WASHINGTON – Former Colorado Sen. Gary Hart says he has tried very hard to contribute to the country since scandal drove him from the 1988 presidential race when he was the Democratic front-runner.
Now the Denver lawyer is testing the waters for another possible presidential run in 2004, and plans to make a decision in the next month or so. Asked Sunday on ABC's "This Week," Hart, 66, said public response will help determine whether he will run.
"The word I would use is resonance, and what I mean by that is what kind of response I get from people," Hart said.
He thinks most voters will forgive his 1987 affair with model Donna Rice.
"People in this country are very understanding, and they're very willing to forgive if you have moved on, as I have," Hart said. "And I think also people understand that I have been married for 44 years to a very strong-willed woman, and she is probably the person most affected by that. And if she's put it behind her I think everybody else can."
Hart established an Internet site, www.garyhartnews.com, over the weekend in another step along the path leading toward his decision this spring on whether to run.
On his Web site Hart said Americans want security, both from terrorism and from domestic threats to the economy and the environment. He is delivering a series of policy speeches in the coming weeks, including one set for Tuesday to the Council on Foreign Relations in New York.
"It is my initial contribution to what I hope will become a primary of ideas leading up to the voting for president in 2004," Hart said on the site.
He has been gradually re-entering the public spotlight as co-chairman of the U.S. Commission on National Security, which warned in January 2001 that a devastating terrorist attack on the United States was likely within 25 years.
If Hart enters the Democratic race, he would join a field that already stands at a half-dozen and may grow by at least one more in the next couple of weeks.
Sens. John Edwards of North Carolina, John Kerry of Massachusetts and Joe Lieberman of Connecticut; Missouri Rep. Dick Gephardt and former Vermont Gov. Howard Dean have already declared their candidacy. The Rev. Al Sharpton of New York plans to file papers Tuesday with the Federal Election Commission to form an exploratory committee.
Florida Sen. Bob Graham is strongly considering a run and is likely to decide within the next couple of weeks, and others are mulling their options. The 2000 Democratic nominee, Al Gore, decided in December he will not run, which left the field wide open.