Nearly three months after losing the presidential election to President Bush, Democrat John Kerry is back in the news and sounding like a potential candidate in 2008. Senator Kerry gave his first broadcast interview since the election to the NBC program Meet the Press.
The Massachusetts Democrat readily acknowledged some mistakes in last year's campaign, especially not responding strongly enough to attacks from Vietnam veterans, who questioned his Naval service in Vietnam.
But Senator Kerry also said his campaign had a lot to be proud of in nearly defeating an incumbent president during a time of war.
"We raised more money than any Democratic campaign in history. We involved more volunteers than any campaign in history," he said. "I won more votes than any candidate on the Democratic side has won in history."
Despite those achievements, Senator Kerry says, the president prevailed in the end because the public recalled his handling of the September 2001 terrorist attacks.
"He obviously connected to the American people in those immediate days [after 9/11]," he said. "When the country is at war, and in the wake of 9/11, it is very difficult to shift horses in midstream."
At times, Senator Kerry sounded interested in running for president again in 2008, though he officially remains noncommittal about another bid for the White House.
Other Democrats seen as likely presidential contenders include Mr. Kerry's vice presidential running mate, former North Carolina Senator John Edwards, and New York Senator Hillary Clinton.
In the meantime, effective leadership of the Democratic Party has shifted to the party's congressional leaders, including House leader Nancy Pelosi. Congresswoman Pelosi says Democrats must decide in the months ahead where they can work with the president, and where they will oppose him.
"We, as Democrats, have a responsibility to find common ground with that vision that he presents," she said. "We have that responsibility to the American people. But [we have a responsibility] to stand our ground where we see the president not going in the direction that will make the future better for the next generation."
Democrats are expected to wage a major battle over the president's proposal to revamp the government retirement program, known as Social Security. Another battle could come when a vacancy opens up on the U.S. Supreme Court.
Allan Lichtman is a presidential historian at the American University in Washington.
"So, George Bush has a chance to set the judicial agenda in the country for the next generation," he said. "There may be anywhere from one to two, up to three or even four judicial [Supreme Court] appointments."
The next major internal decision for Democrats comes in mid-February, when party activists gather in Washington to choose a new national party chairman. Among those seeking the job is former Vermont Governor Howard Dean.