Down-Home Boys And Girls

Isn't it a funny coincidence that all of our presidential candidates are from picturesque small towns? CBS News Sunday Morning Correspondent Rita Braver thinks so. This is the latest in a series of columns updated weekly for An archive of The Braver Line is available. She can be reached by email at

Vice President Al Gore chose to make his official announcement that he's a candidate for president from his proclaimed hometown of Carthage, Tennessee. (Yes, I know, you thought he already was an officially declared candidate, but that's another long story.)

Republicans had a grand time with the Gore declaration, parading a mule cart to the elegant Washington hotel where Gore spent much of his boyhood while his father was a United States senator.

Republican National Committee Chairman Jim Nicholson said he wanted to show the world "Gore's real homestead, " the place where "young Al invented the Internet."

This is how we can tell we're in the thick of the campaign, even though there's a year and five months to election day.

We're not in a battle over policy issues and the future of America, we're fighting over who is the Most Authentic American Boy or Girl.

Dan Quayle lived in Washington as a congressman, senator and vice president, and now resides in sunny Arizona. But he went back to Huntington, Indiana to make his formal announcement.

Conservative crusader Gary Bauer, who's also been a fixture in the Washington area for years, announced from Newport, Kentucky.

Former Cabinet Secretary Elizabeth ("don't call me Liddy") Dole resides in the posh Watergate condominium in D.C., but she is expected to announce her presidential bid in North Carolina.

Texas Governor George W. Bush finally admitted that he is a candidate. But if he decides to make a formal, stand-on-the-front-porch announcement, it's a cinch he won't be doing it from the venerable Phillips Academy in Andover, Massachusetts, where he attended prep school.

The point seems to be for candidates to show that they are still "of the people," even though they travel in limousines and private jets. They are supposed to be "down-home," even if they wear thousand dollar suits and dine with moguls and royalty and national opinion makers.

Bill Clinton showed that this is a strategy that works. He was "The Man from Hope," not "The Man from the Rhodes Scholars."

Which brings up a conundrum that's delicious to contemplate: If Hillary Rodham Clinton runs for senator from New York, and if she wins, and if she runs for president as so many think she wants to, where will she make her announcement? Will it be in Illinois, where she grew up, or Arkansas where she so reluctantly went from Hillary Rodham to Hillary Rodham Clinton, or from her newly adopted home state of New ork?

This is why I love covering politics. There's so much to think about.

While most Americans would be thrilled if their children could go to college at Yale, like George W., or at Harvard like the veep, the campaign image makers don't want to emphasize the fact that their candidates have had elite educations or moved in exalted circles.

But it is the knowledge and ideas that these candidates have gained along the way that really defines them. American are not so interested in where their candidates started out, but in who and what they have become along the way.