- The Washington Times - Friday, January 3, 2003

CRAWFORD, Tex. President Bush yesterday said he is ignoring the growing number of Democrats who are "posturing" and "elbowing" each other to challenge him for the White House next year.
Hours after Sen. John Edwards, North Carolina Democrat, announced an exploratory presidential campaign, Mr. Bush told reporters at his ranch here that such announcements were "background noise."
"Not paying attention to the race yet," the president said. "I've got a lot on my agenda and a lot on my platter.
"And I understand politics, and I know there's going to be a lot of verbiage and a lot of noise and a lot of posturing, a lot of elbowing," he said. "And to me, that's just going to be background noise."
Mr. Bush declined to comment directly on an emerging Democratic strategy that entails accusing him of not doing enough to keep Americans safe in the war against terrorism.
"Oh, you know, I understand politics, and I'm not paying attention to politics," he said in response to a question from The Washington Times. "I'm going to continue doing the job the American people expect, which is to safeguard America and Americans. And we got a war on our hands.
"There is a terrorist network that still is interested in harming Americans, and we'll hunt them down," he added. "There are countries which are developing weapons of mass destruction, and we will deal with them appropriately."
Mr. Edwards joins an already crowded field of Democratic hopefuls, including Sen. John Kerry of Massachusetts, Sen. Joseph I. Lieberman of Connecticut, Vermont Gov. Howard Dean and civil rights leader the Rev. Al Sharpton. Also considering White House bids are outgoing Senate Majority Leader Tom Daschle of South Dakota and outgoing House Minority Leader Richard A. Gephardt of Missouri.
The president shrugged off a question about whether he had been hoping for a rematch with Al Gore, who announced last month he would not run.
Many Republicans had hoped for a rematch because Mr. Gore's popularity has fallen while the president's has risen since their face-off in 2000.
"Really wasn't paying much attention to it," the president said of Mr. Gore's announcement. "I've got my mind on the peace and security of the American people. And politics will sort itself out.
"And one of these days, somebody will emerge, and we'll tee it up, and see who the American people want to lead," he said. "And until that happens, I'm going to be doing my job."

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