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Gary Hart and Donna Rice – 1987

Rice and Hart
Donna Rice was pictured on the lap of Gary Hart on the cover of the June 2, 1987, issue of the National Enquirer (AP)
In the public's mind, probably no event from the 1988 campaign proved more memorable than the undoing of Democratic candidate Gary Hart. Long plagued by rumors of "womanizing," the front-running senator from Colorado watched his chances for the presidency evaporate in May when the Miami Herald reported that Hart, a married man, had spent the night with an attractive young model named Donna Rice.

Acting on an anonymous tip, the Herald had staked out Hart's Washington townhouse, and while the surveillance was flawed (it was not continuous and both house entrances were not always covered), the circumstances were suspicious enough to generate a massive media frenzy. Hart fought back, but his damage control operation collapsed in the face of other real or threatened disclosures, such as the revelation that Hart and Rice had earlier taken an overnight cruise to Bimini on the aptly christened yacht "Monkey Business."

The denouement came after a Washington Post reporter asked Hart, "Have you ever committed adultery?" Hart refused to answer the question at the time, but the meaning of the query soon became clear. The Post had identified yet another woman with whom Hart had had a long-standing relationship. Faced with that potential disclosure as well as an overwhelming media maelstrom, Hart went home to Colorado, withdrawing from the presidential race in a bitter farewell speech on May 8.

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© Copyright 1998 Larry J. Sabato

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