By Ceci Connolly
By Ceci Connolly
The day after Bill Clinton won a second presidential term, Republican Lamar Alexander picked up the telephone and officially launched the 2000 campaign. Alexander, having just lost the GOP nomination to Robert J. Dole, was back at it again, dialing for dollars. And though it might seem unsavory or slightly deranged the people who aspire to the presidency know it is an expensive, all-consuming, multiyear quest.
At Clinton's inaugural, would-be successors like Sen. Bob Kerrey of Nebraska and House Minority Leader Richard Gephardt met with groups of New Hampshire Democrats. In the year-plus since, the 2000 presidential circuit has been busy with potential candidates on both sides flocking to Iowa, New Hampshire and South Carolina, which hold key early primaries and caucuses. Alexander served 1,300 free lobsters to potential supporters in New Hampshire last summer, while several Republicans made the pilgrimage to Atlanta for the Christian Coalition's annual "Road to Victory" gathering. Can Ross Perot be far behind?
Two men Vermont Gov. Howard Dean, a Democrat, and Indiana Sen. Richard Lugar, a Republican already have removed themselves from the race, although it was never clear they were in. Retired general Colin Powell has also ruled out a run.
The reason for the early maneuvering is the wide-open nature of 2000. On the Democratic side, the nomination is Vice President Al Gore's to lose, given the enormous built-in advantages he will have raising money and generating press coverage. Last fall, in an effusive speech to loyal Democrats who donated $50,000 for a weekend with the president and vice president, Clinton made clear he'll do everything he can to pass the mantle to Gore.
Some pundits say the first primary of 2000 is the contest to secure consultant Ralph Reed, the savvy tactician who ran the Christian Coalition for eight years. But, as always, the early test that counts is the money race. Virtually every possible candidate has formed political action committees, and GOP accountant Stan Huckaby predicts contenders will need $22 million by the start of the election year.
Remember the Democratic lineup of 1992? Who would have predicted the late Paul Tsongas, Jerry "Moonbeam" Brown and a little-known governor of Arkansas would generate the most interest?
This report ranks the 26 most-active Democrats and Republicans in the field. Of course, at this early stage big names can be deceiving. Compiling a list of contenders at this early date is dangerous business. Some names make the cut simply by denying any interest in the job; others will be nothing more than the future Arlen Specters and Paul Simons respected senators who don't sell outside their home states.
But perhaps sandwiched in with the wild optimists, blatant opportunists and tired, old has-beens is the next president of the United States.
Ceci Connolly is a national political reporter for The Washington Post. She can be reached at email@example.com.
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