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Tsongas Says Reaction in Iowa Prompts Him to Challenge Bush

<i> From Associated Press</i>

Former Sen. Paul E. Tsongas of Massachusetts said Tuesday that his Iowa campaign swing this week has persuaded him to enter the Democratic presidential race and he will soon formally announce his candidacy.

“I needed a live audience in a state that was new to me to get the reaction,” Tsongas said.

He is the first Democrat to speak so directly about challenging President Bush. Tsongas met Monday with Iowa Democratic activists and said he came away convinced that his ideas will get a warm reception in the state that holds the nation’s first delegate selection test Feb. 17.

“Last night was, I guess, in my head the last major obstacle,” Tsongas told reporters. “Now it’s just a matter of . . . going through the procedural ritual.

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“I’ve been invited to speak at the National Press Club on the 11th, at which point I will engage in the ritual of my decision.”

Tsongas conceded that he faces an uphill fight because of health problems he has suffered and because of the poor showing of former Massachusetts Gov. Michael S. Dukakis in 1988.

Tsongas, 50, left the Senate in 1985 after a bout with cancer, which he said he has since conquered.

While many have dismissed his campaign as a long shot, Tsongas said his seven-year absence from politics has left him better qualified because he has had time to develop a cohesive approach to the nation’s problems.

The theme he brought to party activists was that voters have lost confidence in Democrats’ ability to handle the economy, and he has described himself as a pro-business liberal.


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