From NBC's Mark Murray, Elizabeth Wilner, and Huma Zaidi
Massachusetts Sen. John Kerry, the Democratic Party's presidential nominee who narrowly lost to President George W. Bush in 2004, will not run in the upcoming presidential contest, say sources close to the senator. Kerry's decision comes after several high-profile Democrats -- including Sens. Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama -- have already filed paperwork establishing exploratory committees. It also comes after Kerry's widely reported "botched joke" right before the 2006 midterm elections, which hurt his political standing.
At a campaign event for then-California gubernatorial nominee Phil Angelides (D), Kerry set off a political firestorm with this comment at the top of his speech: "You know education, if you make the most of it, you study hard, you do your homework and you make an effort to be smart, you - you can do well. If you don't, you get stuck in Iraq." Kerry and associates said the remark was a botched joke about the President -- not about the troops. Still, the joke earned him criticism from both Republicans and even some Democrats.
Kerry, so far, is the third high-profile Democrat to announce that he's not running for president. In October of last year, former Virginia Gov. Mark Warner decided against making a White House bid, as did Indiana Sen. Evan Bayh last month. Still looming out there as the potential 800-pound gorilla -- should he decide to run -- is former Vice President Al Gore.