He's hardly registering in the polls, but Senator Bob Graham's formal entry last week into the race for the Democratic presidential nomination is nonetheless bad news for nearly everyone else in the crowded field. "He's the Swiss Army knife," sighs an adviser to one of the other candidates. "No matter how you open him, he hurts somebody."
Count the ways: Graham has the edge in fund raising in his home state of Florida, a blow to Senator Joe Lieberman, who had been counting on significant support in the state he worked so effectively as Al Gore's 2000 running mate. As a Southerner, Graham takes away much of North Carolina Senator John Edwards' advantage. He's a former Governor, thus depriving Vermont's Howard Dean of bragging rights as the only one in the race with gubernatorial experience. And unlike the three other U.S. Senators in the race, he voted against the war in Iraq--putting him more in line with the typical Democratic primary voter.
Graham has drawbacks, including a lackluster stump style and his late start, which puts him behind the rest of the field in the crucial area of building a political network. But he offers Democrats their best shot at winning the state that swung the whole election in 2000. That could make him the front runner for another position: as the ultimate winner's running mate. --By Karen Tumulty and Broward Liston