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The presidential field may soon expand even further.  Not only will Rep. Duncan Hunter (R) announce his candidacy today at the Marriott in Spartanburg, SC, but former Gov. Mike Huckabee (R) told MSNBC's Norah O'Donnell yesterday that an announcement on his presidential plans is "imminent."  Huckabee will be in Iowa next week for a two-day swing.

Kerry aides and advisers said his decision not to run "came down to a political calculation that he would face long odds in capturing the presidential nomination for a second time, given his diminished public standing after his 2004 defeat by Bush," says the Boston Globe.  Also, "a growing number of Democratic operatives, including some key Massachusetts supporters in the past weeks, counseled Kerry publicly and privately to stay on the sidelines." 

But sources tell the Washington Post that Kerry's "decision was not motivated by national and state polling that showed him trailing Clinton, Obama and Edwards in hypothetical 2008 matchups.  They noted that Kerry has nearly $13 million in the bank, which could have been used to reintroduce himself to voters.  But there are real concerns that a second national candidacy could endanger Kerry's standing in his home state." 

The Boston Herald reports that Massachusetts Republicans "are circling like vultures around a politically weakened" Kerry, hoping to bring his Senate over the GOP column. 

The Boston Globe editorial page -- which was quite critical of Kerry in 2004 -- praises Kerry's decision to opt out today.  In his speech yesterday, "Kerry made many of the same points in the 2004 campaign but they were muddled by twists and turns over his vote favoring war in 2002.  Yesterday he said simply that he had erred.  Renunciation of ambition has enhanced clarity of expression." 

A new Time poll shows Sen. Hillary Clinton not only easily leading the Democratic presidential pack, but also viewed as electable by a majority of Americans.  On electability, she's trailed closely by Rudy Giuliani (R), McCain, and Sen. Barack Obama (D).  McCain narrowly leads Giuliani among Republicans for their presidential nod.  Clinton and McCain are tied in a general election trial heat, but McCain beats both Obama and Sen. John Edwards (D) by 7 points.  A very large majority (94%) say that they know either "a great deal" or "some" about Clinton; only 51% say that about Obama.

The Politico's Simon examines the question of whether McCain, who at age 70 would be the oldest newly elected president in history, is too old or unhealthy to win.  "But I don't think that is going to be McCain's problem.  It isn't his health but rather his demeanor that worries some people.  The Iraq war, which he strongly supports, has disturbed and dismayed him...  And it is showing." 

Through a memo e-mailed to his supporters and the press, Obama "fired back yesterday against Insight magazine and Fox News for purveying a discredited report that he attended a radical Islamic religious school during his childhood years in Indonesia," The Hill reports. 

The Washington Post examines the thorny question for Obama of how to balance appeals to African-American and white voters.  "Complicating matters is that Obama appears certain to encounter fierce competition for the black vote from the other leading Democratic presidential contenders."  The Washington Times also tackles the story.

The New York Times front-pages the likely prospect that at least four large states -- California, Florida, Illinois, and New Jersey -- could move up their primaries to early February 2008.  "The changes… mean that the presidential candidates face the prospect of going immediately from an ordered series of early contests in relatively small states in January to a single-day, coast-to-coast battlefield in February, encompassing some of the most expensive advertising markets in the nation."  Channeling First Read, the article says this could benefit well-financed and well-known candidates like Clinton and McCain, because it would give them a firewall if they stumble in the early contests.  

The San Francisco Chronicle reports that California would have to spend as much as $90 million to move its primary to early February.  http