Friday, January 19, 2007

Ready to Run?

The field for the 2008 Democratic presidential nomination gained one more contestant Tuesday as Illinois’ own Junior Senator Barack Obama threw his hat into the ring and announced the creation of his presidential exploratory committee. He is expected to announce his candidacy on February 10, 2007.

Also announcing campaigns or exploratory committees for the Democratic nomination so far are Connecticut Senator Chris Dodd, Ohio Representative Dennis Kucinich, former Iowa Governor Tom Vilsack, author Mike Gravel, and former North Carolina Senator and 2004 Vice Presidential nominee John Edwards. Considering a run are New Mexico Governor Bill Richardson, and Senator Joe Biden of Delaware, along with Massachusetts Senator and 2004 Presidential Nominee John Kerry. An announcement is also expected from New York Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton within the next week.

So how does Obama distance himself from the fray?

With only two terms served as Illinois State Senator and a partial term served as a United States Senator under his belt, one of Obama’s major challenges will be proving that he has a sufficient body of experience to be Commander-in-Chief. However, as many of his most ardent supporters are quick to point out, Obama shares his brief tenure with Illinois’ most notable politician: Abraham Lincoln.

The first African-American president of the Harvard Law Review, fifth (and currently only) African-American member of the U.S. Senate and bestselling author was catapulted from a virtual unknown in the political arena to celebrity status after his keynote address at the 2004 Democratic National Convention. This notoriety contributed to his landslide November 2004 victory over Alan Keyes and the establishment of a solid base of supporters nationwide.

This national recognition will be incredibly beneficial to the Senator in a Presidential run. Unlike other candidates (except Clinton), he does not need to spend time and money trekking around the country to establish himself as a “household name.” He also has a sufficient background in working with both sides of the aisle in negotiating legislation—appealing to both liberals and conservatives alike.

Obama also functions as a predominant fundraiser for the Democratic Party, often stumping for candidates in need of campaign cash. As of last September, he managed to raise over $16 million for his Senate run, along with another $4.3 million for his PAC, Hopefund.


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