Everyone and their grandmother, it seems, has decided to run for president in 2008. But conspicuous by their hesitation are Democrat Al Gore and Republican Newt Gingrich, who are holding back to see whether they really do have a chance.
They should stop holding their breath. Their time in the limelight, and their opportunity for national office, has come and gone.
Simply put, neither man is very well thought of among the mass of voters who decide the November election. And, not to put too fine a point on it, Americans don't turn over the Oval Office to people they don't like.
Former Vice President Gore and former House Speaker Gingrich both have strong supporters among the core activists who carry great sway in their respective parties' nomination processes. But the reality is that neither man has a serious chance to be elected president of the United States because they lack sufficient appeal outside those core activists.
And the idea that they can turn that view around is just not credible.
It is much easier for a politician to make a good impression on voters the first time than it is for someone who is very well known - as are both men - to convince people that their initial negative impression is wrong.
Liberals love Gore; they adore his movie "An Inconvenient Truth" and the leftward turn he has taken in his politics since he won the popular vote nationally, but lost the presidency to George Bush in 2000 by 538 votes in Florida.
Many of those same activists still believe that the U.S. Supreme Court stole the election from him, and they see Gore as the right person to lead the United States in their image.
Gingrich, who led the Republican takeover of Congress in 1994 and resigned from Congress because of unhappiness in the GOP ranks, is beloved by activists who view him as a conservative visionary.
In a race in which the leading GOP candidates - former New York Gov. Rudy Giuliani and Sen. John McCain of Arizona - are both perceived by many to be ideological moderates, the GOP right wants someone around whom to rally.
The Democratic left and the Republican right might want to think again.
There is more than enough survey data to support the notion that neither man has a chance to make it to the White House without a visitor's pass.
Gingrich runs reasonably well when Republicans are asked whom they want to be their candidate in 2008. Recent Quinnipiac University polls of Ohio and Florida, the two most critical swing states in a presidential election, show him third behind Giuliani and McCain as the choice of Republican voters for the GOP nomination.
But in those states, many more voters (48-26 percent in Florida, 50-24 percent in Ohio) view him unfavorably than they do favorably. A Fox News/Opinion Dynamics poll nationally taken in late January found only 22 percent of voters overall view him favorably, 49 percent unfavorably.
Gore is in a little better shape with the November electorate, but not enough to consider him electable. In Quinnipiac's surveys he was 41 percent favorable, 50 percent unfavorable in Ohio; 46 percent favorable, 47 percent unfavorable in Florida.
Those states are critical to any candidate's general election strategy because they mirror the national view. The Fox national poll had Gore at 39 percent favorable, 51 percent unfavorable, while a CBS News January poll had him 32 percent, favorable, 46 percent unfavorable.
Both men can help their parties' eventual nominees by rallying the faithful when the time comes. Gore may have a future in the movies and Gingrich can make a ton of money on the lecture circuit.
But any rational analysis of the numbers make it clear that if Gingrich and Gore are waiting for lightning to strike, they ought to come in from the rain and get on with their lives.