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 Monday, 23 December, 2002, 10:10 GMT
Where to now for the US Democrats?
Al Gore salutes his supporters
US Democrats have been left without a clear front running candidate for the 2004 presidential election, after former vice president Al Gore announced he would not stage a re-run of his ill-fated 2000 bid.

Mr Gore said that a Democrat could beat George W Bush in two years' time, and said that he wanted to back the campaign, but he would not personally challenge Mr Bush's presidency as it was "not the right thing to do".

His surprise decision leaves the field wide open for Democratic contenders for the party ticket.

Senator Joe Lieberman, Mr Gore's running mate in 2000, is thought to be one of the main contenders, with Senators Tom Daschle, John Kerry, and Congressman Dick Gephardt all among other senior party names being bandied about.

The only Democrat who has officially declared he will seek the presidential nomination is Governor Howard Dean of Vermont.

Where now for the US Democrats? What chance is there of a Democratic victory in 2004? Is President Bush now a shoe-in for a second term?

This Talking Point has now closed. Read a selection of your comments below.

If they win the Muslim world would be in uproar

Shane, USA
Senator Lieberman would be the first Jewish President and Senator Hillary is more closely tied to Israel than Bush. If they win the Muslim world would be in uproar.
Shane, USA

The democrats must not waste time and search for the candidate, who will lead them into the White House in Dec 2004. They also have to work on their priorities in respect to US policies.
Khalid Rahim, Canada

Whether deserved or not, Hillary Clinton is not popular in the American heartland. Her attempt at health care reform in the mid-90s was a failure. The Democrats need a fresh face and proactive ideas if they want to reclaim the White House in 2004. Currently they offer little but criticisms of the current administration.
George, USA

If the nomination goes to one of the nationally known liberal Democrats currently seeking the nod, they will lose

Kathy Willsea, USA
The Democratic Party has a real problem. Gore won't run because he can't draw flies. Hilary Clinton is hugely disliked, Lieberman is so quiet nobody would vote for him in wartime, and Gephardt and Dashle just led their party to epic defeat in the last election. With Pelosi as their chair the liberals run the party, but the country is increasingly conservative. A conservative democrat like Zell Miller could win, but they won't consider him. I expect the next Democratic presidential candidate will be a new face, unknown nationally. If the nomination goes to one of the nationally known liberal Democrats currently seeking the nod, they will lose.
Kathy Willsea, USA

While I wish Gore a happy future, and certainly understand anyone getting out of the sewer of American politics, he was the world's best hope of freedom from the current crisis based government. Our government has been taken over, by a very powerful group that plan world domination. Our rights have been stripped to the point that we have become an illusion of democracy, sure we will still elect our leaders, but they will be powerless to change Bush's dismantlement of our Constitution.
Wayne, USA

It amazes me how many non Americans feel they should have a say in who should be America's president. It's up to Americans to decide who can best lead them and at present the polls show that is President George Bush.
Jerry Wattier, USA

With due respect to Jerry Wattier, USA, as the USA itself finds it OK to have a say on virtually all elections by the world's other people's, and the USA is the great believer in globalisation, it's only part of the game if we want to tell you what we think of your president and who we'd like to see replace him.
Dennis Pikes, britain

The Democrats will not learn from their mistakes

Christopher Flores, California, USA
The Democrats lost the 2002 election because they had no credible solutions to offer, just more of the old failed left-wing liberalism. Prior to the election, they kept saying that it would be a referendum on President Bush. They were right. The American people gave a vote of confidence in the president and his policies. Now, the Democrats are going to retreat and discuss (again!) the reasons why they did so badly. Not that they will learn from their mistakes. They will just continue to swing further to the left. And then they'll wonder why they did so badly in the next election!
Christopher Flores, California, USA

I would gladly welcome almost any opposition to Bush in 2004. I detest being led (and I use that term loosely) by a president who is consistently ready to bully other nations to get what he (not the US population) wants. He is scary and he is undermining our true global influence. People and countries do not like to be continually backed into a corner and will react accordingly.
Glenda, USA

I don't think we should underestimate Hilary Clinton. She will definitely run in 2004, and a good thing too. We need a more human face to politics in the United States as well as a more environmentally friendly president. I hope Bush does not 'win' again.
Faraz, Pakistan/UK

I don't think any "Republican Light" style Democrat can win the primary. I think we will have an anti-war Democrat representing the party by 2004. Then we will have a real choice. I certainly will not vote for any candidate who voted for Bush's resolution on war with Iraq.
Bob Aldo, USA

For those who are interested in an end to the corporate-minded war-mongering of the Bush clan, look to Governor Howard Dean of Vermont. In 2004 he alone can stand for the progressive, peaceful spirit that is so lacking in current American politics, and his glowing record of service to the people of Vermont will not be forgotten nor ignored.
Jaime B, USA

Fresh ideas and new voices are in order

Jessica, USA
Why do we talk about the Clintons (even Hilary)? Haven't we learned from this double Bush fiasco that dynasty isn't the answer? I do have faith in the value of experience, but fresh ideas and new voices are in order - Democrat and Republican.
Jessica, USA

I think many Europeans do not understand US politics. Bush is really popular and the Democrats are literally leaderless. They need to do something soon or they will be nowhere in 2004. There is a huge conservative wave that is much more motivated to get out and vote than the liberals. Sure Hilary is popular among liberals, but is so despised by the right that her running would cause an even larger conservative turn out at the polls. Democrats - you better figure it out quick!
Clint Johnson, USA

The Democrats need to distinguish themselves from the Republicans. They need to look at 30% turnout. Most of the US doesn't care about politics because politics doesn't care about them. The war on terror has been a disaster, the war on Iraq will go the same way. Bush has alienated the entire world and whoever inherits the job from him has a lot of work to do
Vish, UK

My thoughts today are with Al Gore. I hope he can find a peace in his choice, and that he remains involved as a leader and mentor within American politics. He would have been a great president, and his criticism of the Bush catastrophe (can it be called an administration?) has been a ray of sunshine in dark and hopeless times.
Sebastian, USA

To continue the Clinton dynasty would be a terrible mistake

Bill, USA
We have to find a more in touch President than Bush but to try to continue the Clinton dynasty would be a terrible mistake. Bush has done an excellent job in the war on terror but is out of touch with middle America with the economic issues. He just keeps giving tax cuts and handouts to his millionaire buddies. Lieberman is an excellent possibility and would more represent the interest of all Americans...
Bill, USA

I think Hillary Clinton will be the next Democratic presidential nominee - the time for women has come and besides, she carries some of that "Clinton pixie dust".
Garth, Zimbabwe

The withdrawal of Gore from the running should not be viewed as a blow to the Democrats, Bush's shortcomings as a president are surely large enough selling points for the Democrats to win the election.
Ross, Britain

Despite what a lot of Europeans think they know about US politics, Bush is a popular president here in America. He has surprised many people who doubted him at the outset. The Democrats will have to put forward a charismatic front-runner, with a political agenda that follows the Clinton one of being close to the centre. Hillary would be a huge mistake for them.
Neal, USA (ex UK)

The Democrats have to focus on the economy like a laser beam

Oladele Osinuga, UKe
Whoever stands for the Democrats would have to focus on the economy like a laser beam. The Democrats still have a solid chance notwithstanding Bush's popularity if they stay focused and ensure voters get their message. I reckon the Democratic flag bearer would come from one of these three: Governor Howard Dean of Vermont, Senator John Kerry of Massachusetts and Senator Joseph Lieberman of Connecticut (though the Gore factor could count against him).
Oladele Osinuga, UK

Bring on Hillary! As a Democrat I have never been so ashamed of this party, they let the right take over and look where we are. At war with half the world, our economy in the toilet, personal freedoms being written off without so much as an argument from the Democrats and now he wants to spend our children in a useless, uncalled for war in Iraq. It feels like some terrible dream from a sci-fi movie.
Hadyn Lassiter, USA

At the moment it is hard to see how Bush can be beaten in 2004. It was this realisation that made loser like Gore not waste time on it. It was interesting that in 2000 Gore did not even win his home state. This result, not Florida, ultimately cost him the presidency.
Michael, England

The country needs someone like the former vice president to help take it in the right direction

Roseanne Singer, USA
I am sure Al Gore's decision not to run for president again will disappoint many Americans who gave him the popular vote, and to this day still think he was cheated out of his presidency. The country needs someone like the former vice president to help take it in the right direction. The present Bush policies seem to be failing in most aspects, and the Democrats need a strong leader who can and will, criticise and challenge the White House like Al Gore did. Right now it seems impossible, but only time will tell if there is a comparable candidate.
Roseanne Singer, USA

Does it really matter? The Democrats and the Republicans are more or less the same party (with very few exceptions). They both claim to represent the mainstream American, while neither one does anything meaningful to help the country. It is a sad day for democracy when a person's effective choice is reduced to just two parties. And as long as the two-party system is in effect, reforms will never materialise and Americans will continue to have a choice between bad and worse. When will we ever see an end to the career politicians? As far as I am concerned, congressmen and senators should be limited to no more than two terms. And they should be paid minimum wage.
Neil, USA

I agree with Neil. This two party system is a joke and a disgrace to democracy. Still, Gore would have been a more favourable option than Bush. A lot of Americans voted for Bush because he's your "average Joe" but shouldn't some really qualified person with a wide range of perspectives of the world be more feasible? I would gladly accept Hillary as the first female president to take office. We need more women in top positions as they often represent more humanitarian solutions to the problems of this world.
Bessi Egilsson, Iceland

Al Gore has backed down largely because he doesn't believe that he can beat George W in 2004

Dylan A Thomas, UK
Al Gore has backed down largely because he doesn't believe that he can beat George W in 2004. He argues that Democrats should campaign on the economy but he also feels vulnerable on this issue. Under the Clinton administration the economy was permitted to escalate out of control and we are now living with the after effects. Economic growth is slowing, unemployment will rise and it is quite possible there will be a world recession. These things don't happen overnight. Perhaps Mr Gore was too busy inventing the internet to realise this was happening! Goodbye and good riddance Mr Gore.
Dylan A Thomas, UK

For the sake of world peace and improved foreign policy, we need a Democrat back in the White House. We can't have Bill back, so let's have Hilary!
Andy, UK

What a shame! It has been two long years of Bush and we still have two more of his oil/blood lust to endure. God help us! Mr Gore won the last election and would definitely win again.
Tony Amato, USA

It's the one statesman-like move Gore will be remembered for. The Democratic Party needs fresh blood in its veins and in its head.
TJ Cassidy, USA

All I can say is thank goodness we have Bush in the White House rather than Gore. It's good to see the back of him.
Peter Buchanan, USA

The Democrats in Congress are mostly weak-kneed poll readers so I don't hold out hope for any of them

Lisa, Virginia, USA
The first primaries in 2004 are still a year away so we have some time for a Democratic front runner to emerge. Who knew who Clinton was in 1990 and yet two years later he was president. The Democrats in Congress are mostly weak-kneed poll readers so I don't hold out hope for any of them. Keep an eye on Vermont Governor Howard Dean. He seems to be the very kind of person we need to take on Bush.
Lisa, Virginia, USA

Senator Lieberman is the answer to the presidential question, and hopefully he'll pick a good running mate other than Hilary Clinton. We need two steady, experienced Democrats in there, not another load of controversy that inherently follows the name Clinton. The economy will make or break Bush; either it will improve under Bush or he'll be out. On the other hand, an overly liberal Democrat of any description as a candidate will spell doom for the Democrats as they will be seen as incapable of dealing with terrorism.
Thomas, USA

I believe we have the ability to get rid of Bush, particularly if the US economy continues to perform poorly and Bush continues to make mistakes with an increasingly unpopular war against Iraq. Early on in this campaign, I support John Kerry from Massachusetts.
Robert Guinness, USA

Will it be Bush, Clinton, Bush, Clinton?

Andy D, UK
Three important areas where the Republicans and Democrats differ is in foreign policy, environmental policy, and welfare. Had a Democrat been in power now the US would have signed up to Kyoto, would have improved the terrible welfare to work program, reducing poverty, and wouldn't have taken its finger off the pulse in the war on terrorism to pursue personal vendettas in Iraq. This is a sad announcement, I hope they find a candidate capable of ousting Bush. So the question now is: Will it be Bush, Clinton, Bush, Clinton?
Andy D, UK

Go Hillary, go!
Tim, UK

I'd like to see President Bush pick Ms Rice as his running mate in 2004. That, I think, would be the nail in the coffin of the Democratic party and the last hindrance towards the much needed reforms in this country, without being held up by backwards looking, politically correct obstructionists.
Lee, USA

Gore would have been a far better president than the incumbent

Mo, UK
I am sad to see that Al Gore is not standing for the presidency in 2004, as he would have been a far better president than the incumbent. The only consolation for the Democrats is that Bill Clinton came from nowhere in 1992 and beat George Bush Snr, when the latter had a high approval rating a few months prior to the election (as the younger George Bush does now). Let's hope history repeats itself!
Mo, UK

There is plenty of time for Hillary Clinton to put her hat in the ring and many people in the US may feel that a Clinton in the White House, especially a female Clinton, would be preferable to Mr Bush. She is well known domestically, has won for the Democrats in the recent past and is widely respected. I certainly think she would be better received internationally than Mr Bush has been.
Nick, UK

I agree with Nick: He is leaving the stage to make room for Hillary who is not only better connected than him but also probably a lot more popular with the voters.
Gavin, France

The focus should be on highlighting President Bush's shortcomings and providing a viable alternative

Matt Hurley, UK
Gore's decision, although undoubtedly a tough personal choice was the right decision for his party. The focus should be on the future, on highlighting President Bush's shortcomings as president and providing a viable, electable alternative.
Matt Hurley, UK

From this side of the pond I fail to see how Al Bore's decision to stand down can be anything but a blessing for the Democrats. He wasn't exactly inspiring.
John B, UK

Providing the challenge will be Senator Lieberman and his running mate Senator Hillary Clinton.
Deepak R, Canada

See also:

16 Dec 02 | Americas
15 Nov 02 | Americas
15 Dec 02 | Americas
03 Oct 02 | Americas
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