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Rising Star in Democratic Party Considers US Presidential Run


U.S. Senator Barack Obama says he may seek his Democratic Party's nomination for president in 2008, reversing his previous statements that he would not do so. The first-term senator from Illinois and the Senate's only African-American has been encouraged by fellow Democrats to run for the White House, despite his limited political experience.

Barack Obama came to national prominence when he delivered a rousing keynote address at the 2004 Democratic National Convention, at which Senator John Kerry of Massachusetts was nominated to run for president. At the time, Obama was in Illinois state politics and a candidate for the U.S. Senate.

Two years later, and barely two years into his six-year Senate term, Obama says he has begun thinking about running for president himself in 2008.

Although he has previously said he would not run in the next presidential election, he told NBC television's Meet the Press program that he could not ignore growing calls from fellow Democrats for him to consider a presidential run.

"I do not want to be coy about this," he said. "Given the responses that I have been getting over the last several months, I have thought about the possibility. But I have not thought about it with the seriousness and depth that I think is required."

Obama says his first priority is helping other Democrats win seats in Congress in next month's midterm election. He says he will decide whether to run for the White House after the November 7 vote.

In the NBC interview, Obama played down his lack of experience in national politics.

"I am not sure anyone is ready to be president before they are president," he said.

Michael O'Hanlon of the Brookings Institution, an independent research and policy organization, agrees.

"Experience per se is not the most important thing," he said. "The quality of one's ideas is, and the ability to project them with some seriousness, conviction, nuance, sophistication."

O'Hanlon, who co-authored a book titled Hard Power: The New Politics of National Security - which offers Democrats advice on a national security agenda, says the challenge for Obama will be in laying out his vision on foreign policy.

"For me the bigger question is how does Obama want to talk about the big issues of the day, like Iran, Iraq and North Korea, not to mention the rise of China and the future of NATO and the broader war on terror," he said. "While I am very struck by his abilities, I am not sure he can quickly come up with the sense that he is given enough thought to these questions. So there is a very high bar for him to approach."

If Obama decides to run, he could face a stiff challenge from Senator Hillary Clinton, who is widely seen as an early front-runner in the contest for the party's nomination.

But Obama's opposition to the war in Iraq could provide an alternative for Democrats who have expressed concern about Clinton's support for the war.

"I suppose Obama could respond that he was against the Iraq war, and she was for it, and so he made the right call on the big issue and she made the wrong call," said Michael O'Hanlon.

The 45-year-old Obama, whose late father was from Kenya and his late mother from the U.S. state of Kansas, is currently promoting a new book called The Audacity of Hope: Thoughts on Reclaiming the American Dream, in which he discusses his political views.

He has been featured on the cover of a recent issue of Time magazine as a possible presidential candidate.