Remember in elementary school where we had to take a test where the only answers were either true or false? In Hollywood movies about real events or people, Hollywood tends to touch up or embellish the facts to make the movie flow better or brighten it up. In this series we are going to look at what events were true and what events were false in the movie the Front Runner.
The Front Runner is about Gary Hart’s failed run for the US Presidency in 1988. For those of you who don’t know who Gary Hart is he was a US Senator from Colorado. He managed George McGovern 1972 Presidential Campaign (McGovern ended up losing to Nixon that year) . Hart was also the runner up for the democratic nominee to Walter Mondale in 1984. Mondale famously used a then popular Wendy’s line at the time about “Where’s the beef” against Hart in a debate. The line meant that Hart’s policies had no substance. The media loved the line and that debate and other factors helped Mondale win the nominee over Hart. Spoiler alert! I will address the main topics of the movie so if you haven’t seen the movie it’s best if you watch it then come back to this post or if you don’t care about spoilers… proceed
Was Gary Hart really the front runner for the democratic nominee in 1988?
Sort of True: In a New York Times poll conducted in early January 1987, Hart received the most votes from the democratic nominees in the poll, however also stated in the poll only 1/6th of Hart’s backers said their minds were firmly made up about voting for him. Essentially these same voters could be swayed by another candidate. Hart had great name recognition from being the runner up in 84 and that’s what essentially gave him the early lead in early polls. Ironically in that same poll Michael Dukakis who ended up winning the democratic nominee that year polled at 1 percent. Essentially that poll was way too early to base any opinions about the election on giving the poll was taken 22 months before the election took place.
Did Hart’s campaign really fall apart in a matter of 3 weeks?
Sort of True: Hart declared his candidacy on April 13th 1987 and he suspended his campaign on May 8th 1987. Not shown in the movie however is the fact Hart later reentered the race in December of 1987 and was leading national polls and only polling behind Michael Dukakis in New Hampshire which was the first Primary in the nation.
Did Donna Rice friends really call the Miami Herald to inform them about the affair with Hart?
True: Dana Weems and to a lesser extant Lynn Armandt did call the Herald to inform about the affair. It was Armandt idea to try to sell the pictures of Hart and Rice together to the Herald. Weems made the actual call to the Herald though it seems she was more of acquaintance or “Frienemies” with Rice then an actual friend.
Did Gary Hart really have a confrontation in the alley by his house with Miami Herald Reporters?
True: Hart did have a confrontation with four of the Heralds staff in the alley that night. Why did Hart decide to confront the reporters? I assume he thought if he confronted then they would back down and see the foolishness of their actions and the stakeout, but the reporters pressed on and the decision to confront the reporters was one of many mistakes Hart made during the ordeal.
Did Hart really first meet Donna Rice on a boat party in Miami?
False: Rice First met Hart at a 1986-1987 New Years eve party in Aspen Colorado. the two then randomly ran into each other on a boat in March of that year and exchanged contact info. Two days later Hart called Rice and invited her on the infamous boat party.
Is the alleged affair what really killed his presidential campaign?
False: As mentioned earlier though Hart suspended his campaign in May over the growing media storm about his possible affair with Rice, he reentered the race in December of that year. What bothered voters more was the 1.4 million in debt Hart was carrying from his failed 1984 Presidential run. Hart participated in the New Hampshire primary in 1988 but only garnered 4 percent of the vote. He stayed in the race till Super Tuesday where after only getting 5 percent of the vote, Hart withdrew from the campaign a second and final time. One could argue that his absence from the race for all those months contributed to his loss but remember when he reentered the race he was leading national polls and was polling second in New Hampshire. I would argue what Killed Gary Hart’s 1988 presidential campaign was poor fundraising and poor campaigning , though the alleged affairs certainly didn’t help.
Mistakes were made:
The whole premise of the movie was how Hart blew his chance to become President because he couldn’t keep his dick in his pants. Political sex scandals, are as American as apple pie, they have been going on since Thomas Jefferson and Sally Hemmings and continues on till modern times with now President Trump and his numerous alleged affairs. Women love powerful men and men love young women , its an issue that will never cease to occur. Hart made a lot of mistakes in his 1988 presidential run, but I will argue that the two biggest in this movie was going on and participating in a boat party with young women without his wife present. Hart was only running to be President at the time so it wasn’t like anyone would recognize him or that he didn’t have enemies or other candidates trying to take him down right? Right….. The next biggest mistake Hart made was trying to confront some Miami Herald reporters and a photographer in an alley by his house, by himself and without any real plan. There was no way he was going to look good in that situation and I think he realized halfway through the confrontation that him confronting them was a mistake.