Coy Candidates May Be Called Up by the Draft

By Zachary A. Goldfarb
Special to The Washington Post
Sunday, April 23, 2006

Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice says she won't run for president in 2008.

Wendy Rogers, mother of three, hopes to change her mind.

"If she realizes we are asking her to serve her country again, she will," said the 37-year-old from Austin.

Rogers has traveled to Tennessee to rally for Rice at the Southern Republican Leadership Conference. She has lobbied for her at local GOP gatherings and wears Rice stickers when she shops.

"I have put my heart into this," Rogers said.

Rogers is a state coordinator for Americans for Dr. Rice, a registered political committee whose goal is to draft Rice into the 2008 presidential contest. "Our focus is essentially showing her that she can do this," said Jessie Jane Duff, a former Marine who heads the group.

Having raised more than $20,000, Americans for Dr. Rice is one of the more mature political draft efforts underway in anticipation of 2008. But there are many others trying to coax their favored politicians into the race, including some who would seem to need no coaxing. Some of the groups actually meet; others exist only online. None seems to be playing a role in influencing any politician's actual plans. But they reflect the early and intense interest in 2008 percolating among the politically active.

The 2008 draft movements include people such as Ilya Sheyman, a college student in Chicago who drove to Madison, Wis., on a freezing February day to distribute "Run, Russ, Run" buttons at a gathering in support of Sen. Russell Feingold (D-Wis.).

Roanoke businessman Eddie Ratliff started Draft Mark Warner because he believes the former Democratic governor of Virginia could make inroads among conservative voters.

Then there is Scott Berry, who was driving on Highway 78 near Atlanta recently when a stranger honked his horn and threw him a thumbs up. The reason: The five stickers on Berry's silver truck with such expressions as "Viva Condi!" and "I'm a Condista."

Spokesmen for potential candidates say only that the efforts are flattering. They do not want to seem affiliated in any way with the drafters, which could violate campaign finance rules that keep draft groups separate from official campaigns.

Drafters can only hope to build the kind of buzz that was generated in 2003 by the Draft Clark movement, which retired Army Gen. Wesley K. Clark credited with helping to persuade him to enter the Democratic presidential contest.

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