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Posted 2/15/2004 9:54 PM
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Douglas wins popular vote for best movie president
The people have spoken, and they prefer a lover, not a fighter.

Maybe it was the influence of a one-two holiday combo of Valentine's Day and Presidents Day. But when it came to picking the best candidate among eight movie actors who have played the head of state, Michael Douglas' Cupid-struck leader in The American President won the hearts of USA TODAY readers.

Of the 10,568 votes cast, 39% went to Douglas, whose widowed politician woos lobbyist Annette Bening in the 1995 comedy-drama written by West Wing creator Aaron Sorkin. "I'm very flattered," says Douglas, calling from his Aspen getaway. "I don't know if that has to do with Aaron or the thought of Catherine as first lady," he says, referring to his wife, the all-that-jazzy Catherine Zeta-Jones.

Douglas' portrayal impressed at least one real-life counterpart. "President Clinton invited me to a dinner to honor the French president. I went through the invitationline to shake hands with Clinton and he said, 'Hello, Mr. President,' and put me in his place in line next to President Chirac."

Douglas, who has promoted nuclear disarmament and human rights since 1998 as a United Nations messenger of peace, doesn't see himself campaigning for office any time soon. Not that he hasn't been recruited.

"I was asked a while ago to run for the governor of California by a series of very respectful senators and congressmen. They had hired a polling organization that said they needed someone with name value who is able to finance his own campaign. I said, 'No kidding? How much are you paying that man for such brilliant information?' "