MIAMI (AP) — Usually, he’s Al Gore, Nobel Peace Prize winner or climate advocate. On Tuesday, he was Al Gore, cautionary tale.
The former vice president and almost-president held himself up as a warning for complacent or disengaged Democrats as he campaigned for Hillary Clinton in South Florida. With Clinton listening on stage, the told the crowd of young people, some of whom were toddlers when he lost his bid for the White House by the thinnest of margins, that elections can be close — very close.
“Your vote really, really, really matters,” Gore said. “You can consider me as an Exhibit A.”
The crowd chanted back, “You won!” It was a reference to Gore winning the popular vote in the 2000 presidential contest by about 540,000 votes — but ultimately lost the presidency to George W. Bush.
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The moment on stage between two political figures with piles of baggage was billed as a moment to talk about Clinton’s commitment to fighting climate change. The Democratic presidential candidate is hoping the issue will help her win over young voters who prioritize the issue but have been very slow to warm to her bid.
She showered praised on Gore’s advocacy work and promised to seek his consul in office.
“I can’t wait to have Al Gore advising me when I am president of the United States,” she said.
But Gore can hardly come to South Florida, home of the hanging chad, without addressing the ghost of his past life in politics.
After the messy recount in 2000 and a shocking Supreme Court decision, Gore lost the Florida race by just 537 votes. The results sent Bush to the White House and Gore into years of self-imposed political exile.
Many Democrats still believe the race was yanked out from under them by a combination of a conservative-leaning court, biased state officials and the more than 97,000 votes tallied for Green Party candidate Ralph Nader.
With unprecedented levels of disapproval for the both Clinton and Republican rival Donald Trump, the threat of the third-party candidate spoiler is back this year. Clinton’s team for weeks has been trying to cut into the unusually high levels of support — often in double digits in polls — for Green Party candidate Jill Stein and Libertarian Gary Johnson. They’ve tried to present a positive message, offer stark contrasts on policy, soften Clinton’s image and, more recently, scare voters about the possibility of nail-biter.
But pushing skeptical voters to the polls isn’t as easy when Trump’s campaign appears is sinking. Clinton has been increasingly direct as just tries to warn against overconfidence or a resignation.
“I don’t trust the polls,” Clinton said Tuesday in an interview with WMBM, a gospel station in Miami. “He is still trying to win this election.”
Clinton said called Florida was “the key” to the winning.
Gore has been resistant to re-engage in politics, even as his role advocate for climate change policies has won him credibility and influence on the left. He waited to endorse Clinton until late July, just before she formally received the nomination at the Democratic National Convention, which he did not attend.
Still, Clinton’s campaign was eager to create a memorable moment between the two, viewing it as a rare chance to break through the onslaught of Trump headlines with an event that might strike a chord with older Democrats and offer a moment to tell the story anew to younger ones.
“I don’t want you to be in a position years from now where you welcome Hillary Clinton and say, actually you did win,” Gore said. “Elections have consequences. Your vote has consequences.”
White House Correspondent Julie Pace contributed to this report.