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Print this pageCondoleezza Rice would be President Rice in 2009.Coy Candidates May Be Called Up by the Draft
Grass-Roots Groups Promote Their Favorites for 2008 Presidential ElectionBy Zachary A. Goldfarb
Special to The Washington Post
Sunday, April 23, 2006; A06
Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice says she won't run for president in 2008.Wendy Rogers, mother of three, hopes to change her mind."If she realizes we are asking her to serve her country again, she will," said the 37-year-old from Austin.Rogers has traveled to Tennessee to rally for Rice at the Southern Republican Leadership Conference. She has lobbied for her at local GOP gatherings and wears Rice stickers when she shops."I have put my heart into this," Rogers said.Rogers is a state coordinator for Americans for Dr. Rice, a registered political committee whose goal is to draft Rice into the 2008 presidential contest. "Our focus is essentially showing her that she can do this," said Jessie Jane Duff, a former Marine who heads the group.Having raised more than $20,000, Americans for Dr. Rice is one of the more mature political draft efforts underway in anticipation of 2008. But there are many others trying to coax their favored politicians into the race, including some who would seem to need no coaxing. Some of the groups actually meet; others exist only online. None seems to be playing a role in influencing any politician's actual plans. But they reflect the early and intense interest in 2008 percolating among the politically active.The 2008 draft movements include people such as Ilya Sheyman, a college student in Chicago who drove to Madison, Wis., on a freezing February day to distribute "Run, Russ, Run" buttons at a gathering in support of Sen. Russell Feingold (D-Wis.).Roanoke businessman Eddie Ratliff started Draft Mark Warner because he believes the former Democratic governor of Virginia could make inroads among conservative voters.Then there is Scott Berry, who was driving on Highway 78 near Atlanta recently when a stranger honked his horn and threw him a thumbs up. The reason: The five stickers on Berry's silver truck with such expressions as "Viva Condi!" and "I'm a Condista."Spokesmen for potential candidates say only that the efforts are flattering. They do not want to seem affiliated in any way with the drafters, which could violate campaign finance rules that keep draft groups separate from official campaigns.Drafters can only hope to build the kind of buzz that was generated in 2003 by the Draft Clark movement, which retired Army Gen. Wesley K. Clark credited with helping to persuade him to enter the Democratic presidential contest.John Hlinko, a consultant who co-founded Draft Clark, said that if not one person of the millions with Web access has taken the easy step of putting up a campaign-draft Web site, candidates "should really consider whether they can gather support in the long run."This election cycle's drafters, who are active a full year earlier in the election cycle than Hlinko was, come from a wide slice of American life -- bakers, drummers, lawyers, consultants, motorbike racers, students, activists, expatriates.Not surprisingly, one of the politicians attracting the most draft interest is also the one who is best-known, Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton (D-N.Y.).Peter Feddo, a young Democratic activist in Virginia, runs VoteHillary.org, a Web site he put up to tout a 2008 Clinton run. "She is the only one who can lead the Democratic Party in the right direction," he said.He has registered the group as a political committee, raised a few thousand dollars and collected thousands of names.Now, he said, "We want to go from the net roots to the grass roots."On a Tuesday evening earlier this month, about 30 Clinton supporters gathered at an Alexandria pizza shop to discuss how to publicize a Clinton candidacy. The event was organized through the popular activist tool, Meetup.com.Kathy Quellen of Alexandria, who sells medical products, helped bring supporters to the meetup. She said she was devastated by the election of 2004 and has now found her political voice through the advocacy of Clinton."When George Bush won the election in '04, I was so motivated to do something," she said.She concluded that Clinton is the best hope, saying: "She's the most qualified of any of the other candidates who are out there."And what if nothing comes of the draft movement?"I think it still would be helpful to get people involved in this process," Quellen said. "It's been life-changing for me."A separate group, Hillary Now, has a more eclectic cast.At the top is perennial activist Bob Kunst, who last Labor Day went to Brooklyn as part of a band called "Utica Ave Boyz" to perform in a parade that Clinton attended. In beads and feathers, gold shoes and shorts, he carried a sign promoting the Hillary Now site and says he caught sight of the senator.Some of the other steps he's taking to promote a Clinton candidacy are equally unconventional.One is partly sponsoring the competitions of an up-and-coming amateur motorbike racer in exchange for outfitting his bike with Clinton decals.Another is raising money by selling big chocolate chip cookies through the Web site.Anna Lia Notardonato-Hicks of Goodlettsville, Tenn., bakes the cookies. They are not her usual biscotti, and she acknowledges she does not "know where all this is going," but it is her way to do something."I'm a baker," she said. "I bake."
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