Daschle Aims to Stay Engaged
Former Senate minority leader Tom Daschle (D-S.D.) isn't running for president in 2008 -- yet. "It interests me," Daschle acknowledged. "I don't have any plans to run, but I am going to keep my options open."
Daschle would not commit to a national race in an interview Friday at his new office at Alston & Bird in Washington, D.C. But he gave every indication that he has been thinking long and hard about a run for the White House.
Being out of the Senate, Daschle said, has given him a broader perspective on issues. "It is not uncommon for a candidate running for president to cite a bill by its cosponsored name," he said, perhaps in a subtle shot at Massachusetts Sen. John Kerry (D), who was accused by his detractors of constantly speaking in Senate-ese during the 2004 campaign. "That doesn't mean a thing to someone in Aberdeen, South Dakota," Daschle added.
He outlined four criteria that the party's 2008 nominee must have in order to reclaim the White House. First, and most important, is being a "candidate who can connect." Daschle explained, "A big portion of any party's success at any level is likeability." He attributed much of President Bush's success to his affability. ("George Bush, for reasons not entirely clear to me, is a very likeable person with the electorate.")
Daschle's other -- somewhat obvious -- criteria for a 2008 win include doing more to energize the party base, reaching out to independent voters and refining turnout operations.
As for his own personal interests, Daschle seemed to signal that he was essentially in the 2004 presidential race until Democrats lost control of the Senate in the 2002 election.
"I was shaken by that, I was surprised by it," Daschle said, adding that in the two days immediately following the election a number of his colleagues asked him to stay on and seek a fourth Senate term. He ultimately chose to do so, explaining: "The feeling was that [the Senate] was where I was really needed and there would be time to look for national office later."
Daschle is making moves that seem to indicate the future is now. He has reopened his leadership political action committee -- now known as New Leadership for America -- and claims to have raised $700,000 through it so far this year.
Daschle is also keeping an active travel schedule with a scheduled address at the Iowa Democratic Party's annual Jefferson Jackson Dinner on Nov. 5. A few days before that he will be at Northwestern University to make a speech on foreign policy. Daschle is also seeking to bolster his policy bona fides by keeping an office at the Center for American Progress.
The PAC, the travel and the think-tank position, he said, are moves to bolster the party he worked with for nearly three decades in Congress. "After the  election as I thought about what I wanted to do, there wasn't thirty seconds of deliberation about my desire to stay engaged," he said.
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