Democrats jazzed by the hype that political stars Sens. Barack Obama and Hillary Rodham Clinton might run for president will have to settle for Rep. Dennis Kucinich, at least for now.
Five weeks after being elected to a sixth term in the U.S. House, the former Cleveland mayor will announce today that he is running for president, his second bid in 2½ years.
In this March 26, 2004, file photo, Rep. Dennis Kucinich of Ohio speaks to supporters at a rally in Portland, Ore. Kucinich, who unsuccessfully ran for president in 2004, said he is planning to run again because his party isn’t pushing hard enough to end the war in Iraq. (AP Photo/Greg Wahl-Stephens)
While the presidential spotlight has focused on Obama, Clinton and other better-known potential candidates, Kucinich is only the second Democrat to officially launch his campaign. Outgoing Iowa Gov. Tom Vilsack announced his campaign for president earlier this month.
Best known locally as a populist politician who presided over the city when it slid into default in the late 1970s, Kucinich has earned a national reputation as an anti-war activist, in part thanks to his pro posal to create a Cabi net-level department of peace.
Kucinich, 60, ran for president in 2004 largely on his opposi tion to the war in Iraq. But he won fewer than 70 delegates of the 2,162 needed to win the party’s nomination. And despite early signs he had little support – he garnered just 1 percent in the 2004 Iowa caucus vote – he was the last candidate to concede to John Kerry.
Kucinich appears emboldened by the country’s flagging support for the war, so much so that he attacked his Democratic colleagues Monday for their support of the war.
“Democrats were swept into power on Nov. 7 because of widespread voter discontent with the war in Iraq,” Kucinich said in a written statement announcing today’s campaign kickoff.
“Instead of heeding those concerns and responding with a strong and immediate change in policies and direction, the Democratic congressional leadership seems inclined to continue funding the perpetuation of the war.”
Stephen Hess, a George Washington University public affairs professor who has written several books on the presidency, said Kucinich’s second bid will give his ideas wider exposure but will do little to improve his chances of winning.
Hess says Kucinich lacks the charisma of Obama, the political connections of Clinton or the résumé of other candidates considering a run.
“What he has got is a name that’s hard to pronounce and an ideology that’s pretty far to the margins of his party,” Hess said.
Washington, D.C., political handicapper Stuart Rothenberg agrees, adding that Kucinich won’t be able to raise as much money as other contenders and that “he has painted himself into representing a tiny corner of the Democratic Party.”
“After a while, Congressman Kucinich’s Don Quixote-like struggle starts to appear kind of goofy,” Rothenberg said.
“Everyone deserves a shot to run for president, but I am not sure everyone deserves two shots,” he said.
In an interview with Plain Dealer editors and reporters a month before the election, Kucinich said he had “no plans” for a second bid, though he refused to rule it out completely.
Republican Mike Dovilla, who was crushed by Kucinich in the Nov. 7 election, complained bitterly Monday that Kucinich misled voters.
“It’s too bad that during this year’s congressional campaign, Dennis Kucinich did not have the decency to be honest with the people of Ohio’s 10th District,” he said in a statement. “For two more years, we will have an absentee congressman as Dennis runs around the nation to indulge his insatiable ego and advance his personal, extremist agenda in another futile run for the White House.”
The Plain Dealer