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    Democrat Obama Takes Step Toward US Presidential Run

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    Democratic Senator Barack Obama, a rapidly rising star on America's political scene, has taken a first step toward a possible run for president in 2008. VOA National Correspondent Jim Malone reports from Washington.

    Senator Obama filed the necessary papers creating a presidential exploratory committee. That is the first step most candidates take before they mount a campaign for the White House.

    The Illinois Democrat, who is the only African-American in the Senate, made the announcement in a recorded message posted on his Web site.

    "For the next several weeks, I am going to talk with people from around the country, listening and learning more about the challenges we face as a nation, the opportunities that lie before us and the role that a presidential campaign might play in bringing our country together," he said.

    Obama says he will announce whether he will run for the presidency on February 10 in Illinois.

    The possibility of an Obama bid for the White House has sparked excitement among Democrats looking for a fresh face in 2008.

    Four other Democrats have already announced they will run for president next year. They include former North Carolina Senator John Edwards, former Iowa Governor Tom Vilsack, Connecticut Senator Chris Dodd, and Ohio Congressman Dennis Kucinich.

    Other Democrats are expected to formally announce their intentions soon, including Senator Hillary Clinton of New York.

    Obama is the son of a Kenyan father and an American mother. He served seven years in the Illinois state Senate before his election as a U.S. Senator in 2004.

    Political analysts say Obama has already shown an ability to draw enthusiastic support from Democratic activists. But they also say that excitement may be tempered by his relative lack of experience in national politics.

    "He is a very personable, articulate guy," said Stuart Rothenberg, who publishes a non-partisan political newsletter in Washington. "I have talked to him a number of times. I met him before he was in the Senate. He came to see me. But, I mean, he is still kind of green [inexperienced] and we are talking about him in this environment where foreign policy seems to be the number one issue. So I just think he has a long way to go."

    Several Republicans have taken steps toward a possible White House run as well, including Arizona Senator John McCain, former New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani, and former Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney. Republican Congressman Tom Tancredo of Colorado joined that group Tuesday when he announced the creation of a presidential exploratory committee.

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