WILL ELIOT SPITZER RUN FOR PRESIDENT?
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.
WHEN WOULD THIS HAPPEN?
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.
WOULD HE SEEK ANOTHER NATIONAL OFFICE?
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.
YOU INTERVIEWED HIM MORE THAN A DOZEN
TIMES. WHAT IS HE LIKE?
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
He's funny in a highly intellectual way—many
of his jokes revolve around complicated wordplay
and snappy comebacks.
WHAT DRIVES HIM?
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.
IS HE AMBITIOUS?
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.