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She was once behind White House bars

Not that it’s going to diminish her ambition to live there again, but Hillary Clinton says she views the White House as something of a prison.

She also thinks that if she is elected president, she’ll have to have a contest on what to call her husband because “first lady” wouldn’t be appropriate.

This and other minutiae Clinton shared with Tyra Banks during a recent taping of Banks’ syndicated TV show.

“Do you ever get lonely?” Banks asked the New York senator. “Do you ever sit in your room by yourself sometimes and just feel alone?”

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“I don’t feel lonely,” Clinton said. “But I do feel sometimes isolated. Because when you are in these positions that I have been in, it can be very isolating. It is one of the reasons I [used to] put on the dark glasses and the baseball cap and go out of the White House. President Harry Truman once said that the White House was like the crown jewel of the American penal system because you can feel confined.”

“And kind of [like jail],” Banks added.

“Yeah,” Clinton replied. “Because you feel so set off and really isolated.”

Banks also wanted to know what Clinton’s husband would be called if she won. “He will always be Mr. President,” Clinton said. “But now we need to do a nationwide contest for a name.”

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“Like a reality show,” Banks suggested.

“Like a reality show,” Clinton agreed. “This is good, because think about it -- here are some of the things that have been suggested like First Mate. His Scottish friends say ‘First Laddie,’ but we need ideas. I’ll just keep calling him Bill.”

Banks didn’t get around to asking policy questions, but she was curious about something that so many of us have also long wondered about: which reality show Clinton might like to be on someday -- “Dancing with the Stars,” “American Idol” or “America’s Next Top Model”?

“In my dreams,” Clinton said, “I would be on ‘America’s Next Top Model,’ but in reality I would have to choose [among] my limited talents, and of them, dancing is better than singing. You do not want me to sing.”

Finally, Clinton announced her decision: “I think it would have to be ‘Dancing with the Stars,’ ” she said, “especially if I could have one of those really good partners.”

Obama: I’m no bureaucrat

If Barack Obama emerges victorious in the Democratic presidential race, his message will bear no resemblance to the one pushed by his party nominee 20 years ago, Michael Dukakis.

In the 1988 campaign, Dukakis pitched himself as the consummate manager; the orchestrator -- as the state’s governor -- of an economic recovery tagged the “Massachusetts Miracle;” a politician who was about competence, not vision. That November, Republican George H.W. Bush easily beat him.

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In a surprisingly frank interview with the Reno Gazette-Journal, Obama laid no claim to bureaucratic skills. Indeed, the headline for the article summed it up: “Obama says voters don’t want bureaucrat.”

Meeting with the newspaper’s editorial board, Obama said, “I have a pretty good sense of my strengths and my weaknesses. I am very good at teasing out from people who are smarter than me what the issues are and how we resolve them.

“I don’t think there is anybody in this race who can inspire the American people better than I can. . . . But I’m not an operating officer. Some in this debate around experience seem to think the job of the president is to go in and run some bureaucracy. Well, that’s not my job. My job is to set a vision of ‘here’s where the bureaucracy needs to go.’ ”

Loosened political ties

Here’s a startling new political reality in California: Both the Democratic and Republican parties are losing market share.

Times reporter Dan Morain has been exploring the state’s political party registration figures and has found that the two main parties are steadily dwindling as shares of the broader electorate.

The fastest-growing category of voters in California: Decline to State.

Barack Obama and Ron Paul have already launched political advertising in California. As the presidential candidates begin to focus on the Golden State, not just money, in advance of the Feb. 5 primary, the political implications of this social trend become clearer.

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In 2000, registered voters who did not state a party preference accounted for less than 14% of the California electorate. Back then, Democrats accounted for 45% of the electorate and Republicans 35%.

Today, nearly 20% -- 1 out of 5 -- of the California electorate, or almost 3 million voters, decline to state a party preference. For whatever reason -- and we can guess a few that start with excessive partisanship and gridlock -- the Democratic and Republican parties are becoming a smaller part of the total electorate.

Democrats still hold a proportional registration edge over Republicans, 42.5% to 33.8%. But there are actually 85,000 fewer registered Democrats in California today than eight years ago, despite the population growth.

A Dobbs draft?

A group dedicated to fighting illegal immigration has launched an Internet effort to cajole one of the most vocal and well-known advocates of that cause -- CNN’s Lou Dobbs -- into the presidential race as an independent.

The website was set up by the Americans for Legal Immigration Political Action Committee (ALIPAC), headed by North Carolina resident William Gheen.

The 62-year-old Dobbs, who over the years evolved from a fairly traditional financial correspondent to a full-throated advocate of economic populism, says he isn’t planning a White House bid, saying he did not have either “the personality or nature to be a politician.”

But then, in the best tradition of politics, he left the door open a crack, adding, “I cannot say never.”

Gheen and his group hope to knock the door off its hinges and get Dobbs into the presidential mix, citing his opposition to “amnesty” for illegal immigrants (i.e., any plan that does anything other than have those immigrants leave the U.S. for their home countries, get in back of the line).

And the winner isn’t . . .

On Tuesday, shortly after the last polls closed in Michigan and major media outlets declared Mitt Romney the winner, the Republican Party responded quickly with a note of congratulations: “In a close-fought victory, Senator John McCain succeeded again [in] the Michigan Republican primary, winning over a traditionally unpredictable voter base in Michigan.”

The problem, of course, was that McCain was not the Michigan primary winner -- the party had sent out the wrong prepared statement.

Five minutes later, the state GOP issued a new statement: “In a close-fought victory, native son Governor Mitt Romney won an important contest here tonight.”

A party spokesman explained to the Associated Press that it had prepared for either candidate to win, and “simply pushed the wrong button.”

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Excerpted from The Times’ political blog, Top of the Ticket, at latimes.com/topoftheticket.


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