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3 more Democrats join presidential race

©Associated Press

February 20, 2003

WASHINGTON -- Only a scorecard will help the voters sort through the growing field of presidential hopefuls as one Democrat announced his candidacy Wednesday and two others filed papers to create exploratory committees.

The current count is eight with the prospect of more joining the race in the coming weeks.

On the day Missouri Rep. Dick Gephardt announced his bid, former Illinois Sen. Carol Moseley-Braun and Ohio Rep. Dennis Kucinich filed formal papers with the Federal Election Commission that will allow them to raise money for a possible campaign. They join five candidates who have either announced or filed with the FEC: former Vermont Gov. Howard Dean, North Carolina Sen. John Edwards, Massachusetts Sen. John Kerry, Connecticut Sen. Joe Lieberman and the Rev. Al Sharpton.

Money, specifically political fundraising, is certain to separate the viable candidates from the also-rans as the Democratic field for 2004 now outnumbers the crowd of seven Democrats who entered the primaries in 1988.

Political observers said the crowded field also makes it difficult for the Democrats to put forth a single message, especially in contrast to the one voice coming from the White House.

"It creates a kind of mass confusion in which it's much harder for the party to coalesce around one candidate. It takes a lot longer to sharpen the debate," said Norman Ornstein, an analyst at the American Enterprise Institute.

Speaking to reporters Wednesday, Moseley-Braun, 55, described herself as a "peace dove and a budget hawk." She criticized the Bush administration for its push for war against Iraq, arguing that the policy had alienated allies and "frittered away" the good will overseas that the nation had engendered after the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11. She also called Bush's proposed tax cuts and budget deficits "a wimpy tax policy," using an insult often directed at Bush's father.

Moseley-Braun served one term in the Senate, losing her bid for re-election in 1998.

She was criticized for splitting an inheritance from her mother that should have gone to reimburse Medicaid and accused of using campaign funds for jewelry and expensive clothes.

Kucinich, 56, the former mayor of Cleveland who was elected to the House in 1996, acknowledged that his bid is a long shot.

"The purpose of a campaign is to develop name recognition, and I think my work for peace in the last year has brought me an increased profile nationally," he said this past weekend. "But I realize Kucinich is not a household word."

Other Democrats still considering a run are Florida Sen. Bob Graham, former Colorado Sen. Gary Hart, Connecticut Sen. Chris Dodd, Delaware Sen. Joe Biden and former NATO Commander Wesley Clark.

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