After Election '06, Get Ready for 2008

The voters may have the last word this Election Day, but the campaigning will hardly end.

After sitting through months of attack ads, speeches and political spin, America may be ready for a break from politics, but it's not coming.

Brace yourself for the 2008 presidential race.

"The reality is the campaign for the next presidential cycle begins the day after one is elected," said Republican strategist Mark McKinnon of the online political community Hot Soup.

"Democrats are going on a shopping spree," said Democratic strategist Donna Brazile. "They're looking for a candidate who can take advantage of the new political environment for Democrats."

There are a dozen Democrats and Republicans who may run, and most have been crisscrossing the country for months, testing the waters.

In the last 30 days, Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., the Republican front-runner, has been to 21 states.

Topping the list on visits to Iowa, home of the first presidential caucus, are Democrat John Edwards, who was on the losing ticket in the last presidential election, and Massachusetts' Republican Gov. Mitt Romney.

Big-Name Contendors

Early this morning at the train station in Chappaqua, N.Y., Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton, D-N.Y., was asking commuters for support in her re-election bid -- and perhaps thinking about a presidential run in 2008.

Even her closest advisers have said they don't know whether the former first lady will make a bid for the White House. But the signs are there, including her $15 million war chest, staff and constant travel.

And then there are the wild cards, such as former Democratic Vice President Al Gore, who has repeatedly said he can't imagine running, but is not shutting the door completely.

"I don't believe there's a politician alive that doesn't want to be president," McKinnon said.

Former Republican New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani has been drawing huge crowds at campaign rallies, as has Sen. Barack Obama, D-Ill., who seems to have taken on rock-star status.

Those around Obama believe he would have no trouble quickly raising money, but the lesser-known potential candidates will need to act quickly to lock in donors.

Strategists on both sides expect a flood of announcements after the New Year -- the official start to the 2008 campaign.