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Obama forms
presidential exploratory committee

Obama forms
presidential exploratory committee


Democratic senator Barack Obama takes initial step toward a presidential campaign that could make him the first black American to occupy the White House.

Democratic senator Barack Obama took the initial step Tuesday toward a presidential campaign that could make him the first black American to occupy the White House. Obama filed papers creating a presidential exploratory committee, which he announced on his Web site, He said he would announce more about his plans in his home state of Illinois on February 10. ''I certainly didn't expect to find myself in this position a year ago,'' Obama said in a video posting. ''I've been struck by how hungry we all are for a different kind of politics. So I've spent some time thinking about how I could best advance the cause of change and progress that we so desperately need.'' Obama, a 45-year-old whose only national experience is just over two years as a U.S. senator from Illinois, is the most inexperienced candidate considering a run for the Democratic nomination. Still, he is considered a prime contender in a race where Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton, former president Bill Clinton's wife, is widely expected to run and is considered the front-runner. Obama quickly rose to national prominence after a stirring keynote speech at the 2004 Democratic National Convention, which nominated John Kerry and John Edwards to run against the Republican president, George W. Bush, and Vice President Dick Cheney. The Constitution denies Bush the opportunity to seek a third term, and Cheney repeatedly has ruled out a run for the presidency. There is little question about Obama's star status in the Democratic Party. During last year's congressional election campaign, Obama was not among the 33 senators running for reelection but ranked among the most sought-after campaigners for his Democratic colleagues and members of the House of Representatives who were running. He remains an unknown quantity to many Americans, however, despite two best-selling autobiographies, The Audacity of Hope: Thoughts on Reclaiming the American Dream and Dreams From My Father: A Story of Race and Inheritance, which have helped fill in the gaps. His appeal on the stump, his unique background, his opposition to the Iraq war, and the fact that he is a fresh face set him apart in a competitive race that also is expected to include Clinton, a senator from New York; Edwards, a former senator from North Carolina; former Iowa governor Tom Vilsack; Connecticut senator Chris Dodd; and Rep. Dennis Kucinich of Ohio, who ran a Quixotic far-left campaign in 2004 and says he will run again. Obama's announcement was comparatively low-key, banking on the hype building up to his decision to drive the buzz rather than a speech or high-profile media appearance. He was in Washington on Tuesday but planned no public appearances. Obama tried to turn his biggest weakness, his lack of experience in national politics, into an asset by criticizing the work of those who have been in power. ''The decisions that have been made in Washington these past six years--and the problems that have been ignored--have put our country in a precarious place,'' he said in the Web site video. ''America's faced big problems before,'' he said. ''But today, our leaders in Washington seem incapable of working together in a practical, commonsense way. Politics has become so bitter and partisan, so gummed up by money and influence that we can't tackle the big problems that demand solutions.'' Obama said Americans are struggling financially, the economy's dependence on foreign oil threatens the environment and national security, and ''We're still mired in a tragic and costly war that should have never been waged.'' Clinton was in Iraq on Tuesday as Obama filed his papers. (Nedra Pickler, AP)

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