Former Colorado Senator Gary Hart met with supporters at a Des Moines restaurant named “Splash” last night as he ponders jumping into the race for the Democratic Party’s 2004 presidential nomination. “I am not today running but I am thinking about it,” Hart told reporters at a news conference. “Circumstances put an automatic deadline of sometime in March, no later than April for making that decision.” Hart catapulted onto the national political scene in 1984 when he posed a surprising challenge to eventual Democratic presidential nominee Walter Mondale. He was considered the leading contender for the 1988 nomination, but that bid was derailed by a photograph with a woman named Donna Rice on a boat named “Monkey Business.” Hart has recently called the incident “folly,” rather than “scandal.” Hart says he doesn’t like “powerful language abused, and if you call “stuff like this” scandals, then “you just kind of let other things off the hook” because if “everything’s a scandal, then nothing’s a scandal.” He calls scandal a handy word in journalism, he says it really is a scandal if four million elderly can’t afford medicine, if 11 million children are in poverty, if 15-thousand Enron employees lose one billion dollars in their pension funds. He says reporters need to reserve the word scandal for things like that.Hart, who is now 66 years old, says he’s better prepared to be President than he was 15 or 20 years ago and he rejects the idea he must amass millions in order to begin a campaign.Hart says “while others have said they’re going to win the money primary,” he wants to win the “idea primary.” Hart says the candidate who provides ideas for ways the country can solve its problems, save its youth from unnecessary wars, give people jobs, and invest in the health and education of our children, “voters will respond to that.” Hart delivered a speech on campaign finance reform at Iowa State University in Ames last night.
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