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Obama to form panel to explore presidential bid

Story Highlights

• Sen. Barack Obama says he will create a presidential exploratory committee
• Illinois Democrat says final decision to run in 2008 will be made by February 10
• The first-term lawmaker was elected to the Senate in 2004
• Exploratory committees allow candidates to accept political donations legally
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WASHINGTON (CNN) -- U.S. Sen. Barack Obama said Tuesday he is taking a first step toward running for president next year.

"I will be filing papers today to create a presidential exploratory committee," the Illinois Democrat said, adding that he will announce his final decision February 10 from his hometown of Chicago.

He made the announcement in a video posted on his Web site -- www.barackobama.comexternal link.

"The decisions that have been made in Washington over the past six years and the problems that have been ignored have put our country in a precarious place," he said in the video.

In addition to citing "the tragic and costly war that should never have been waged," Obama mentioned health care, pensions, college tuition and "our continued dependence on oil" as issues that need work.

But he said it is the "smallness of our politics" that most bothers him. (Watch Obama try to turn a potential negative into a positive Video)

"Today, our leaders in Washington seem incapable of working together in a practical, common-sense way. Politics has become so bitter and partisan and gummed up by money and influence that we can't tackle the big problems that demand solutions, and that's what we have to change."

Obama said his final decision will be made based on what he learns over the next several weeks as he travels the country "listening and learning about the challenges we face as a nation."

However, Obama spokesman Robert Gibbs said that the senator will not travel to the first four states on the Democrats' nomination calendar -- Iowa, New Hampshire, Nevada or South Carolina -- before his announcement next month.

The Federal Election Commission confirmed that it received Obama's paperwork.

Forming an exploratory committee is an initial -- but not a required step -- in running for president or any federal office. Such committees allow potential candidates to begin quietly raising funds and "testing the waters" on whether they should run for office.

Funds raised in exploratory committees only need to be disclosed if potential candidates decide to run for office, at which point they must go back and disclose any "exploratory" money raised thus far.

If Obama runs, he will join an already crowded field of candidates who either have declared their intentions to seek the 2008 Democratic nomination or who are widely expected to run. Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton of New York is the perceived front-runner, but she has not officially declared her candidacy.

Former Sen. John Edwards of North Carolina, the party's 2004 vice presidential nominee, declared his candidacy late last year, as did Rep. Dennis Kucinich of Ohio, a liberal critic of the war in Iraq, and Iowa Gov. Tom Vilsack.

Sens. Joe Biden of Delaware and Chris Dodd of Connecticut also have said they will seek the nomination.

Other Democrats mentioned as possible candidates include the party's 2004 presidential candidate, Sen. John Kerry of Massachusetts; New Mexico Gov. Bill Richardson; retired Army Gen. Wesley Clark; and the Rev. Al Sharpton.

According to a CNN/Opinion Research Corp. poll conducted on December 5-7, Obama trailed only Clinton when registered Democrats were asked who their top choice for the party's presidential nominee would be.

Clinton was the No. 1 pick for 37 percent of the Democrats polled, while Obama was the choice of 15 percent of those surveyed. Former Vice President Al Gore was the only other potential candidate who enjoyed double-digit numbers, with 14 percent.

Gore has said he does not plan to seek the 2008 nomination.

The poll's margin of error was plus or minus 4 percentage points.

CNN's Dana Bash contributed to this report.



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