The Art of the Presidential Rollout

Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., is running for president. That's no secret, right?

Nonetheless, the Arizona Senator and 2000 contender once again made his intentions clear Wednesday, "officially" announcing his 2008 presidential ambitions at a rally in New Hampshire.

But wait, isn't McCain already in the race?

Since forming a presidential exploratory committee last November, McCain has raised millions, hired staff, refueled the "Straight Talk Express" bus for a tour of critical primary states, and delivered policy speeches on Iraq, energy and the environment.

And if that weren't enough, the senator declared to David Letterman in February, "I am announcing that I will be a candidate for president of the United States."

All this, and yet the news this week reads: McCain announces (again).

Double Announcement Dipping

"Life has changed as we know it in national strategic politics," says veteran Democratic strategist Robert Weiner. "It used to be that political candidates could only get airtime on network evening news for one campaign announcement."

Now, says Weiner, candidates are using a variety of media -- including late-night talk shows, Web videos, YouTube, MySpace, blogs and traditional news outlets -- to reach voters.

"This opens up a world of opportunities in the political cycle for varied forms of announcements," says Weiner.

Despite all these new forms of announcing what everyone already knows, the formal campaign announcement is still seen as one of the best ways to generate buzz.

"The announcement day is the one moment that occurs for all the candidates when they have the clearest shot at the voter because the press just reports what happens and what their message is," says Republican pollster David Winston.

Democratic strategist Anita Dunn says some candidates appear to be going to extremes this year because of the early start to the campaign.

"The fact that you have somebody on their third announcement and it's only April speaks to the acceleration of the process more that anything," Dunn says of McCain's announcement.

Explore, Announce, Repeat

Candidates often garner widespread media attention when forming an exploratory committee -- the first step in the long road toward the White House.

But many of the 2008 presidential candidates are employing a new campaign rollout strategy -- making multiple announcements using Web videos, late-night comedy programs and formal campaign launches, to tell voters they're in.

"Every candidate looks for opportunities to get multiple bites at the apple," says David Chalian, political director at ABC News.

McCain "announced" on Letterman's "Late Show," while Sen. Chris Dodd, D-Conn., made his aspirations apparent on the now-defunct Don Imus radio talk show.

In January, Sen. Hillary Clinton, D-N.Y., posted a Web video announcing her exploratory committee. Soon after, Clinton went on an announcement tour in Iowa and New Hampshire, telling voters, "I'm in. And I'm in it to win."

Sen. Barack Obama, D-Ill., just one month after making a similar Web-only announcement, held a campaign rally at the Old State Capitol in Springfield, Ill., in February and said, "I stand before you today to announce my candidacy for president of the United States of America!"

And after a much-hyped news conference last month, Sen. Chuck Hagel, R-Neb., announced that he wasn't ready to announce anything.

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