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Obama, Romney to Formally Enter US Presidential Race

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Two more presidential candidates, Democrat Barack Obama and Republican Mitt Romney, will formally announce their entry into the 2008 race for the White House over the next few days. VOA National correspondent Jim Malone reports from Washington.

Senator Obama will make his formal announcement in his home state of Illinois on Saturday. In addition to being the only African-American candidate in the race so far, Obama, at 45, is also one of the youngest.

Obama was one of several Democratic contenders who recently spoke to party activists meeting in Washington.

"So, we have got to rise up out of the cynicism that has become so pervasive, and ask the people all across America to start believing again," he said. "We have always been at our best in this country when we aim high."

At the moment, Obama trails Senator Hillary Clinton in public opinion polls, as does former North Carolina Senator John Edwards. Several other Democrats are running for president, but have gained little traction either in the polls or in raising money.

Some analysts have questioned whether Obama, who has served in the Senate for two years, has enough experience to be president.

Others predict Obama will have to be more specific about the policies he would attempt to carry out, if he were elected.

Ron Walters is a political expert at the University of Maryland. He says voters will get to know Obama better as he undergoes the intense media scrutiny of a U.S. presidential campaign.

"Barack Obama, I would suspect, as he defines himself more clearly, then, I think, the nature of his support will begin to divide accordingly," he said.

In the Republican race, former Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney will formally launch his presidential campaign in his home state of Michigan on Tuesday.

Romney will then visit the early presidential contest states of Iowa, New Hampshire and South Carolina as he tries to build support in a race that is expected to include Arizona Senator John McCain and former New York Cith Mayor Rudolph Giuliani.

Romney supports President Bush's new strategy in Iraq as a key part of the overall war on terror.

Romney spoke about his priorities during a campaign trip to Iowa late last year.

"And it is essential for us to recognize the threats from the jihadists, the economic challenge from Asia, and to protect the values and culture such as opportunity, risk taking, education, religion," he said. "All these elements that make up our society, these have to be protected."

At the moment, Romney trails both Giuliani and McCain in public opinion polls. But Romney hopes to gain support from some religious conservatives in the Republican Party, who may have doubts about the two leading candidates.

Independent political analyst Stuart Rothenberg says the large fields of candidates in both parties could lead to some surprises when the presidential nominating process gets underway next January.

"Hillary Clinton, John McCain, Barack Obama, the former governor of Massachusetts, Mitt Romney, is a major political figure," he said. "There are lots of other candidates who are running, and there could easily be surprises."

The 2008 race is unique in that neither the current president nor vice president will be mounting a campaign next year. The last time that happened was in 1928, when President Calvin Coolidge declined to run for re-election and the Republicans nominated his commerce secretary, Herbert Hoover, who won the election.

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