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Byline: Laura Jacobs
The country got its first good look at her while she waited to take the stage. She was sheathed in a sleeveless dress, her blond Breck Girl hair shining to her shoulders. Television viewers saw her take-touchingly-one deep breath before she walked to the microphone and into history, the first daughter to launch her father's formal nomination for the presidency. It was August 16, 2000, the third night of the Democratic National Convention, and Karenna Gore Schiff delivered her eight-minute speech with such intelligence and poise, such high-beam humor, that she seemed some kind of natural-to the campaign born-which she was. Looking toward the delegation from Tennessee, Karenna saw many of the same faces forever captured in her earliest childhood memory, another event that took place on a stage in August. It was Lebanon, Tennessee, 1976, her father's first political win, and it was also the night she turned three: just after midnight, while the final votes were counted, the crowd sang "Happy Birthday" to Karenna.
The press loves destiny, dynasties, and daughters-and shining blond hair doesn't hurt. Gore Schiff can check All of the Above. Traditionally, the children of candidates are off-limits, seen but not heard. Vice President Gore and his wife, Tipper, had pointedly not bred their four children to the family line-politics. But Karenna, the oldest, cut her teeth on the stump speech. At three she referred to the family house as "headquarters." At 14 she looked up from her homework to comment on a strategy session: "I don't think that's right, Dad." At 23 she coined the cleverest line in her father's debate against Jack Kemp (a joke about chlorofluorocarbon). And by 2000, aged 27, she found herself at the heart of Al Gore's campaign for president, stumping the states and exhorting Generations X and Y to embrace the political process and vote. Did her father fear the brickbats that would come her way? "I didn't worry for her at all," he says today, "because she is so self-possessed, so in command-and with such grace." The New York Times Magazine called Karenna "the Golden Child." Pundit and friend Michael Kinsley has said he wouldn't be surprised if one day she were president. So the obvious question, the teaser that concluded every article, was the one about following in footsteps: Would Karenna Gore Schiff someday claim her heritage and run?
As the Democrats watched the 2000 election go south the wrong way-hanging on a Florida recount, which was stopped by a Supreme Court intervention without precedent-the question for Karenna shifted from public to private. "They were very dark days," says one of her closest friends, novelist Chloe Hooper. "A lot of the things she had grown up believing in had been not so much broken but smashed. The honorable don't always win, or at least they do, but you can then fudge the numbers. It was surreal. She was deeply disillusioned."
The question now was: What to do next? Her answer is a book-due out this month-not about the how, …