Full House in White House Race

The 2008 presidential election is still nearly two years away, but the field of candidates is beginning to fill up for both parties. There are now eight Democrats and four Republicans in the running.

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STEVE INSKEEP, host:

It's MORNING EDITION from NPR News. Good morning, I'm Steve Inskeep.

Well, you only have about 652 days until the presidential election, and already you have plenty of candidates to choose from. That ranges far left as Democrat Dennis Kucinich, and as far right as this conservative Republican.

Senator SAM BROWNBACK (Republican, Kansas): Today my family and I are taking the first steps on the yellow brick road to the White House.

(Soundbite of cheering)

INSKEEP: Senator Sam Brownback announced his candidacy at a rally in Topeka, Kansas. Over the weekend, Democrats did their announcing on the Web.

Governor BILL RICHARDSON (Democrat, New Mexico): Hello, this is Governor Bill Richardson. Today, I'm announcing the formation of a presidential campaign exploratory committee, with a clear intention of declaring my candidacy for president in the very near future.

INSKEEP: Richardson is governor of New Mexico. And we had this from New York senator, Hillary Rodham Clinton.

Senator HILLARY RODHAM CLINTON (Democrat, New York): I'm not yet starting a campaign, though. I'm beginning a conversation, with you, with America.

INSKEEP: And let's get some analysis now from NPR's Cokie Roberts. And Cokie, when are you going to declare your candidacy anyway?

COKIE ROBERTS: Any day now.

INSKEEP: I mean, come on. You're from a great political family.

ROBERTS: That's right.

INSKEEP: Trusted by millions.

ROBERTS: And a good state.

INSKEEP: Cokie, you're all set. You're all set. Well, let's talk about people who have declared. Senator Clinton said last week on this program, she wasn't influenced by anybody else's timeline. Why do you think she decided to get in now?

ROBERTS: Well, she claims that she always planned to do it now, after trips to Iraq and Afghanistan, right before the state of the union. But others do think she was influenced by other timelines. All of the excitement around Barack Obama, and him pulling up in the polls in some early primary states. And I think she wanted to show a certain amount of inevitability. And sure enough, polls over the weekend - an ABC polls showed a surge of head and shoulders above the other Democratic candidates, among Democrats. And she has to address early this issue of electability. A Gallup Poll in January, early January, showed almost 30 percent of Democrats thought she wasn't electable. So she has to deal with that.

Interesting, Steve, not just that she did it, but how she did it. On the Web, sitting at home, on a flowered couch, family pictures in the background, talking about having a conversation - all very soft and friendly. And then off the next day, to a community health center, called the Ryan Chelsea-Clinton Community Health Center in New York. Where she announced that she's going to support legislation for children's health insurance. So she's willing -stressing her softer side, but still her policy side. And, of course, the fact that she's a woman.

INSKEEP: So, if Hillary Clinton is on her way to running, and Barack Obama is on his way to running, how much room is left for all these other Democrats?

ROBERTS: Well, they certainly think there is - Bill Richardson announcing yesterday - as you said. Look, what these Democrats basically think is that one of these top candidates can fall, which happens all the time. And then, they want to be - Bill Richardson, or Joe Biden, or Chris Dodd, or Tom Vilsack, or John Kerry - want to be the man standing when that happens. Now that most of them will be standing in the Senate - along with John McCain, Chuck Hagel, Sam Brownback on the Republican side - a pretty crowded Senate.

INSKEEP: Well, how's that going to affect legislation?

ROBERTS: Well, it's interesting, you know. The first thing it's going to affect is Iraq. Again, in an ABC poll out today, the public cares about Iraq more than any other issue by leaps and bounds. Everything else is in single digits - the economy, health care, the environment, education. So these candidates have to find a position on Iraq. They're having trouble doing that and there's a lot of arguing going on.

Then they'll stake out positions on those other things. As we said, Mrs. Clinton on health care; Sam Brownback will do abortion, where there'll be a big march today. And the president is going to be talking about all of those issues tomorrow night in the State Of The Union message. A big domestic program for all of these candidates to tee off of.

INSKEEP: Cokie, think of us first when you're ready to declare, okay?

ROBERTS: Okay, Steve. I'll be right there.

INSKEEP: Analysis from NPR's Cokie Roberts. We hear from her every Monday.

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