WASHINGTON — Sen. Evan Bayh (D-Ind.) said Sunday that he would establish an exploratory committee this week, marking his first formal step in a possible run for the presidency in 2008.
"We need someone who can deal with the dysfunction here in this city so that our government begins to empower our people to fulfill their potential," he told ABC's "This Week."
He said he would make his final decision early next year after talking about it with his family over the holidays. He and his wife, Susan, have 11-year-old twin sons.
Bayh's statement, which had been widely expected, follows the announcement last week of a presidential run by another Democrat, Iowa Gov. Tom Vilsack.
Formation of an exploratory committee will allow Bayh to begin raising money and take other preliminary steps for a presidential candidacy.
In name recognition, Bayh is well behind Sens. Hillary Rodham Clinton of New York and Barack Obama of Illinois, both of whom are considering a run for the Democratic nomination. Other possible candidates include both members of the party's 2004 ticket, Sen. John F. Kerry of Massachusetts and former Sen. John Edwards of North Carolina.
Clinton met for two hours Sunday with New York Gov.-elect Eliot Spitzer, soliciting his support for her expected presidential campaign, the Associated Press reported. A Clinton advisor, Howard Wolfson, told the Associated Press that her aides had begun interviewing campaign workers.
She has also met with members of the state's congressional delegation, Wolfson said, "asking for their advice and counsel and their support if she decides to make a run."
Bayh's announcement came on the same day he headed to Iowa to test support for his candidacy.
A former secretary of state and two-term governor of Indiana, he was elected in 1998 and reelected in 2004 to the same Senate seat once held by his father, Birch Bayh. Campaign finance records show his Senate committee with a balance of more than $10 million, which could be transferred to a presidential election campaign committee.
Bayh, 50, acknowledged on ABC that he is not nearly as well-known as some of his potential rivals, but expressed confidence he could connect with voters in the key early states.
"These people take this very seriously," he said referring to the voters in Iowa and New Hampshire. "They get to know you, not once, but over and over again. They look into your heart and assess what you're made of."
On the Republican side, Sen. John McCain of Arizona and former New York Mayor Rudolph W. Giuliani have already formed exploratory committees, as has Rep. Duncan Hunter of El Cajon. Sen. Sam Brownback of Kansas and Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney are expected to do so soon.