Sen. Sam Brownback, who is considering a White House bid in 2008, said Monday the Republican field has room for a "full-scale Ronald Reagan conservative" and pledged to make a final decision next month.
The Kansas senator said he was not discouraged from running by the Democrats' strong gains in this month's midterm elections, including assuming majority control of the House and Senate.
"It does not make it less likely," he said in an interview. "I really believe that the basic conservative ideas and ideals were not repudiated. Our execution was."
Potentially crowded field
Name recognition poses a more daunting challenge for Brownback. Arizona Sen. John McCain and former New York City mayor Rudy Giuliani have set up presidential exploratory committees. Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney and Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist, R-Tenn., also are weighing bids.
"I think there's room for a full-scale Ronald Reagan conservative in the field," Brownback said. "I fully agree that other people have much higher name identification than I do. No question about that. But I think what you have to look at is the policy positions they get out once you have an effective campaign."
Brownback, who was elected in 1996, is a forceful foe of abortion and embryonic stem-cell research. He also has taken a prominent role in the fight against genocide in Sudan's Darfur region.
Brownback has made several trips to Iowa, New Hampshire, Michigan and other states that hold early presidential nominating contests. While national polls show McCain and Giuliani running strong, similar polls have shown Brownback in the low single digits.
Brownback dismisses the early surveys.
"Where are my positions and others versus the base of the party?" he asked. "I think that is really the key thing to look at, particularly at this point in time where you haven't even had a campaign and all of that polling is based on name ID."
Brownback downplayed the challenge of gaining national recognition while representing a small population state like Kansas.
"We've had three Republican nominees from this state in the last century," he said, listing former Sen. Bob Dole, former Gov. Alf Landon and Dwight Eisenhower. "I don't see that as being a negative in this century."
Ken Ciboski, a professor of political science at Wichita State University, said Brownback hasn't yet attained the kind of stature he needs to gain a nationwide following.
"He could do well in certain pockets or Iowa and some other states, but I don't see him having this wide recognition as a Republican senator," Ciboski said. "I think it would be a major uphill climb for him to try to get the nomination."