Al Gore's interview broadcast Sunday night on CBS' 60 Minutes in which he said he would not run for president in 2004:
Q: You know, you've been all over television, all over the newspapers for this last week. You've given back-to-back interviews. You've answered virtually every question except one -- and that is, are you or are you not going to run in 2004? Are you going to run?
GORE: Well, I've decided not to run.
Q: You've decided not to run?
GORE: I've decided that I will not be a candidate for president in 2004. My family all gathered here in New York City over the last few days. And I found that I've come to closure on this. I don't think it's the right thing for me to be a candidate in 2004.
Q: Well, I think a lot of people are just going to be bowled over. You're not a candidate. You've been looking like a candidate. Tell us how you have arrived at what I think is going to be a stunningly surprising decision?
GORE: Well, I've run for president twice, and there are many other exciting ways to serve. I intend to remain actively involved in politics. I want to help whoever the Democratic party's nominee is in 2004 to win the election. I'm going to explore a lot of other opportunities.
Q: The ambition to be the commander in chief, the ambition to sit in the Oval Office, that's gone?
GORE: Well, I personally have the energy and the drive and the ambition to make another campaign. But I don't think it's the right thing for me to do. I think that a campaign that would be a rematch between myself and President Bush would inevitably involve a focus on the past that would in some measure distract from the focus on the future that I think all campaigns have to be about.
Q: You say you had the ambition. You still have it even you said. Still have the dream?
GORE: Well, you know never say never. But I make this decision in the full knowledge and awareness that if I don't run this time, which I'm not going to run in 2004, that that's probably the last opportunity I'll ever have to run for president. Don't know that for sure, but probably it is.
Q: You think you could beat the president?
GORE: Look, I think I could. ... But the truth is ... that anybody who tells you they know what's going to happen two years from now ... is just unrealistic.
Q: I'm still trying to understand why you're not going to run.
GORE: The last campaign was an extremely difficult one. And while I have the energy and drive to go out there and do it again, I think that there are a lot of people within the Democratic Party who felt exhausted by that. Who felt like, 'OK, I don't want to go through that again.' And I'm frankly sensitive to that feeling.
Q: A Democrat, you believe, could beat President Bush.
GORE: I absolutely believe that. Think about what happened in 1991, when the first President Bush was just as high, well, higher in the public opinion poll ... He was at 91 percent or something. I felt then that the economy was bad and it could turn back toward Democrats. It ultimately did and very few people thought that. I feel the same way now.
Q: Now you have Democrats already out there. You have (Sen. John) Kerry and (Rep. Dick) Gephardt ...
GORE: (Sen. John) Edwards and ... (Sen. Joseph) Lieberman ... will now run.
Q: So which of the Democrats do you think has the best shot?
GORE: I don't know.
Q: So you don't have a feeling of what ... do you have a feeling of what it will take, what a Democrat has to look like, what he has to stand for, to beat President Bush?
GORE: I think there has to be an unrelenting focus on the economy.
Q: And why, you think the economy is just going to continue to spiral downward? Is that what you're saying?
GORE: I think that the policies they're committed to do not work. And I think that if they don't change them, which I don't think they're likely to, that it's going to be apparent to people.
Q: So this is it? You were in the House. ... You were in the Senate for two terms.
GORE: In the House for eight years, the Senate for eight years and ...
Q: Ran for president twice.
GORE: Vice president for eight years.
Q: Vice president of the United States for eight years. And this is it.
GORE: I had another eight-year plan in mind. But it didn't work out.
Q: But are you surprised in a way that ...
GORE: Yes ...
Q: ... that you're doing this?
GORE: Yeah. I've faced the decision on running for president twice before. And both times I have decided to jump in. And there was a big part of me that sort of assumed that that's what I would do this time around.
Q: Now I've heard you say a couple of times, 'This time.' You said, 'I'm not going to be a candidate this time.' What about 2008?
GORE: Well, I've also said that I make this decision in the full awareness that it probably means that I will never have another opportunity to run for president. Now I'm not planning on some future race.
Q: So you're going to grow your beard back?
GORE: I don't have a plan to do that. But don't rule it out.