MIAMI – Janet Reno, once America's top cop, is now pressing the flesh in Florida, battling three other Democrats for the right to run against current Republican Gov. Jeb Bush in November.
The former attorney general piled her six-foot-plus frame into her Ford pickup truck this week to begin criss-crossing the state on a 15-day "red truck tour," in which she is expected to focus on education, the environment and health care.
Polls show Reno lagging behind Bush in a projected race, but the Miami native says her Democratic support is shoring up.
"One poll that's repeated itself since last summer," Reno told supporters during one of her stops, "shows that I've increased my position from 47 percent to 56 percent of the Democratic vote in the primary, so I feel good."
Considered the odds-on favorite to take on the president's brother, Reno has been working her cell phone, searching for votes in both big towns and hamlets.
Critics would like to knock Reno down with her often controversial decisions on Clinton-era issues, from the 1993 Branch Davidian siege, which ended in the fiery deaths of 80 men, women and children, to her occasional reluctance to investigate charges against the former president, particularly concerning illegal fundraising from foreign nationals.
Supporters counter that Reno maintained her integrity throughout her tenure.
"She can't distance herself. I mean the facts are the facts," said Elaine Kaplan, a voter. "What she did has nothing to do with what [Clinton] did."
"I called it like I saw it," Reno said. "Sometimes I got criticized by both sides, sometimes I got praised by both sides."
But unforgiving critics, such as many in South Florida's Cuban-American population, remember Reno's ruling that sent then-six-year-old Elian Gonzales back to the communist-ruled Caribbean island.
"They're not going to vote for Janet Reno," said voter Tony Bolanos. "Forget it, that's not going to happen with the Cubans in Miami."
Reno also has to fight concerns about her health. Doctors say fatigue caused her recent on-camera collapse during a speech at Rochester University in New York state. She has also been diagnosed with Parkinson's disease years ago, and some voters may fear is not in shape to serve.
The 63-year-old Reno is also behind in campaign cash, and analysts say her star power seems to be fading.
"I don't think that she would ever have wanted to be seen as the underdog," said Kevin Hill, a political science professor at Florida International University, "and only underdogs do gimmicks like a red truck tour."
Those same analysts agree, however, that central Florida's swing voters, finicky at best, could be the key to this fall's election. That's assuming Reno's red truck doesn't run out of gas before then.