WASHINGTON – Sen. John McCain of Arizona said he will form an exploratory committee as the first step toward a possible run for the Republican presidential nomination in 2008.
The action had been widely expected from McCain, who lost a primary bid in 2000 to George W. Bush and is among the most popular prospective candidates for the nomination in 2008.
McCain, appearing on NBC’s “Meet the Press” Sunday, said that while he won’t make a final decision until after talking with his family over the holidays. “Are we doing the things organizationally and legally that need to be done to prepare for it? Yes,” he said, indicating the formation of an exploratory committee is imminent.
Just five days after midterm elections that returned control of the House and Senate to Democrats, prospective presidential candidates in both parties put down markers about their intentions for 2008. Accelerated primary schedules and fund-raising requirements will make it necessary for candidates to start their campaigns in the next few months.
Sen. Joe Biden, D-Del., who becomes chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations committee, said on ABC News’s “This Week” that “I still plan on running.”
Another prospective candidate, Sen. Russ Feingold, D-Wis., said he will not run. He told supporters in an e-mail that he will decline the “great adventure” of a presidential run because his three-term seniority in the Senate will allow him to “best advance” liberal causes.
The 2008 race is expected to be particularly active because it will be the first time in decades that neither party has an incumbent president or vice president in the race.
Iowa Gov. Tom Vilsack last week became the first to announce his candidacy for the Democratic presidential nomination. Others who have expressed interest are Sens. Hillary Rodham Clinton of New York, who leads in opinion polls, Barack Obama (Ill.), Christopher Dodd (Conn.), Evan Bayh (Ind.), John Kerry (Mass.), former senator John Edwards (N.C.) and New Mexico Gov. Bill Richardson. Former Virginia governor Mark Warner announced before the midterm elections that he wouldn’t run.
In addition to McCain, prospective Republican candidates include Govs. Mitt Romney (Mass.) and Mike Huckabee (Ark.), Sens. Bill Frist (Tenn.) and Sam Brownback (Kansas), and former New York mayor Rudy Giuliani. Two other possible candidates, Sens. George Allen (Va.) and Rick Santorum (Pa.), lost re-election bids Tuesday.
McCain on Sunday positioned himself as a candidate who would restore Republican principles. He said voters last week decided “that we Republicans have lost our way, that we came to Washington to change government, and government changed us: the spending, the ethics, the massive programs such as the Medicare prescription drug program, our failure to address their priorities as opposed to our own.”