He and his wife Jane have three grown children, Matt, Katie, and Chrissy. His brother, Donald L. Gephardt, is the Dean of The College of Fine and Performing Arts at Rowan University in Glassboro, New Jersey.
Gephardt was an unsuccessful candidate for the Democratic nomination in the 1988 presidential election. Gephardt ran hard and early in 1987/88 and finally started moving ahead in Iowa after running the "Hyundai ad" that criticized what he thought were unfair trade barriers by Korea and Japan. Gephardt won the Iowa caucuses and South Dakota primary in February, but ran out of money and dropped out after losing badly in the March "Super Tuesday" primaries, when he won only the Missouri primary. An ad aired by the campaign of Governor Michael Dukakis focused on Gephardt's "flip-flopping" voting record, and showed a Gephardt look-alike doing forward and backward flips for the camera. Many felt that the ad killed any chance Gephardt had of winning the nomination. He dropped out after winning only 13% in the Michigan caucus, despite support from the United Auto Workers. Dukakis did consider picking Gephardt to be his running mate, but he instead chose Texas Senator Lloyd Bentsen.
Nonetheless, in part due to the visibility gained from his presidential bid, Gephardt was named House Majority Leader in 1989. He became the second-ranking Democrat in the House, behind then-Speaker Tom Foley. After Foley was unseated in the Republican landslide of 1994, Gephardt became the leader of the House Democrats as House Minority Leader (by tradition, the Speaker is usually reckoned as leader of his party in the House). He was the Democratic candidate for Speaker in 1994, 1996, 1998 and 2000.
Gephardt again found himself under consideration when Vice President Al Gore named Gephardt to his short list of possible vice presidential candidates in 2000. The other names listed on the short list were Indiana Senator Evan Bayh, then-North Carolina Senator John Edwards, Massachusetts Senator John Kerry, Connecticut Senator Joe Lieberman, and New Hampshire Governor Jeanne Shaheen. Gore eventually selected Lieberman.
Gephardt was Democratic leader in the House from 1989 to 2003, serving as majority leader from 1989 to 1995 (101st through 103rd Congresses) and minority leader from 1995 to 2003 (104th through 107th Congresses). He was considered a keen politician who worked hard at passing legislation as well as raising money for Democratic House candidates. Although Gephardt worked hard for many of President Bill Clinton's programs, he and his union supporters strongly opposed NAFTA and other "free trade" programs.
After the Democrats lost seats in the 2002 midterm Congressional election, he did not run for re-election as House Minority Leader. He announced his second run for President on January 5, 2003. His successor as Minority Leader, Nancy Pelosi, endorsed his bid for president. Gephardt was seen by many as too old fashioned and unelectable, with his fundraising efforts behind that of former Vermont Governor Howard Dean and Senators John Kerry, John Edwards, and tied with Joe Lieberman. Furthermore, Gephardt's support of the Iraq War resolution hurt him among liberal activists. Gephardt promoted a form of universal health care, and was supported by a dozen labor unions, but did not have enough support to receive the endorsement of the AFL-CIO.
Although Gephardt was ahead in the Iowa caucus throughout early 2003, Vermont Governor Howard Dean pulled ahead in the polls by August, his campaign fueled by anti-war activists. The Gephardt campaign was embarrassed by an early August St Louis Post-Dispatch article that revealed that 11 of 33 "Gephardt team leaders" listed on his Iowa campaign's web site were actually supporting other candidates or neutral. The race between Gephardt and Dean became negative, and took an ugly turn in October when a Gephardt staffer reportedley pushed a Dean staffer out of a meeting while calling him a "faggot". Many press at the event claimed the Dean staffer was picking a fight and that the Gephardt staffer did not make the hurtful comment. Dean chairman Joe Trippi (who had previously worked for Gephardt in 1988) and Gephardt chairman Steve Murphy became involved in a war of words over that incident. In the final days of the campaign, both Dean and Gephardt faded and finished third and fourth, respectively.
Although he dropped out of the Presidential race, Gephardt was mentioned as a possible running mate for John Kerry. On March 7, 2004, New Mexico Governor Bill Richardson, seen as a strong possibility for the position himself, endorsed Gephardt for the Vice Presidency. "I think he's the best candidate," Richardson said of Gephardt in an interview with the Associated Press. "There's a good regional balance with Kerry and Gephardt." Nevertheless, Kerry announced that he had chosen John Edwards as his running mate on July 6, 2004. Interestingly, on that same day, the New York Post published an incorrect headline stating that Gephardt had become Kerry's running mate. Shortly after this false story broke, the headline was compared to the 1948 "Dewey defeats Truman" front page of the Chicago Tribune, which incorrectly reported the presidential election results of that year. In 2007, it was revealed in the book No Excuses: Concessions of a Serial Campaigner by Bob Shrum, who served as Kerry's campaign adviser in the 2004 US presidential election, that Kerry wanted to choose Gephardt as his nominee for Vice President but was convinced by Shrum and others to choose Edwards.
|Dick Gephardt 2004 presidential campaign endorsements|
Governors and Lt. Governors
State Legislatures leaders
In 1987, when Gephardt decided to run for president, he announced that he had discontinued his support for pro-life legislation. He informed the National Right to Life Committee; "I now do not support any Constitutional amendment pertaining to the legality of abortion."
Gephardt's views on economic policy have also changed over the years. He voted for Ronald Reagan's tax cuts in 1981; in the 2000s, however, he became a staunch opponent of similar tax cuts by President George W. Bush, saying that the enormous surplus created during the administration of Bill Clinton should have been spent on health care instead. Gephardt is widely viewed as an economic populist. He supports universal health coverage, fair trade, and progressive taxation. Although he once chaired the centrist Democratic Leadership Council, Gephardt in his later years in Congress distanced himself from the organization, finding his pro-labor views at odds with the DLC's pro-business positions.
On October 10, 2002, Dick Gephardt was among the 81 House Democrats who voted in favor of authorizing the invasion of Iraq. However, three years later Gephardt would rebuke his previous support for the war, saying "It was a mistake ... I was wrong.
In his new capacity as Washington lobbyist, Gephardt, on behalf of the Republic of Turkey, has been actively lobbying against the House resolution condemning the Armenian genocide of 1915 in the Ottoman Empire. While supportive of the resolution while in Congress, he now contends that facts need to be better known before any position is taken over this historical controversy.
Gephardt joined the EMBARQ Corporation Board of Directors in June 2007.
On July 5, 2007, Gephardt endorsed Hillary Clinton's campaign for president, leading some to speculate that he is interested in running for vice president in 2008. DLA Piper has become a major donor to Clinton's campaign, donating about $190,000. Gephardt's name was mentioned by the media during the summer of 2008 as a possible vice presidential choice for Senator Barack Obama.
A collection of Gephardt's congressional documents, ranging from 1994 to 2004, was processed from 2006 to 2007 by the Missouri Historical Society for academic use, with a grant through the Institute of Museum and Library Services. From 2008 on, it should be made available to the public. In 2005, Washington University in St. Louis inaugurated the Richard A. Gephardt Institute of Public Service, which promotes volunteerism and community activism.