FLORIDA SEN. Bob Graham enters the Democratic race for the 2004 presidential nomination with a curriculum vitae that sets him apart. During 37 years in electoral politics, Mr. Graham has never lost a race. He was first elected to the Florida Legislature in 1966, served two terms as governor and is in his third term as a U.S. senator, a seat he has won by comfortable margins. Hailing from a sizable state that is a major source of Democratic Party funds, and from a region that has sent the past two Democratic presidents to the White House, Mr. Graham, at least on paper, would seem to be a serious contender -- if his candidacy gets beyond the exploratory phase.
Mr. Graham has yet to receive full clearance from his doctors after the double-bypass and heart-valve replacement surgery he underwent on Jan. 31. It may be a month or so before he knows whether the repair work was successful. With the first primary 11 months away, it might seem that Mr. Graham has plenty of time. But in a presidential contest in which fundraising and organization-building are expected to be the major events of 2003, the senator's medical uncertainty could complicate his situation.
A healthy Bob Graham might change the dynamics of the race. A political moderate from a center-of-the-road state, Mr. Graham has a record that could appeal to Northern and Midwestern centrists, voters south of the Mason-Dixon line and people in search of a candidate with solid credentials on issues such as education and the environment. His service as chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee, where he was an early and articulate voice for a more robust response to the threat of terrorism, puts him on the right side of that issue, in contrast to many in the nine-member field. His vote against the Iraq resolution may appeal to antiwar Democratic activists, who heavily influence primary politics. That does not mean the senator is home free on that issue. Mr. Graham has, we believe, a burden to explain why he feels Saddam Hussein is not an urgent threat to the American homeland and this country's interests in the world.
We could not write an editorial about Bob Graham without noting that he is a relative -- the half-uncle -- of Donald E. Graham, chairman of The Washington Post Co. We also note that Donald Graham, in the Post story about Bob Graham's entering the race, said this newspaper "is going to cover [Bob Graham] as we do every other presidential candidate." That goes for editorials as well as news coverage.