Ask any average American man-on-the-street to name the US Presidential candidates for 2008 and, chances

are, he will recall Hillary Clinton, Barrack Obama, John McCain – and Al Gore. Wait a minute: Al Gore isn’t running for President. Well, maybe not yet: but a whole lot of Americans think he is or, at least, are hoping he will. Al Gore is the stealth bomber of the 2008 US Presidential campaign. He is not officially visible on the election radar, but his presence looms, large and powerful. Should he eventually decide to run – and some political pundits think he will – he will arrive on the election stage like a force of nature; and scare the crap out of his rivals, both Democratic and Republican. You think I’m exaggerating? Think about it? In terms of recognizability, Al Gore is probably the most well known US politician, after George Bush. After the release of his Oscar-winning documentary ‘An Inconvenient Truth’, the man has achieved near rock star status. During his current coast-to-coast tour to promote his new book, ‘An Assault on Reason’, he is being inundated with chants of “Run Al, Run” from frenzied supporters. This coming July, his ‘Live Earth’ concerts – featuring world famous rock bands – will give him a global audience stretching from New York to London to Shanghai. So why is Gore acting coy? My personal hunch is that he is quite content to let Democratic hopefuls, Clinton and Obama expend millions of dollars of campaign contributions, even before he throws his hat in the ring. With still 20 months to go before elections, some people are beginning to wonder if they started their campaign prematurely – and if they will peak well before November 2008. Non-candidate Al Gore already has a lot going for him. He could very quickly get together a formidable organization. He has all those people who have worked with him in the past; and all those who have become involved in his work on climate change. Neither would he have much difficulty in raising campaign financing. After ‘Inconvenient Truth’ and the Oscar, Hollywood already considers him one of their own. He also has many well-heeled supporters in Silicon Valley; among them Steve Jobs, the co-founder of Apple Computers. As far as his Presidential ambitions are concerned, Al Gore is currently in the neither-confirm-nor-deny mode, so beloved of White House Press Secretaries. Without seeming to lift a finger, he is managing to generate the kind of hype advertising executives can only dream about. Asked last week if he would rule himself out as a candidate, Gore said, “I have no desire to slam the door shut.” What his true desire is will probably not be known till October – which is about as late as he can leave it, if he is to contest the primaries. I hear the betting on his candidacy is reaching astronomical proportions. I’ve put down a hundred bucks, but I’m not telling which way. Gore does not have a monopoly on guessing games.