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Inside Politics

With Kerry's move, Democrats look to 2004

Massachusetts senator announces plans for presidential bid

Sen. John Kerry:
Sen. John Kerry: "It's an enormous step, and it's not one I take lightly."

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WASHINGTON (CNN) -- The midterm elections are barely over -- and in one state still being played out -- but political speculation is already focusing on 2004 and the contest for the White House.

The Democratic field of 2004 presidential candidates took clearer shape Sunday with Sen. John Kerry's announcement that he will file papers this week to establish an exploratory campaign committee.

"It's a enormous step, and it's not one I take lightly," the junior senator from Massachusetts told NBC's "Meet the Press" on Sunday. "But it's one I'm excited about."

Kerry is the second Democrat to make such a move, joining Vermont Gov. Howard Dean who filed papers this past spring. Other Democrats considering throwing their hats in the ring: former Vice President Al Gore, House Minority Leader Richard Gephardt of Missouri, Sens. John Edwards of North Carolina, Joe Lieberman of Connecticut, Joe Biden of Delaware, and Senate Democratic leader Tom Daschle of South Dakota.

"I think the field is wide open at this point," said Sen. Evan Bayh, D-Indiana, told CNN. Bayh, who has ruled himself out as a presidential contender in 2004, called Kerry "a very able man," but he ducked the question of who would be the best Democrat to challenge President Bush.

"I don't think we'll know yet who's the most formidable Democratic candidate against Bush," Bayh said. "That's something the primaries will have to sort out, and I suspect we'll know sometimes next April or May."

NAME: John Forbes Kerry
AGE-BIRTH DATE: 58; Dec. 11, 1943
EDUCATION: Bachelor's degree, Yale University, 1966; law degree, Boston College, 1976
EXPERIENCE: Navy officer, awarded Silver Star, Bronze Star with Combat "V," three Purple Hearts for Vietnam War service, 1966-70; spokesman, Vietnam Veterans Against the War, 1971; Middlesex County, Massachusetts, prosecutor, 1976-78; lawyer in private practice, 1979-1982; Massachusetts lieutenant governor, 1983-85; U.S. Senate, 1985-present.
FAMILY: Wife, Teresa Heinz; two children, three stepchildren
QUOTE: "What people care about is who you are, what you care about, and what you fight for."

The Associated Press

Kerry said he discussed the matter over the weekend with his family and advisers.

The senator said he will file papers with the Federal Election Commission to establish a presidential exploratory committee and will take steps to establish a national campaign this week.

He said Americans are living with a "deep anxiety over security" that transcends what he called a narrow vision offered by the Bush administration.

"I think the country is in a very different place than many people in Washington think it is and certainly that this administration thinks it is," Kerry said. "On almost every issue facing the country, I believe there is a better choice for this nation."

Kerry, who will be 59 on December 11, was a decorated Navy officer in Vietnam and became an antiwar activist on his return home. In congressional testimony in 1971, he asked the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, "How do you ask a man to be the last man to die for a mistake?"

He voted against committing U.S. troops in the 1991 Persian Gulf War but supported the October congressional resolution authorizing the use of force to disarm Iraq in the current standoff.

Howard Dean, Richard Gephardt, Al Gore and Joe Lieberman
Howard Dean, Richard Gephardt, Al Gore and Joe Lieberman

Kerry said that Americans are concerned about "job security, income security, retirement security, health security, education security, physical, personal security and of course national security."

But he rejected President Bush's call for more tax cuts to ease economic problems.

"No new tax cuts," he said, echoing the first President Bush's famous "Read my lips, no new taxes" pledge from the 1988 campaign. The senior Bush later broke that promise. "We can't go on any longer pretending we can have everything."

Kerry was first elected to the Senate in 1984 after serving as Massachusetts' lieutenant governor and as a state prosecutor.

In Louisiana, voters have a more pressing concern than the 2004 presidential race. They go to the polls Saturday for a runoff election for the U.S. Senate race between GOP challenger Suzanne Haik Terrell and Mary Landrieu, the Democratic incumbent.

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