Al Gore?

Say it ain't so, Joe.

Actually, Joe, as in Joe Klein, is the one who's saying it is so, on the cover of last week's Time magazine.

Are Democrats really in that much trouble? I don't buy it.

Here is Klein's scenario:

"Let's say the elders of the Democratic Party decide, when the primaries end, that neither Obama nor Clinton is viable. ... All they'd have to do would be to convince a significant fraction of their superdelegate friends, maybe fewer than 100, to announce that they were taking a pass on the first ballot at the Denver convention, which would deny the 2,025 votes necessary to Obama or Clinton. What if they then approached Gore and asked him to be the nominee, for the good of the party, and suggested that he take Obama as his running mate?"

No way.

First of all, there are no "elders" in the Democratic Party, at least none who control 100 or more votes. Nancy Pelosi doesn't control that many votes, not on a vote for the Democratic nomination for president. Neither does Harry Reid. Certainly not Howard Dean. There are no machines, there's no leader, and the only person who might, in other circumstances, have that kind of clout would be Bill Clinton, who is already using whatever influence he has to keep Hillary in the game.

Second of all, no matter how bruised Obama or Clinton are by June, why would that make Al Gore more viable? Viability is one of those arguments you generally can only make once, and while Gore may still believe he got elected president in 2000, the fact is that he could have, and should have, but somebody else has been living in that big White House for the last seven years. Had he won his home state, he would've won. Had he not rebuffed Bill Clinton and with him, the legacy of a strong economy, the academic studies concluded that he would've won. Is the man who picked Joe Lieberman as his vice president in order to spite Bill Clinton about to be embraced by delegates to a Convention roughly half of whom are pledged to Hillary Clinton? I don't think so. For that matter, I've yet to meet an Obama enthusiast who has told me that really, they're only with Obama because Gore didn't run, or that they yearn for the exciting days of the Gore campaign rather than the staid and dull candidate they have now. Not.

The reason that neither Clinton nor Obama has locked this thing up is not that they're weak candidates, but because of how strong both of them are, compared to their Gore-like opponents who got nowhere in this race. What makes Al Gore so much more appealing than John Edwards or Chris Dodd or Joe Biden, all of them at least as charismatic as Gore, and unable to compete against Clinton and Obama? The idea that the answer to the Democrats' problem is to go find one of its old losers is an insult to the supporters of both Clinton and Obama. And don't forget how much weight Gore's endorsement carried last time around, when he anointed then-frontrunner Howard Dean in what turned out to look more like the kiss of death than anything else.

This campaign may not be pretty – ok, there are days when it's pretty ugly – but by the time the Democrats meet in Denver, one of the two candidates will have more delegates, pledged and unpledged, than the other. That's the candidate who will be the nominee. It won't be someone who didn't run. The role of the superdelegates is to choose between the candidates, not to render the whole process irrelevant. Talk about undemocratic, with a small "d." The only thing that the Obama delegates and the Clinton delegates would probably agree on at this point is that one of the two of them should be the nominee. Neither group is likely to follow a "Group of 100" superdelegates in support of a third candidate, even if such a Group of 100 could be formed, which I very highly doubt. What makes Gore attractive, at least these days, is the fact that he didn't run. If he were to jump in tomorrow, he'd be no more "viable" in a week's time than either Clinton or Obama. I don't know who's going to win, but I'm at least willing to bet on who won't. Sorry Joe.

Susan Estrich is currently the Robert Kingsley Professor of Law and Political Science at the University of Southern California and a member of the Board of Contributors of USA Today. She writes the "Portia" column for American Lawyer Media and is a contributing editor of The Los Angeles Times. She was appointed by the president to serve on the National Holocaust Council and by the mayor of the City of Los Angeles to serve on that city's Ethics Commission. A woman of firsts, she was the first woman president of the Harvard Law Review and the first woman to head a national presidential campaign (Dukakis). Estrich is committed to paving the way for women to assume positions of leadership. Books by Estrich include "Real Rape," "Getting Away with Murder: How Politics is Destroying the Criminal Justice System" and "Dealing with Dangerous Offenders." Her book "Making the Case for Yourself: A Diet Book for Smart Women," is a departure from her other works, encouraging women to take care of themselves by engaging the mind to fight for a healthy body. Her latest book, The Los Angeles Times bestseller, "Sex & Power," takes an impassioned look at the division of power between men and women in the American workforce, proving that the idea of gender equality is still just an idea.