As Republicans search for a frontrunner in the 2008 presidential race, Democrats already have one in Senator Hillary Clinton of New York. But that has not stopped a group of Democratic activists from making one last push for former Vice President Al Gore to join the race for the Democratic Party's presidential nomination. VOA National Correspondent Jim Malone has more from Washington.

Clinton is the clear favorite for the Democratic Party's presidential nomination. She holds a sizable lead in national polls over her two closest rivals, Senator Barack Obama of Illinois and former Senator John Edwards of North Carolina.

But at least one group of Democratic political activists has not given up on the hope that Al Gore might yet be persuaded to enter the 2008 race for the White House.

"2008 could be our second and last chance to make things right again. Join us at Sign the petition at Paid for by DraftGore. He won once, he can win again." That radio ad is running in the state of Florida. George Bush's narrow victory over Gore in Florida in the 2000 election sent Mr. Bush to the White House and Gore into political retirement.

The draft Gore movement also took out a full page ad in The New York Times urging the former vice president to run, arguing that Gore is the candidate who can bring hope to America and the world.

Gore continues to resist the appeal even as he ever so slightly leaves the door open to the possibility of running at some point in the future.

"Well, you know, I am not pondering it. I am not focused on that.I am focused on how to solve the climate crisis," Gore said in an interview with ABC News earlier this year.

Despite the pressure on Gore, most Democrats seem to believe that Hillary Clinton is still the favorite to capture the party nomination next year.

The situation in the Republican Party appears to be far more uncertain.

Former New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani continues to lead the Republican field in national polls, but his margin has narrowed in recent months.

In the latest Republican candidate's debate, Giuliani engaged in a spirited exchange over who was the better tax cutter with one of his rivals, former Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney.

"Under him, taxes went up 11 percent per capita. I led. He lagged," Giuliani said.

"That is baloney. Mayor, you have got to check your facts. I did not increase taxes in Massachusetts. I lowered taxes," Romney replied.

Some social conservative activists have raised the possibility that they might support a third party candidate if Giuliani becomes the Republican nominee.

Giuliani supports abortion rights, which many Christian conservatives oppose.

"If the party were to signal retreat from its defense of the unborn by nominating a pro-abortion rights candidate, then we would stand our ground and support a pro-life third party candidate. But we see that as way down the road," said Tony Perkins of the Family Research Council, who was interviewed on MSNBC television.

The latest Republican debate also marked the debut of the newest candidate to enter the race, former Senator Fred Thompson of Tennessee.

Thompson brushed aside criticism from some Republicans that he made a mistake by delaying his entry into the race. "No, I do not think I waited too long. Kind of seems about right to me," he said.

Thompson has also faced criticism that he has been uninspiring as a candidate, though the reviews of his debate performance were generally positive.

Thompson runs second in most national polls to Giuliani, followed by Arizona Senator John McCain, Romney and former Arkansas Governor Mike Huckabee.

The polls also show that Democrat Hillary Clinton would be the favorite against any of the possible Republican nominees next year.

But University of Virginia expert Larry Sabato cautions that polls this early in the race can be misleading.

"But anybody who thinks that this is a cut and dried election needs to study American history because elections are almost never cut and dried. Open races when you have no incumbent are especially competitive," he said.

The campaign formally begins in January when the traditional early contest states of Iowa and New Hampshire kick off the party nominee selection process through a series of caucuses and primaries.