Democratic Party officials said that in the past week Mr. Gore and other leading Democrats had held private talks as worry mounted that the close race between Senators Barack Obama and Hillary Rodham Clinton could be decided by a group of 796 party insiders known as superdelegates.
The signs that party elders are weighing whether and how to intervene reflects the extraordinary nature of the contest now and the concern among some Democrats that they not risk an internal battle that could harm the party in the general election. […]
Few figures are being more closely watched by Democratic insiders than Mr. Gore, the Nobel Peace Prize winner who associates say has been lobbied hard for an endorsement by allies of Mrs. Clinton and of Mr. Obama.[…]
Although Mr. Gore has expressed concerns to some associates about the damage a brokered convention could cause, several associates said he was hopeful that one candidate would soon break through, sparing the party such an outcome. He told a close friend recently that his decision not to endorse "feels like the right thing" and that he remained optimistic the race "is going to tip at some point," the friend said.
Another close ally of Mr. Gore's, however, said: "He recognizes the need for a few party elders to stay on the sidelines to ensure, if needed, that the process is fair and honest. It could very likely take a group of senior party people, including Gore, to settle this, but the only way they can settle it is if they stay on the sidelines now."[…]
Party leaders described Mr. Gore as a potentially crucial mediator because the putative head of the party - and the man who chose him as his vice president - Bill Clinton, is hardly a neutral observer when it comes to his wife's candidacy.
(At right, an artist's depiction of Al Gore brokering the presidential nomination between candidates Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama in August.
One source close to the former Vice President has quoted him as saying, "You wanna be tough, better do what you can," adding, "No one wants to be defeated.")