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In interviews, Spitzer is always careful to say he is only interested in governing New York but it's clear from talking to him and his key supporters that he and they have dreams of bringing their progressive ideals to bear on the national government. Spitzer is a realist and he knows that as a Jewish Democrat from New York, he will need to have a very strong track record to appeal to the rest of the country. But if he scores some high-profile successes in Albany, I wouldn't be surprised to see him testing the waters in Iowa and New Hampshire.

Not before 2012. Spitzer would want to build a track record of success in Albany before exposing himself to scrutiny on a national scale. In the governor's race, he has drawn criticism for his lack of administrative experience, and a successful term as governor would help insulate him from similar charges in a presidential run. If the Republicans retain the White House in 2008 and Spitzer feels he could be an attractive candidate, I could see him throwing his hat in the ring in 2012. However, he is unlikely to take on a Democratic incumbent. Another factor affecting his timing could be Hillary Clinton. If she runs and loses and her loss is perceived as being due to the fact she is from the Northeast, Spitzer might hold back until 2016. He's a relatively young man—he turned forty-seven in June—so he can afford to wait.

Spitzer told me several times that he is not interested in running for the U.S. Senate, and I take him at his word. He likes to be the person in charge and his particular skills don't lend themselves particularly well to working in a legislative body with ninety-nine equals. He would make enemies very quickly if he kept up his habit of exchanging harsh words with those who oppose him, and might quickly find himself politically isolated. For similar reasons, I think he is unlikely to accept a Cabinet post, such as U.S. Attorney General. He's too independent and has too many plans of his own.

Spitzer can be extremely charming. He's the kind of guy who spends the first ten minutes of a meeting asking about the other person and their family and genuinely seems to be interested in the answers. He thinks very quickly on his feet and expresses himself in complicated sentences. You can tell that he is intimately involved in shaping the cases he brings and the ideas he expresses are his own, not some talking points that an aide put together for him.

He's funny in a highly intellectual way—many of his jokes revolve around complicated wordplay and snappy comebacks.

Spitzer is the last of three children in a family where his parents set extraordinarily high standards and the kids competed to reach them. His sister, Emily, is a lawyer and his brother, Daniel, is literally a brain surgeon. Eliot has spent his whole life striving to keep up with and then surpass them. His parents, who rose from very humble beginnings and made an extraordinary amount of money, also placed a very high value on giving back to the community and working from within to improve society.

What makes Spitzer's ambition interesting is that he seems to be driven more by policy than by personal aggrandizement. He courts the media spotlight and seeks power, but he's not doing it just to be famous. Rather, he wants to implement his vision for improving the world—from the stock market to New York State government and beyond. It makes him extremely attractive to his staff and to potential voters because he burns with a palpable desire to reform the world. It also scares the heck out of people who don't share his views because he won't be easy to divert or defeat.


Buy The Book
Spoiling For A Fight : The Rise of Eliot Spitzer
by Brooke Masters

On Sale July 25, 2006

Hardcover: 368 pages | ISBN: 0-8050-7961-0
Published by Times Books / Henry Holt & Co.
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