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Speculation swirls: Tipper Gore for Senate

WASHINGTON (CNN) -- Several sources said Thursday a "very loud and persistent" group of Tennessee Democrats is hoping to persuade Tipper Gore, wife of former Democratic presidential nominee Al Gore, to run for the U.S. Senate seat once held by her husband.

Although one source said the courtship of Mrs. Gore "is serious," it was far from clear whether Mrs. Gore, long held to be a reluctant political wife, would seriously consider having her own political career.

Democrats in the state are anxious to win back the seat currently held by Republican Fred Thompson, who is retiring. Former Republican Gov. Lamar Alexander, highly popular in Tennessee, has announced his intention to run.

Some Democrats have been looking for a "magic bullet" candidate who could create a buzz in the state. A source said the desire for a strong woman candidate inevitably brought people to the notion of Mrs. Gore running for office.

"They love her down there," said a former Gore campaign staffer.

The speculation about Mrs. Gore's future swirled through Washington as sources confirmed the Gores are in the process of buying a home in Nashville. The search is seen as yet another in a series of clues to the overarching political question of 2004: whether Al Gore will run again.

A source familiar with the Al Gore's thinking said that "at a minimum," purchasing a home in Nashville sends a "very strong signal that Gore is serious" about mending fences in his home state.

"How can you run for president," said the source, "and not win your home state?"

Al Gore, who won the popular vote but lost the election after a vote-counting controversy ultimately was decided by the U.S. Supreme Court, has been increasingly visible in the past few months as he stumps for candidates in 2002 races. He has also become increasingly critical of President Bush, but most of those who have spoken with him feel Gore has not yet made up his mind about running again.

Though the battle in Florida got the most attention in the 2000 presidential race, Gore's loss in Tennessee was a major and personal disappointment for the Gore campaign. Since the election, he has spent a good deal of time in Tennessee, as he promised to do in his concession speech.

A source said the Gores intend to keep the Gore family farm in Carthage, Tennessee as well as their family home in Arlington, Virginia, which has been in Mrs. Gore's family for more than 50 years.




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