Washington Al Gore doesn't seem to be watching his weight these days, but Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton's people certainly are.
Some members of Clinton's team, concerned that the global warming warrior might jump into the 2008 race despite his denials, have been monitoring the former vice president's girth. A svelte Gore is a presidential Gore, they reason.
But they might not have much to worry about, judging from the stressed seams on Gore's Ralph Lauren tuxedo Oscar night.
"If he's running, he'll start losing weight fast," said a Clinton insider, who didn't want to be identified. "Judging from where he is now, I'd say he's not running. : But that could change fast."
That opinion was confirmed by one of the former vice president's closest friends, who also requested anonymity.
"When Al Gore decides to do something, he gets into physical shape," the person said. "When he was campaigning in 2000, he would have a treadmill in his room. : Gore is a former athlete, he's a very competitive man, just ask anybody who's ever played a game of pick-up basketball with him."
But one Gore insider cautioned against waistline-gazing, saying Gore was watching Clinton as closely as she is watching him.
"I don't think if you asked him today if he were running for president, he'd know one way or another," the person said, not wanting to be identified. "But if she stumbles, I guess he'll have to lose weight on the campaign trail."
Clinton's supporters are hoping that never happens. Clinton scheduled three environmental announcements in upstate New York on Monday, hours after Gore spoke at the Academy Awards.
She told reporters that she watched Gore's speech and was inspired by his plea to "exercise the will to begin to change."
The former first lady announced that she was introducing legislation to increase incentives for clean coal production and a bill that would create a strategic energy fund financed by a tax on oil company profits.
Gore allowed his weight to yo-yo during his eight years as vice president, toting along exercise gear on Air Force Two when he needed to slim down. In 1997, he ran the Marine Corps Marathon in Washington with a respectable time of 4:58:25, three years after tearing an Achilles tendon playing hoops.
In January, Donna Brazile, Gore's campaign manager in 2000, told students at Moravian College in Pennsylvania that Gore stood a good chance of running if he "has slimmed down 25 or 30 pounds" by Oscar night.
She hedged a bit after seeing him collect the best documentary award for "An Inconvenient Truth" on Sunday.
"He looked great in that Ralph Lauren tuxedo, didn't he?" she said with a laugh. "He looked presidential."