Sen. Bob Graham Declares Candidacy

ByABC News
February 28, 2003, 7:55 AM

W A S H I N G T O N, Feb. 28 -- With little more than a press release, Florida Senator Bob Graham quietly became the ninth national Democrat to file papers to campaign for the party's presidential nomination Thursday.

"I intend to be the Democratic nominee for president," Graham said in a brief statement. "I am the best prepared to lead, and the most able to win."

The Florida senator, 66, is recovering from heart surgery and plans to return to work full time within the next two weeks, a spokesman said.

Word of his presidential aspirations first circulated in December of 2002, and his advisers slowly built momentum by charting the senator's evolution from consultations with advisers to chats with party officials to pledges from fundraisers.

Graham's lawyer, Robin Gibson, will handle administrative duties until a campaign staff is hired. Gibson will serve as campaign treasurer.

Graham's former chief of staff, Bud Shorstein, will remain an outside adviser.

Though many consider him a centrist in key policy debates, he's voted with his party more than ninety percent of the time in the past few years, according to rankings compiled by Congressional Quarterly.

His personal ideology differs from the views held by a large flock of Democratic primary voters, who tend to be more socially and economically liberal than other self-identified Democrats.

Only his foreign policy credentials, touted by former President Clinton, have been trod through. His view that the government should destroy Al Qaeda's terrorist network before it moves on to countries like Iraq has gained currency among the other Democratic hopefuls.

Graham, an active member of the Senate's New Democrat caucus, is at his least traditionally liberal when judging foreign policy questions. He vigorously supported the 1991 Gulf War Resolution and has fought against cuts in defense spending. He's a reliable vote for veterans' appropriations. His credentials on defense, intelligence and national security issues compare with those earned by Senator Joseph Lieberman of Connecticut.

Until recently, he chaired the Senate Intelligence Committee.

Like many Southern Democrats, Graham supports an efficient, activist federal government. But he has generally resisted any large expansion of the social safety net and has insisted that the government balance its books. Admirers say that Graham isn't beholden to any particular government program and is always willing to re-consider his position if the facts change.