Political Capital with John Harwood

Clinton Off Camera And The Gore "Candidacy"

Secretary of State Hillary Clinton

Given the modern-day distance between national politicians and journalists like me--much greater than when my late father Richard Harwood covered presidential campaigns for the Washington Post four decades ago -it's enjoyable and valuable to get to know them at least a little better.

During our few moments of off camera chit chat yesterday, I learned that Hillary Clinton needs six hours sleep every night (about the same as me). We traded stories about the first presidential campaign events each of us ever attended--hers, however improbably it sounds now, for Barry Goldwater in 1964; mine for George McGovern in 1968, when I accompanied my Dad to a campaign event he covered after McGovern stepped in to complete the campaign of the slain Bobby Kennedy.

I told Sen Clinton that in the years, I have rarely seen a campaign run as flawlessly as hers has thus far. She smiled a knocked the wooden table next to her, adding "I need to knock on a big oak tree."

Could Al Gore's Nobel Peace Prize prove to be the event that knocks her off stride by drawing a heavyweight challenger into the race? Not unlikely, unless they hold the Iowa caucuses in Stockholm and New Hampshire primary in Hollywood.

Here's why I expect that speculation about a Gore candidacy will prove baseless. Gore's life after the painful 2000 election has become pretty sweet, with fame, fortune, an Academy Award to sit next to the Nobel on his mantelpiece. He is driving the worldwide debate on the one issue he feels most passionately about.

Why would he give that up for the unpleasant grind of a presidential race? If he had a clear path to the White House, maybe. But he doesn't. Instead of stumbling as some expected, Hillary Clinton has proven very formidable. Too formidable to lure Gore back onto the campaign trail, I am guessing.

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