NEW YORK: And they're off! Al and Tipper Gore, that is, who last week shot from self-imposed exile into the media spotlight, right on cue for the start of the 2004 election run.Remember Al? The wooden wonder last seen in Florida circa December 2000, having just lost the Presidential election by a few hanging chads and five Supreme Court votes? All the earth tones in the world couldn't save him from a damning perception among news media and the punditry that he lacked warmth, charisma, and humility. It cost him. He appeared only sporadically after the Florida fracas, and a combination of media animus and personal blunders made him look less Presidential, more pi?ata. There was the tweeds, the beard, the belly, the ring - but little to humanize one of the closest also-rans in Presidential history. At best, he came off as a broken man who, inexplicably, still harbored Presidential ambitions. Mostly, he was more like the invisible man. Then, just as the milk cartons were being printed up with his mug on 'em, Gore resurfaced for a marathon book tour that detoured onto every major news network, paper, and magazine. Instead of discussing the two books, co-authored with his wife Tipper and dealing in family themes, Al dished red meat to the Dems, staking out a bold position on healthcare, and blowing raspberries at the Bush White House on its handling of the war on terrorism and the economy. Soft-focus pieces with the likes of Barbara Walters cast an empathetic light on Gore, while he let his hair down on The Late Show with David Letterman and Saturday Night Live. For once, his timing was perfect, coming on the heels of an election, with Congress having just adjourned for the holidays, and Bush off in Europe. Sure, Gore may have lost Tennessee, and the odds of him heading the Democratic ticket are still anyone's guess, but this successful charm offensive wins him our PR Play of the Week.