Democratic Presidential Candidates

Eight men and one woman are competing for the Democratic Party nomination for president of the United States in the two-thousand-four election. I'm Steve Ember with Phoebe Zimmermann.

Today we tell about these candidates on the VOA Special English program, THIS IS AMERICA.

The United States elects a president every four years. Currently Republicans control not just the White House but also both houses of Congress. So far, nine Democrats have entered the race for the chance to oppose President Bush next year.

The candidates include Senators John Edwards, Bob Graham, John Kerry and Joseph Lieberman, and former Senator Carol Moseley Braun. Others include Representatives Richard Gephardt and Dennis Kucinich. Candidate Howard Dean is the former governor of Vermont. And, Al Sharpton is a Christian clergyman and a civil rights leader.

There may be even more candidates. Retired Army General Wesley Clark may decide to run. So may Delaware Senator Joseph Biden. Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton of New York has said she will not compete. Yet the public opinion testers at the Gallup Organization say Hillary Clinton has more support than any other Democrat.

The party will start to choose it presidential candidate early next year. This will happen during local nominating elections and party meetings known as caucuses. This is the way both the Democratic and Republican parties have chosen their candidates since nineteen-seventy-two. Before then, few states held primary elections and party leaders controlled the nominating process.

The first event is the Iowa Caucus in January. Those who fail to gain much support in Iowa and the votes that follow may end their campaigns.


Over the years, most people hoping to be president have been white, Protestant Christian males. Of the nine Democrats, Joseph Lieberman is Jewish. John Kerry and Dennis Kucinich are Roman Catholic. Al Sharpton and Carol Moseley Braun are African American.

The Gallup Poll recently asked some voters if they would vote for a woman for president. It also asked if they would vote for a member of a racial or religious minority. Nine out of ten of those questioned said "yes," if they liked that candidate.

The Democratic candidates are now announcing their positions on issues like the economy and taxes, health care, education and the environment.

Senators Lieberman, Kerry and Edwards voted to support the president's resolution to permit a war in Iraq. So did Representative Gephardt. Representative Kucinich and Senator Graham voted against it. Bob Graham said war in Iraq would damage the war on terrorism. He said the targets should be terrorist groups like Hezbollah in Lebanon.

Howard Dean, Carol Moseley Braun and Al Sharpton have all criticized the war.

The candidates held their first debate in May. Most media reports suggested that no candidate gained a clear victory. Yet communications researcher William Benoit says the candidates did not criticize each other as much as those reports made it seem.

Mr. Benoit is a professor at the University of Missouri at Columbia. He found that, mostly, the candidates attacked President Bush. But the professor says too much of that will not make a candidate stand out from the other Democrats.

Bob Graham was born in nineteen-thirty-six. He is the oldest of the candidates. He was a Florida state representative, state senator and governor. Mr. Graham is now serving his third term in the United States Senate. He has criticized the lack of discovery so far of the illegal weapons that the president said were a reason to attack Iraq.

John Kerry received many honors for military service. He was a Navy officer during the Vietnam War. But later he opposed that war. In nineteen-eighty-four, Massachusetts voters elected him to the United States Senate. He is now serving his fourth term. Mr. Kerry says Democrats must support making America safer and stronger if they are to win the presidency.

Many Americans know Connecticut Senator Joe Lieberman from the two-thousand election. He was the vice presidential candidate of Al Gore. Mr. Lieberman has served fourteen years in the Senate. He is a strong supporter of the war on terrorism. But he has criticized other of the president's policies. He says, "The administration of George W. Bush has an old economic plan for a new economy."

John Edwards of North Carolina is the youngest candidate for the Democratic nomination. He was born in nineteen-fifty-three. Mr. Edwards is a former trial lawyer. He is in his first term as a senator. He served on the Select Committee on Intelligence. As president, he says he would try to enact a plan to reduce the cost that Americans pay for medicines.

Carol Moseley Braun became the first African American woman in the Senate. Ms. Moseley Braun, a lawyer, was elected from the state of Illinois in nineteen-ninety-two. She served one term. Later she was ambassador to New Zealand. Ms. Moseley Braun sharply criticizes the Bush administration's economic policies.

Richard Gephardt of Missouri is the former Democratic Party leader in the House of Representatives. He has served in the House for twenty-six years. He competed for the Democratic presidential nomination in nineteen-eighty-eight. At that time, he won the important Iowa caucus. Some political scientists expect him to do that again. Dick Gephardt proposes a new health care system for the United States.

Representative Dennis Kucinich [coo-SIH-nich] of Ohio was the youngest person ever elected to lead a major American city. He became mayor of Cleveland, Ohio, in nineteen-seventy-seven, at age thirty-one. If elected president, he says he would work to cancel the USA Patriot Act. Congress passed these anti-terrorist laws after the attacks on New York and Washington on September eleventh, two-thousand-one. Mr. Kucinich also opposes the World Trade Organization and the North American Free Trade Agreement.

Howard Dean is a medical doctor. He served in the Vermont House of Representatives and later as lieutenant governor. He became governor in nineteen-ninety-one, when Governor Richard Snelling died. As president, Howard Dean says he would propose a plan that would provide health care for everyone in America.

Reverend Al Sharpton has been in the clergy of the Pentecostal Church since age ten. He competed several times for public office in New York but never won. He has worked to change his image. Many people saw Al Sharpton as someone who incited racial and ethnic divisions. In nineteen-ninety-one he established a civil rights group called the National Action Network. Most recently he opposed the war in Iraq.

In early June, the Quinnipiac University Polling Institute in Connecticut said Mr. Lieberman had the most support among the nine Democrats. Next came Mr. Gephardt and Mr. Kerry.

Zogby International did a study of likely voters in the New Hampshire nominating election in January. That study found Mr. Kerry in the lead, followed closely by Howard Dean. The study showed Mr. Dean gaining popularity.

President Bush has high public approval ratings, especially on the issues of terrorism and foreign policy. Recent opinion studies have found some drop, though. Still, a Zogby poll taken in early June found he would defeat a Democrat forty-four percent to thirty-seven percent if the election were held today. But pollster John Zogby says Democrats stand to gain if the issue is the economy or health care.

In July of next year, the party will nominate its choices to oppose President Bush and Vice President Dick Cheney. The Democratic National Convention will meet in Boston, Massachusetts. Election Day is November second, two-thousand-four.

This program was written by Jerilyn Watson and produced by Caty Weaver. I'm Phoebe Zimmermann. And I'm Steve Ember. Join us again next week for another report about life in the United States on our VOA Special English program, THIS IS AMERICA.