Gephardt's Year 2000 Problem

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The politics of impeachment are having an effect not only on the fate of the man sitting in the Oval Office, but also on those who would like to succeed him. According to aides and friends, one aspirant, House Minority Leader Dick Gephardt, has all but decided that the year 2000 is the wrong time for him. Observing the anti-impeachment sentiments expressed by the public in the last election, "Gephardt sees a great chance to obtain a Democratic majority in the next Congress and become the next House Speaker," says TIME senior writer Eric Pooley. "By contrast the odds of derailing Al Gore for the Democratic presidential nomination are lousy."

Gore has the money, the organization and the name recognition. "There is little chance that Gephardt could overtake the vice president," says Pooley. However, taking a chance on becoming Speaker -- second in the line of succession and the primary agenda-setter in the House -- is more appealing to Gephardt at this time. "Of course," Pooley emphasizes, "nothing is sure in politics." The presidential fire in the belly burns bright for those who really want the job, and Gephardt could decide to go for it. Moreover, while a Democratic majority looks possible in the next Congress, it is by no means certain. A year and a half is an eternity in politics, and much can happen. After all, it's been only a year since we first learned about a woman named Monica Lewinsky.