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Daschle decides not to run for president

From Jonathan Karl
CNN Washington

Daschle:  'I concluded that I want to be here in the Senate.'
Daschle: 'I concluded that I want to be here in the Senate.'

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WASHINGTON (CNN) -- Senate Minority Leader Tom Daschle announced Tuesday he won't seek the Democratic presidential nomination in 2004 but will stay in his current job to help his party enact alternatives to President Bush's "failed economic policy."

The announcement surprised even some of his closest aides, one of whom told CNN plans were being made for Daschle to announce his candidacy Saturday in his hometown of Aberdeen, South Dakota The aide said he made up his mind after taking one last "gut check" Monday night.

But in a statement on his decision, the three-term senator first elected in 1986 said: "When I truly confronted the question of what it is I most want to do and where my passion lies today, I concluded that I want to be here in the Senate, making a difference for my state and my country.

Daschle, 55, has served as Democratic leader since 1994 and rose to majority leader for about a year and a half until Republicans seized control in the most recent elections. He said he came "very close" to running for president, but ultimately decided he would be more effective in his current role.

"The country is about to begin a series of defining debates about the future -- on economic policy, homeland security, and many other critical priorities," he said.

"Those debates will take place here in the U.S. Congress. And the U.S. Senate is the institution that can have the most influence on behalf of the values that Democrats believe in, and that I care about most.

"The United States Senate has the opportunity to shape the nation's priorities -- not just over the next two years, but for a generation and more," he said. "This afternoon, President Bush is proposing an economic plan that not only continues a failed economic policy that is wrong for the country now, but weakens our ability to meet America's great national challenges for years to come."

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