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US Field of Democratic Presidential Candidates Expands


Former North Carolina Senator John Edwards, the Democratic Party's 2004 candidate for vice president, has announced he is running for the Oval Office itself. He joins two other announced candidates and a number of others who are reported considering a run for the White House in 2008. As VOA's Peter Fedynsky reports, two of those prospects are already attracting considerable attention.

John Edwards' announcement was preceded by numerous appearances in the grassroots of American politics. They include a fundraiser in North Dakota, a book-signing in Georgia, and repeat visits to Iowa. Iowa traditionally holds the nation's first presidential caucus and often sets the tone for the campaign. Iowa Governor Tom Vilsack, however, is not an Edwards supporter; Vilsack announced his candidacy for president last month.

Joining Edwards and Vilsack is Ohio Congressman Dennis Kucinich, who campaigned for the White House in 2004. He announced he would run again on December 12. Kucinich says he wants to rally Americans around an issue likely to have considerable weight in the 2008 contest. "To the cause of ending a deepening tragedy in Iraq. To the cause of repairing America's reputation in the world," he said.

Iraq is an important issue among anti-war Democrats, who could influence their party's presidential nomination. Analysts say this could harm the chances of New York Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton, who has had difficulty defending her Senate vote for the war. Nonetheless, Clinton generates excitement as an individual with a serious chance of becoming America's first female president.

Senator Clinton was recently asked on a popular daytime television show, ABC's The View about a public opinion poll that puts her ahead of several leading Republican presidential prospects.

"It's very early, for anybody," she said. "Obviously a lot a people are thinking about it and I am as well, trying to sort all of this out myself."

Also receiving rock star treatment is Illinois Senator Barak Obama, a newcomer who was elected to the Senate just two years ago. Obama, whose eloquence has brought him national attention, would become America's first African-American president, if elected. He was asked about his popularity on The Tonight Show, a late-night NBC television network program.

"I think I'm sort of a stand-in right now for the American people being interested in a different kind of politics," he said. "And to some degree, maybe, I've come to represent some of that."

Analysts say Obama's and Clinton's ability to raise funds could quickly force other candidates out of the race. Indeed, Indiana Senator Evan Bayh has already withdrawn his name from consideration.

But Delaware Senator Joe Biden is ready to compete. The Senate's incoming Foreign Relations Committee chairman says he will set up an appropriate funding mechanism for his presidential campaign in January.

A big question mark among Democrats is former Vice President Al Gore, the Party's 2000 presidential candidate. While Gore says he cannot imagine running, he has declined to rule out the possibility. He won the popular vote in 2000, but lost a disputed electoral count that was decided in President Bush's favor by the U.S. Supreme Court.

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