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Eleanor Mondale checks out the Republicans at 1996 convo in San Diego


Eleanor Mondale in her considerable glow of youth. AP photo

Note to readers: In this sixth reprise of past convention stories, we return to San Diego, 1996, where Eleanor Mondale bounced to and fro as a reporter for the E! cable network. The daughter of 1984 Democratic presidential nominee Walter Mondale was trying her hand at covering the Republicans for the first time. She died in September 2011 at the all-too-early age of 51, felled by brain cancer. This article was originally published on Aug. 16, 1996.

@unclebarkycom on Twitter
SAN DIEGO -- Virtually sleepless in San Diego, a worse-for-wear Eleanor Mondale drove to a quick stop, tossed a cigarette butt out the window and tried to rouse herself late Thursday morning.

Twenty-five minutes late for an interview, she wore a gray t-shirt, jeans, blue-tinted sunglasses and a look of near-death accented by expansive yawns. The daughter of Walter Mondale -- former vice president and 1984 Democratic presidential nominee -- is attending her fourth national political convention and first Republican one. “I get to see how the other half lives,” she said.

Not for long, though. Ms. Mondale arrived in San Diego early Tuesday evening as an entertainment reporter for the E! cable channel’s E! News Daily. She went directly to a Planet Hollywood party to interview host Charlton Heston and guest Robert Conrad. Crashing at midnight, Ms. Mondale was up again at 3 a.m. to be a guest on Good Morning America, which tapes at 5 a.m. West Coast time. She spent the rest of the day and night editing the Heston piece and interviewing actor Alec Baldwin, whose Creative Coalition has sponsored two forums on election issues. Back in bed by 2 a.m. Thursday, she headed back to Los Angeles 10 hours later. Hey, it’s a living.

Ms. Mondale had one particularly surreal experience in San Diego. While talking to humorist Al Franken on the convention floor, she had a sudden impulse to call her parents back home in Minnesota.

“It was really cool!” she exclaimed. “They just happened to be home. Dad had just had a tooth pulled, so he wasn’t that communicative. But he was excited to hear from me. They’re just really proud of my being able to do this.”

Ms. Mondale attended the 1976, ’80 and ’84 conventions as the child of a candidate. Her father, now ambassador to Japan, opposed Bob Dole in 1976 when both were running for vice president. Ms. Mondale said she first met Dole when her father debated him in Houston 20 years ago.

“We put in a request to interview him (Dole), and I don’t know why he wouldn’t do it,” she said.

As candidates in a media maelstrom, both her father and Dole admittedly have struggled to adapt to the television age.

“Isn’t that funny?” asked the TV-savvy Ms. Mondale, who broke into the biz as an entertainment reporter for WCCO-TV in Minneapolis. “My father likes being in office. He doesn’t necessarily like the campaigning part of it because of having to be conscious of the television cameras. The media were a source of discomfort for him, and it seems that Dole is sort of from the same school my Dad was. When they grew up, America was different.”

And now, so is she.

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