CAMBRIDGE, Mass. – Refreshed from a semester as a visiting professor at Harvard University, former pro wrestler and Minnesota Gov. Jesse Ventura (search) says he's considering an independent run for the White House in 2008, although he acknowledges that being leader of the free world might be too confining for him.
"That's an issue with me. I love my freedom," Ventura said in an interview with The Associated Press at his office at the John F. Kennedy School of Government. "The part that would bug me is I wouldn't be able to get up in the night and drive to the 7-11 for a Slurpee, not without them blocking off the roads, welding the manhole covers shut, and everything else that goes along with it."
Ventura has not made a firm decision on a presidential run. He is weighing the concerns of his wife, Terry, who has told him she won't go with him if he wins the White House. His solution: move the White House to Minnesota.
"What would hold me back would be my family. The brutality of the campaign, the ruthlessness of the Democrats and Republicans," he said. "If it looks like I might win, there's no telling what they would do. They're very desperate people when it comes to third parties."
Still, Ventura speaks like a man preparing to be a candidate. He said he'll decide next year because he'll need plenty of time to get on the ballot. And he won't have a political affiliation — "No party, no nothing," he said.
He's already come up with a campaign message: "Elect someone who truly is not controlled by special-interest money. With me, you would get a true check and balance," Ventura said.
One of his first acts would be to try to abolish the income tax in favor of a sales tax, which Ventura says is a better indicator of wealth.
Ventura, 52, shocked the political establishment in 1998 when he used his message of social liberalism and fiscal conservatism — and his sizable personality — to defeat two better-known and better-funded candidates to become the first third-party governor of Minnesota.
But he left office four years later, disillusioned and discouraged after a frustrating final year.
His semester at Harvard — including parties until the wee hours — has renewed his faith in America and his political ambitions, he said.
"The best way I can describe it is rehab," Ventura said. "For someone getting out of office like me, even though I've been out for over a year now, it's equivalent I think to an alcoholic or the drug addict going to the Betty Ford clinic."
Harvard took a calculated risk in inviting the boisterous Ventura, a former Navy SEAL, talk-show host and movie star with only a high school diploma. In his pro wrestling persona, The Body, he draped himself in a pink feather boa.
Harvard Institute of Politics director Dan Glickman, the former congressman and Clinton administration agriculture secretary, said he knew some people privately questioned whether Ventura belonged. Yet by the end of the semester, which concludes Friday, some faculty poked around Ventura's office, hoping to catch a glimpse of the man whose study groups were unconventional but always well attended.
"Quite frankly, he's an important historical force in American politics," Glickman said.