now my goal is to make sure that I am the nominee and that she is still the senator from New York." -- Obama, on CNN, on whether he'd choose Clinton as his running mate.

"When you get to be our age, it's kind of nice to have all these men obsessed with you. I guess I could put that spin on it." -- Clinton, on MSNBC, on the attacks she weathered at this week's Republican debate.

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