By Dana Milbank
Washington Post Staff Writer
Monday, November 13, 2006
Sen. John McCain of Arizona said he will form an exploratory committee as the first step toward a possible run for the Republican presidential nomination in 2008.
The action had been widely expected from McCain, who lost a primary bid in 2000 to George W. Bush and who is the most popular prospective candidate for the nomination in 2008.
McCain, appearing on NBC's "Meet the Press" yesterday, said that while he won't make a decision until talking with his family over the holidays, "Are we doing the things organizationally and legally that need to be done to prepare for it? Yes." McCain indicated that the formation of an exploratory committee is imminent.
Just five days after midterm elections that returned control of the House and Senate to Democrats, prospective presidential candidates in both parties put down markers about their intentions for 2008. Accelerated primary schedules and fundraising requirements will make it necessary for candidates to start their campaigns in the next few months.
Sen. Joseph R. Biden Jr. (D-Del.), incoming chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, said on ABC News's "This Week" that "I still plan on running."
Another prospective candidate, Sen. Russell Feingold (D-Wis.), said he will not run, citing the Democrats' midterm wins. He told supporters in an e-mail that he will decline the "great adventure" of a presidential run because his three-term seniority in the Senate will allow him to "best advance" liberal causes.
The 2008 race is expected to be particularly active because it will be the first time in decades that neither party has an incumbent president or vice president in the race.
Iowa Gov. Tom Vilsack last week became the first to announce his candidacy for the Democratic presidential nomination. Others who have expressed interest are Sens. Hillary Rodham Clinton of New York, who leads in opinion polls; Barack Obama (Ill.); Christopher J. Dodd (Conn.); Evan Bayh (Ind.) and John F. Kerry (Mass); former senator John Edwards (N.C.) and New Mexico Gov. Bill Richardson. Another contender, former Virginia governor Mark Warner, announced before the midterm elections that he wouldn't run.
In addition to McCain, prospective Republican candidates include Govs. Mitt Romney (Mass.) and Mike Huckabee (Ark.), Sens. Bill Frist (Tenn.) and Sam Brownback (Kan.), and former New York mayor Rudolph W. Giuliani. Two other possible candidates, Sens. George Allen (Va.) and Rick Santorum (Pa.), lost reelection bids last week.
McCain positioned himself yesterday as a candidate who would restore Republican principles. He said voters decided last week "that we Republicans have lost our way, that we came to Washington to change government, and government changed us: the spending, the ethics, the massive programs such as Medicare prescription drug program, our failure to address their priorities as opposed to our own."
The NBC interviewer, Tim Russert, noted that McCain did 346 campaign events for 2006 Republican candidates. "Did a lot of good, didn't it?" the senator said.