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Congressman Dick Gephardt Launches White House Campaign - 2003-02-19

Congressman Richard Gephardt of Missouri has become the latest Democrat to formally announce he is running for president.

Congressman Gephardt returned to his old primary school in St. Louis to make an announcement that his supporters have been waiting months to hear: "I am running for president because I am tired of leadership that has left us isolated in the world and stranded here at home. I am running for president because we need an economic plan that works for everybody with real job creation, real [job] skills development, real help for hard-working families."

Congressman Gephardt says if elected he would repeal President Bush's tax cuts and would focus on creating jobs and expanding health care for low to middle income Americans.

White House spokesman Ari Fleischer told reporters that the lagging U.S. economy remains a top priority for President Bush. "The president continues to look at the economy and sees an economy that needs extra impetus to create jobs for the American people and to have higher growth and he believes that the plan he has offered to Congress will get that done," Mr. Fleischer said.

The Missouri Democrat generally supports the Bush administration's approach on disarming Iraq. But Congressman Gephardt says President Bush has unnecessarily alienated U.S. allies in threatening unilateral military action against Saddam Hussein.

"For all our military might, there are too many threats to our security, too many global challenges for America to simply go it alone. We need the friendship and cooperation of our time-honored allies. We must lead the world instead of merely bullying it," Mr. Gephardt said.

Congressman Gephardt is 62 and until recently was the Democratic leader in the House of Representatives. He is the only contender in the Democratic field who has run for president before. He lost the party nomination to then-Massachusetts Governor Michael Dukakis in 1988.

Two other Democrats are taking steps this week to join the race.

Ohio Congressman Dennis Kucinich, one of the most outspoken members of Congress opposed to war in Iraq, is forming an exploratory committee to raise money for a presidential bid. Former Illinois Senator Carol Mosely-Braun, the first African-American woman elected to the U.S. Senate, is also taking that step.

Eight Democrats have either formally announced they are running for the nomination or have formed exploratory fundraising committees. Five others, including Senator Bob Graham of Florida and retired Army General Wesley Clark, say they will decide whether to join the field in the next few weeks.