WASHINGTON – Former Senate Minority Leader Tom Daschle's interest in public office isn't necessarily latent: he has set up a new political action committee and plans a Jefferson-Jackson Day speech in the politically pivotal state of Iowa.
Daschle (search), who was considered a possible candidate for president in 2004, has quietly eschewed most publicity since his defeat to Republican John Thune last November. But Steve Hildebrand, director of the new committee and Daschle's former campaign manager, said the well-known Democrat from South Dakota "is not going to rule out opportunities to play important roles in public service."
"It could be president, it could be vice president, it could be something else," Hildebrand said. "It could be nothing."
He said Daschle's Iowa speech, scheduled for the state party's annual Jefferson-Jackson Dinner Nov. 5, will probably be his most political since last year's election.
But Hildebrand insisted that Daschle's appearance is not about running for the presidency. It is about supporting his Democratic friends in Iowa, he said.
"He is not today looking at his options for higher office," Hildebrand said.
Daschle has transferred $500,000 into the new committee, New Leadership for America PAC. Hildebrand says the committee will give money to endangered incumbents, support younger candidates looking to run for office and "provide a forum for him to continue to speak out on issues that are important."
As part of the new effort, Daschle held a fundraiser last week for Sen. Robert Byrd (search), a West Virginia Democrat. He also is planning to appear at an event for Fernando Ferrer, a Democrat running against New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg.
Daschle's new PAC, which will give to both federal and state candidates, was registered with the IRS Tuesday, according to the PoliticalMoneyLine Web site.
In July, Daschle said he was not planning a rematch against Thune in 2010.
He made the statement in a letter to the Federal Election Commission, which had asked him to clarify his candidate status. Since Daschle's candidate fundraising committee had spent more than $5,000, he officially qualified as a candidate.