Wild card Obama tests waters for 2008 presidential bid (Roundup)
By Tony Czuczka Jan 16, 2007, 22:55 GMT
Washington - US Senator Barack Obama, a youthful African- American who has become the Democratic Party's rising star over the past year, took the first steps in his 2008 presidential campaign Tuesday.
Obama, 45, said he had decided to explore a presidential bid and would announce on February 10 whether he will run.
The son of a Kenyan father and a white American mother is Senator Hillary Clinton's main rival to lead the Democratic campaign to retake the White House when President George W Bush leaves office in January 2009.
Obama, a Harvard-trained lawyer with rock-star appeal, said Americans were hungry for an end to partisan deadlock between Democrats and Bush's Republicans, which he said was weakening the US.
'That's what we have to change first: We have to change our politics. We have to come together around our common interests and concerns as Americans,' he said in a video message.
The senator for the state of Illinois joins a crowded field in his centre-left party. Clinton, 59, the wife of former president Bill Clinton, has not declared her candidacy but is widely expected to run.
Labelled 'the next president' by Time magazine in October, Obama favours a pullback of US troops from Iraq and opposes Republican calls for partly privatising the US national pension system.
Bush has 'put our country in a precarious place' and led Americans into a 'tragic and costly war that should never have been waged,' he said in his message.
Obama, who represented poor Chicago residents in court and was elected to the Senate only two years ago, is a wild card for 2008.
He is considered less politically polarizing than Clinton, and his lack of Washington experience could work for or against him. No woman or African-American has ever been elected to the White House.
Thirteen months before the two major parties start the grueling process of nominating their presidential candidates, the campaign is already in full swing.
Competition is intense in both political parties because neither Bush nor Vice President Dick Cheney are running in 2008. Bush is constitutionally barred from seeking a third term and Cheney has ruled out a candidacy.
Democratic hopefuls include John Edwards, the vice presidential candidate in John Kerry's failed 2004 bid to unseat Bush, and several internationally less known politicians. Kerry himself has indicated he will seek the nomination too.
US Senator John McCain, a Vietnam War veteran known for his independent views, is the front-runner among the centre-right Republican Party. Former New York mayor Rudolph Giuliani, who led the city's response to the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks, is also in the fray.© 2007 dpa - Deutsche Presse-Agentur