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Florida's Graham launches presidential bid

MIAMI LAKES, Fla., May 6 (UPI) -- Sen. Bob Graham made his run for the Democratic nomination for president official Tuesday with a rally in his hometown of Miami Lakes, Fla., after several weeks of campaigning.

In a speech delivered on a temporary platform on Main Street, Graham promised to place an emphasis on "our own citizens" rather than focusing all of the nation's energy on Iraq.

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"We all agree that Saddam Hussein is an evil man, but he is not our biggest threat," Graham said, as he went after the policies of the Bush administration.

"I know first hand as a former chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee how little this administration has done to provide real security at home while it has directed its attention away," Graham told a crowd of supporters near the Don Shula hotel.

"It is time to bring America back -- back from one of our longest economic slowdowns ever and the only economic slowdown since the last Bush was in the White House," Graham said.

"It is painfully clear that this president has no economic policy other than granting tax cuts to the wealthiest Americans," he said.

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Graham, 66, is a late entry in the race among nine candidates, and considered a long shot. He had planned to formally launch his campaign Feb. 4, but that was delayed by heart surgery and the war in Iraq.

He is behind in fundraising and the polls, and faces sometimes friendly comments that he is charisma challenged. Others say he is really running for vice president.

The Concord, N.H., Monitor ran a supportive editorial headlined, "Go Bob Go," but also said he was "charisma challenged."

But Graham has a proven track record -- he is undefeated in 37 years worth of elections. He has served in the state House and Senate, two terms as governor, and nearly three terms in the U.S. Senate.

He also has been the state's most popular politician for decades, and Florida is considered a key swing state because of its 25 electoral votes and Bush's disputed victory there in 2000 that won the election.

Graham, known for keeping meticulous notes on each of his daily activities, will carry out one of his workdays in New Hampshire Friday, where he will spend a day as a teacher.

It will be his 387th workday, but the first as a candidate for president. He has worked as a construction worker, police officer and an office worker among many other occupations.

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Several of the people he worked with during his workdays appeared on a platform behind him when he made his announcement Tuesday.

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