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Former Attorney General Janet Reno Appears to be Making Return to Politics

Aired September 3, 2001 - 12:00   ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.


THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
COLLEEN MCEDWARDS, CNN ANCHOR: Former Attorney General Janet Reno appears to be making a return to politics, and that is where we want to begin.

CNN's Judy Woodruff has learned Reno plans to announce tomorrow that she is laying the groundwork for a run at Florida governor in 2002. She's expected to name a campaign treasurer and begin raising money of a candidacy. Reno is a native of Miami. If she wins the Democratic nomination, it will likely pit her against President Bush's brother, current Governor Jeb Bush.

Joining us from Washington with more on this, CNN's political analyst Bill Schneider -- Bill.

WILLIAM SCHNEIDER, CNN SR. POLITICAL ANALYST: Hello.

And this is likely to be the big political race of the year 2002. Janet Reno, with all baggage from the Clinton administration, an intensely controversial figure, versus Jeb Bush, the president's daughter -- the president's brother, in a race that will be high stakes for both political parties.

MCEDWARDS: All right, Bill. You talked about the baggage that she carries with her from the Clinton administration. What about the Elian Gonzalez case that was so controversial. She was right at heart of it. How is that likely to affect her?

SCHNEIDER: Well, of course, deeply unpopular decision within the Cuban-American community, which is not a large, but an influential voting bloc in Cuban America. Most Cubans see her as their devoted enemy because of her decision to authorize the raid by federal agents and to send Elian Gonzalez back to his family, and to his father in Cuba. On the other hand, she is regarded as a hero by a lot of Florida voters, who agree with her decision to send Elian back to family. That is one piece of baggage she has. The entire Clinton administration, she served the entire eight years of the Clinton administration. She authorized the raid on the Waco Branch Davidian compound in 1993 that was intensely controversial with conservatives.

She also has Parkinson's Disease, and that could be an issue, because a lot of people wonder is she capable of carrying out the responsibilities to be governor of Florida.

MCEDWARDS: What about her gender, Bill?

SCHNEIDER: Well, she's a woman we know that. Florida has never elected a woman governor. They have elected a woman senator. And what we know from other states' experiences, it is usually easier to elect a woman senator than a woman governor. Governor is an executive responsibility, and a lot of Americans have trouble seeing a woman in an executive position.

Dianne Feinstein lost he first race for governor in 1990, and then two years later, she got elected senator from California. So running for governor is always more difficult for a woman.

MCEDWARDS: I know she's been out there testing the waters a little bit already, even driving herself around in vehicle, talking to people, trying to get a read on things. Do you know what kind of response she's received from the public so far?

SCHNEIDER: Enthusiasm in a claim from Democrat. There are a number of Democrats interested in running. Interestingly, it's reported that at a fund-raising dinner for Democrats in Florida, she was the only potential Democratic candidate to receive a standing ovation. Right now, the latest poll, taken in July, show her leading the field for the Democratic Party's nomination in March, but still losing by 15 points to the incumbent Governor Jeb Bush. I think the problem the Democrats have with Janet Reno as a nominee is she is still -- she would be the favorite to win the Democratic nomination, but then in the general election between Reno and Jeb Bush, they want the general election to be about Jeb Bush, and they're afraid it would be referendum on Janet Reno, Waco, Elian Gonzalez, and Bill Clinton.

MCEDWARDS: That baggage of which you speak. Thanks, Bill Schneider, appreciate it.

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