Obama says he'll consider '08 run

Senator had ruled out seeking presidency in next race

October 23, 2006|By William Neikirk | William Neikirk,CHICAGO TRIBUNE

WASHINGTON -- In a decided and unequivocal shift, Sen. Barack Obama said yesterday that he will seriously consider a run for the White House in 2008, affirming the stunningly rapid trajectory of a political career that saw him in the Illinois legislature just two years ago.

On NBC's Meet the Press, the same program where he categorically ruled out a run in January, Obama, an Illinois Democrat, went further than ever before in discussing his Oval Office ambitions and left clear the impression that he could well run, a move that would fundamentally reshape the contest for the Democratic nomination.

During the interview, host Tim Russert put Obama through a series of questions about Iraq, North Korea and Darfur, and about the tone of politics in this country - all questions that would typically be put to a prospective presidential candidate. Obama held forth on those issues and his views on the presidency, at once addressing issues about his relative inexperience but also about how he perceived the role of the world's most powerful office.

The Meet the Press appearance capped a week of intensive publicity, ostensibly about the publication of his second book, The Audacity of Hope, but that seemed more like a long run-up to articulating his presidential ambitions, winning him publicity that would cost others millions of dollars to generate.

His openness to running was a sharp reversal of his old political calculation. On the same program in January, he had rejected a presidential bid and reaffirmed that he would serve out a six-year term as senator, which would end in 2010.

But Obama's political stock has been on a sharp climb since he gave the keynote address at the 2004 Democratic National Convention, and he has been turned into one of the party's biggest fundraisers and most popular speakers, and among the few with true star power. He acknowledged that the door had opened "a bit" to a run.

Russert replayed Obama's January statement on Meet the Press when he said "I will not" seek the presidency or vice presidency in 2008 and would serve out his six years.

"You will not?" Russert asked yesterday.

"That's how I was thinking at that time, and I don't want to be coy about this," Obama responded.

"Given the responses I've been getting over the last several months, I have thought about the possibility, but I have not thought about it with the seriousness and depth that I think is required," Obama said. After the Nov. 7 election, he said, "I will sit down and consider it."

His statements touched off even more speculation that the Democratic contest could include Obama and Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton of New York, considered the leading candidate at the moment.

He was not clear on when he would make the decision, but it is likely that it would have to come this year or early next year.

Pollster Andrew Kohut of the Pew Research Center said the Illinois senator would be an "exciting and very attractive candidate" if he decides to run. He said Obama is a fresh face on the national political stage, although he remains an "untested commodity. His biggest liability is a lack of experience." Questions also could be raised about his electability because of his race, Kohut added.

Democratic political consultant Mark Mellman said that with Obama in the race, "It would make it even more interesting and exciting than it was going to be. ... There are a lot of people in a good position to win. The most important thing is that this is a nomination worth having."

In recent days, analysts have referred to the grueling nature of the campaign and its possible effect on his family. When asked whether he was ready to be president, Obama said, "Well, I'm not sure anybody is ready to be president before they're president. You know, ultimately, I trust the judgment of the American people that in any election they sort it through."

William Neikirk writes for the Chicago Tribune.

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