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Braun formally launches 2004 presidential bid

Only woman in Democratic field

Presidential candidate Carol Moseley Braun
Presidential candidate Carol Moseley Braun

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Carol Moseley Braun

WASHINGTON (CNN) -- Former Sen. Carol Moseley Braun formally launched her long-shot Democratic presidential bid Monday, warning the country was at a "tipping point" and promising to "heal and renew America."

Braun -- who has been campaigning as a candidate for months -- said she was "determined to move our party in the direction of our nation's most noble ideals" but added, "America is at a tipping point."

"If we stay the course we are on, we won't recognize this country five years from now," she said. "But if we shift gears, try another way. tap some of the talent that has been relegated to the sidelines of leadership, we can heal and renew and save our country."

Braun, the only female in the 10-candidate Democratic field, officially launched her candidacy at historically black Howard University in Washington. (Profile)

In February, Braun filed paperwork with the Federal Election Commission to form an exploratory committee, which allowed her to start raising money for a possible candidacy. While the FEC filing in effect threw her into the race, she said at the time that she would decide whether to formally run for president later this year.

Other candidates who have formalized their White House bids recently include Sen. John Kerry of Massachusetts and Sen. John Edwards of North Carolina.

Recent polls place Braun in the low single digits among the Democratic field and she has raised comparatively little money. But she touted her endorsements by the National Organization for Women and the National Women's Political Caucus, which she won last month.

"It has been my experience in my political career that I've always had to run with the circumstances of not having the best-funded campaign, but out of 14 elections, I've won all but one of them," she said.

Braun, 56, was elected to the Senate from Illinois in 1992, becoming that body's first African-American woman, but lost her 1998 re-election bid. After her defeat, she served as ambassador to New Zealand and Samoa during the Clinton administration.

In an interview with CNN's American Morning, she said the U.S.-led invasion of Iraq in March has done little to make Americans safer, and criticized Congress for giving President Bush a "blank check" for the invasion "instead of going after the criminals who violated our country on September 11."

Though she opposed the war in Iraq, Braun said the United States now has an obligation to help the Iraqi people rebuild. But she added, "The question is, how can we bring our troops home with honor?"

"Americans don't cut and run," she said. "We have a responsibility, and we will live up to that responsibility," she said. "But getting us extricated from that quagmire -- getting the support of the world community that this administration thumbed its nose at to begin with -- will be a real challenge in the months and weeks to come."

During her Senate tenure, Braun was criticized for her visits to Nigeria to meet with then-dictator Sani Abacha, and her re-election campaign was hindered by accusations that her former campaign manager and fiancÚ sexually harassed employees and used campaign credit cards to buy clothes, jewelry and sport utility vehicles.

Federal regulators audited her 1992 campaign and found faulty record keeping but imposed no fines.

After her 1998 loss to Republican Peter Fitzgerald, Braun swore off another run for office with a seemingly definitive "Not, never, nein, nyet." But she said Monday that the September 11, 2001, terrorist attacks on New York and Washington prompted her to seek the presidency.

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