Who would have won a rematch between George W. Bush and Al Gore?
Gore supporters weren’t the only ones disappointed when the former Vice President elected not to challenge President Bush in 2004. A Bush-Gore rematch would have been a delight for political junkies of all persuasions; such a contest would have been far more compelling than the original 2000 battle—and far more interesting than the Bush-Kerry competition we eventually witnessed.
A Bush-Gore rematch would have set a new standard for public engagement in the political process. Only someone who completely abstained from following politics would not be fascinated by, and active in determining, the outcome of such a race.
Bush-Gore II unquestionably would have been the most partisan Presidential contest in United States history. Gore supporters would have been motivated by a desire to right the alleged wrongs of 2000. Bush supporters would have been motivated by a desire to prevent Gore from ineffectively prosecuting the War on Terror as commander-in-chief.
If Gore had decided to challenge Bush to a rematch, he would have lost again, but this time without any controversy. The image problem that doomed Kerry—i.e., the perception that he’d be unwilling to bear any burden to thwart terrorism—would have also damaged Gore in the general election. Gore won the popular vote during peacetime, but in a time of terrorism—and with the thirty-year-old perception of the Democrats as “soft on defense” still in the American mind—it’d be difficult to envision him defeating Bush in either the popular vote or the Electoral College.
Perhaps Bush wouldn’t be such a scorned figure among Democrats if he had defeated Gore a second time in non-controversial fashion. Democrats have never accepted Bush as a legitimate President, even after his conquest of Kerry, because of the way his presidency began. The left will always think of Bush as a “court-appointed” President. We’ll never know what the left would have said if Bush fought Gore in a rematch—and won an undisputed victory in the court of public opinion.