The good news for John Kerry is that he didn't pull an Al Gore. Instead of moping around after the election, putting on weight and growing a beard, the 2004 Democratic nominee is back attacking Bush's health-care plan, skewering his nominee for Secretary of State during confirmation hearings, and booking a comeback interview on Meet the Press. The bad news for Kerry, if he wants to try again in '08, is that there's a boatful of other Democrats already testing the waters with the party's top fund raisers.
Among the earliest to start dialing around: Wesley Clark, who entered the '04 race just a few months before the first primary but quickly stumbled with a flip-flop on how he would have voted on Congress's Iraq-war resolution. Now he is telling potential supporters, according to one he called, that he "learned from his mistakes, he knows it takes more time and preparation than he put in--and that his wife is fully on board," which wasn't true the first go-round.
Other Dems seriously considering a run are Delaware Senator Joe Biden, who almost entered the race in '04, and Virginia Governor Mark Warner, who is trying to elevate his national profile as he debates a presidential bid. New Mexico's Bill Richardson is seizing every hobnobbing opportunity as head of the Democratic Governors' Association and is "definitely thinking about it," says a source close to him. Indiana Senator Evan Bayh is lining up a finance team and arguing that he can win in some red states.
Recent Veep contender John Edwards has been on the phone to thank supporters and say he will be back, but "he didn't impress anyone" with his work on the trail last year, a moneyman says, and may be a tough sell. And then there's Hillary Clinton, who remains publicly focused on getting re-elected to the Senate in 2006. Many insiders take it as a given that she will be in the '08 lineup and will be the name-recognition champ to beat. Yet, says a top Democratic fund raiser in New York, "there's a real unease" about her ability to win a national race. Which is what these other wannabes are banking on. --By Viveca Novak