SIOUX FALLS, S.D. (AP) – Senate Democratic Leader Tom Daschle said yesterday he’s strongly considering a run for president in 2004, joining a growing field of potential candidates.

“I think it’s fair to say I’m leaning in the direction of offering my candidacy for president,” Daschle said after a meeting with constituents this weekend.

He spent the weekend talking with supporters in Rapid City, Aberdeen and Sioux Falls.

He said an announcement on an exploratory committee is likely “in the next couple of weeks.”

Daschle said if he runs, he’d stay on as Democratic leader. “I think that our caucus needs that stability and my expectation is that I would be leader for the foreseeable future.”

He said he has not decided whether he would run for a fourth Senate term in 2004 if he lost the presidential nomination.

“It’ll be some time before I do that. These decisions are made one step at a time,” Daschle said.

He also said he has the support of his wife and family.

Sens. John Kerry of Massachusetts and John Edwards of North Carolina have joined outgoing Vermont Gov. Howard Dean in forming exploratory committees. Rep. Richard Gephardt announced this weekend he will form an exploratory committee Monday.

And Sen. Joseph Lieberman of Connecticut is expected to announce he will run soon.

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