WASHINGTON -- Republican Sen. John McCain will officially enter the presidential race with a formal announcement in early April.
The Arizona senator disclosed the timing of the long-expected announcement in a taping for the "Late Show with David Letterman" on CBS. The segment was set to air Wednesday night.
I am announcing that I will be a candidate for president of the United States," the senator told the talk show host.
There was no doubt that McCain would eventually become a full-fledged White House candidate, and he had been expected to make his candidacy official in the spring.
The 2006 midterm campaign had just ended when McCain took the first formal step toward a presidential run in November. He formed an exploratory committee and gave a speech casting himself as a “commonsense conservative” in the vein of Ronald Reagan who could lead the party back to dominance after a dreadful election season.
A political celebrity, McCain is considered a top contender for the nomination.
However, he faces strong challenges from former New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani, who has widened his lead over McCain in popularity polls in recent weeks, and former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney, who is little-known nationally but is drawing notice for his deft fundraising ability.
A four-term senator, McCain unsuccessfully ran for president in 2000 against George W. Bush, and has been laying the groundwork for a second run for more than a year.
Should he win the nomination and then the presidency, McCain, 70, would be the oldest president ever sworn into office.