He's better known for the two-term presidency that marked the ascendancy of the baby-boomer generation to the highest offices in the land, but in 1978, 32-year-old Bill Clinton gained early fame as the nation's youngest governor. He didn't last long, however: a backlash against an unpopular gas tax and auto surcharges as well as a growing perception that he put political ambitions ahead of state affairs sent him down to defeat in 1980. (The victor: Republican Frank White.) Two years later, apologizing to voters for the "young man's mistake" of trying to take on too much too soon, Clinton won. He spent the next decade honing his reputation as an "education governor" who helped improve Arkansas' public schools an achievement that helped catapult him to the White House.
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