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US Presidential Contenders Active for 2008

The 2008 presidential election is more than two years away, but that has not stopped several potential candidates from testing the political waters.

It is possible you have never heard of Mark Warner. He is the former governor of Virginia and one of several Democrats considering a run for the White House in 2008.

Warner recently traveled to the northeastern state of New Hampshire, which will host the first presidential primary early in 2008.

"And one of our challenges as a people and as a country is to make sure that everyone gets their own fair shot at their own version of the American Dream, and getting that chance ought to be more important than who your parents are, what race you are or where you worship," said Warner.

There are plenty of Republicans already thinking about 2008 as well. President Bush cannot seek a third term by law and Vice President Dick Cheney says he will not be a candidate, so that leaves a wide-open field of potential contenders that includes Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney.

Governor Romney recently spoke to an audience in Michigan, where his father, George, was governor in the 1960s.

Like many potential candidates for 2008, Romney hopes to convince voters that he can handle the presidential demands of leading the war on terror.

"Thank heavens we have a President of the United States who recognizes the degree of the threat we face and is willing to take the action necessary to protect us and thank heavens we have the most courageous and committed military soldiers in the entire world," said Romney.

Several other potential candidates, Democrats and Republicans alike, are also making trips to New Hampshire and another early contest state, Iowa, which hosts the first presidential caucus vote.

Political analyst Stuart Rothenberg says the early activity is not unusual two years before a presidential election year.

"The imperative for fundraising, the necessity for long shots or underdogs to start early, encourages early starts," he noted. "And if one guy starts early, everyone wants to start early. So, the system really is encouraging these early starts."

Another analyst, Amy Walter of the Cook Political Report, says this will be the first presidential election since 1952 that will not have either an incumbent president or vice president in the field of potential candidates.

"What we do know is that this race is going to start very early, because there is no heir apparent, there is no obvious frontrunner," she noted. "Usually, you have on both sides either a sitting vice president or a president or somebody who has been tapped as the obvious frontrunner. That is not the case today. So what we are going to see is a real free for all here on both sides and it is going to make for a dynamic 2008."

Some early public opinion polls suggest Senator Hillary Clinton is leading the pack on the Democratic side, while Senator John McCain is the top choice among Republicans.

But expert Amy Walter notes that early polls and predictions are often wrong.

"The field is still very wide," she added. "We know from history that trying to determine who the nominee is going to be this far out is a very dangerous game. In fact, we probably will not even know all the names of the people in the field by the time we hit 2007, 2008."

Many experts predict that Iraq and the war on terror will be pivotal issues in the 2008 election campaign.

But analyst Stuart Rothenberg says voters often make a basic calculation in presidential election years.

"I think we are going to hear an awful lot about reform, open government, transparent government," said Rothenberg. "And most presidential elections, frankly, turn out to be about change or the status quo. Do you like the direction of the country or do you want to change it? And if you want to change it, how do you want to change it?"

Other Democrats who have interest in 2008 include Senators John Kerry of Massachusetts, Joe Biden of Delaware, Russ Feingold of Wisconsin, Evan Bayh of Indiana and former Senator John Edwards of North Carolina. In addition, Iowa Governor Tom Vilsack, New Mexico Governor Bill Richardson and retired General Wesley Clark may be considering a run.

On the Republican side other potential candidates include Senators Bill Frist of Tennessee, George Allen of Virginia, Sam Brownback of Kansas and Chuck Hagel of Nebraska. Others who may be mulling a run for the White House include former House Speaker Newt Gingrich, former New York City Mayor Rudy Guiliani, as well as Arkansas Governor Mike Huckabee and New York Governor George Pataki.