January 2, 2003
Posted at: 7:00 p.m. CDT
WASHINGTON -- The Associated Press has learned that departing Democratic House leader Dick Gephardt has decided to form a presidential exploratory committee.
It would be his second run for the White House in 14 years. An invitation obtained by the AP says Gephardt will raise money for the exploratory committee at an event January 22.
A source close to Gephardt confirms that the Missouri Democrat has decided to form the exploratory committee -- the traditional first step in a presidential bid -- in the next few days.
Gephardt is stepping aside after eight years as the Democratic House leader. His last bid for the Democratic presidential nomination in 1988 started strong in Iowa, but quickly faded.
Earlier Thursday, the name of North Carolina Senator John Edwards was added to the list of Democrats interested in running for president. The 49-year-old multi-millionaire personal injury lawyer says he wants to be ``a champion for regular people.'' He's setting up an exploratory committee.
Edwards, a first-term senator, insists he's got ``exactly the right experience.'' And he notes that unlike other candidates, he's not a ``life-long politician.''
Also, Edwards says he provides a clear alternative to President Bush. He claims the Bush administration is too cozy with ``insiders,'' such as the energy, chemical and pharmaceutical industries.
Gephardt and Edwards join Massachusetts Sen. John Kerry and Vermont Gov. Howard Dean as Democratic hopefuls for the White House in 2004.
Meanwhile, at the presidential ranch in Crawford, Texas, President Bush insists he's ``not paying attention'' as Democrats line up to challenge him in 2004. He tells reporters the Democratic race so far is just so much ``background noise.''
During a tour of his ranch, the president said Democrats are engaging in what he called ``a lot of verbiage and a lot of noise and a lot of posturing and a lot of elbowing.'' A
asked if he's disappointed there won't be a rematch with Al Gore, Bush said he's not thinking about that. He says his mind is instead ``on the peace and security of the American people.''