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Daschle says he'll run again for leader

Democrat says party was 'deficient' in getting message out

From Dana Bash
CNN Washington Bureau

Daschle: "I don't think we were [as] effective as I wish we could have been."

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WASHINGTON (CNN) -- Senate Democratic leader Tom Daschle said Friday he will seek the top spot again in the next Congress, despite what he admitted were mistakes in articulating his party's message that led to losing control of the Senate.

"I intend to run for leader again because I think at a time when our country is as divided as it is and at a time when our government now is represented, at least the majority, by one party -- the White House, the House and the Senate -- it is all the more important for Democrats to stand up and fight for those who don't have a voice in Washington," he said.

Daschle maintained Democrats stood for core policies like extending unemployment insurance and raising the minimum wage but that his party fell short in letting voters know about it.

"I think we were deficient in clearly and effectively pointing to alternative strategies ... and I don't think we were [as] effective as I wish we could have been," Daschle said.

While Democratic finger-pointing over Tuesday's defeats forced House Minority Leader Richard Gephardt, D-Missouri, to move aside, Daschle said he is confident he will run unopposed.

Daschle said that Sen. Chris Dodd, D-Connecticut, rumored to be a potential challenger for Senate minority leader, told him that he would not run against him.

Daschle said he "has no plans" at the moment to run for president in 2004, but said he will make that decision at a later date.

The Senate begins a lame-duck session Tuesday and it is unclear how much will be accomplished or how long it will last.

The president asked Congress to complete work on the homeland security bill and the appropriations bills, but both Daschle and Senate Minority Leader Trent Lott, R-Mississippi, said it remains to be seen how much can be accomplished.

Homeland security has been deadlocked over an issue of labor rights, and Daschle said even if that is worked out, other issues remain that could make it hard to get the bill completed expeditiously.

Coming out of a meeting with the president Friday afternoon, Lott told reporters finishing homeland security legislation depends on "how much resistance" there is from senators.

"The president of the United States is the leader of our country. He feels very strongly that its important that the Congress should work to get this done," Lott said. "It will be easier to do it next year when we have a full compliment in place."

It is an open question which party will control the agenda during the lame-duck session. If Minnesota's independent appointee Dean Barkely decides to align himself with Republicans, it would give them the majority and the ability to call up legislation.

Barkely said he will decide over the weekend whether he will caucus with Republicans.

Daschle said has an ambitious four-part agenda for the lame-duck session:

Finishing the appropriations bills, passing some conference reports like terrorism insurance and port security, approving the 81 executive nominations still on the calendar, and passing homeland security legislation.

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