Putin Pick Hits Campaign Trail

Medvedev launches bid with 79% support in polls, virtually no competition
By Jason Farago,  Newser Staff
Posted Jan 11, 2008 12:46 PM CST
Russian First Deputy Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev looks on while visiting the town of Svetly in the Russia's western exclave of Kaliningrad sandwiched between Lithuania and Poland, on Thursday, Jan....   (Associated Press)
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(Newser) – Vladimir Putin's hand-picked replacement has launched his presidential campaign with a 2-day visit to Russia's far west. Dmitry Medvedev has seen his popularity soar since the president announced he would like to see him as his successor: he's now polling 79%, higher than Putin did before his 2004 landslide victory, Bloomberg reports. Barred from a third term, Putin has said he would agree to become Medvedev's PM.

Condoleezza Rice expressed disappointment that Russia would not hold a "contested" presidential race; competition is marginal after several candidates dropped out, with one potential opponent calling the process a "total farce." But foreign business interests view Medvedev, currently the chairman of Gazprom, as a friend of market reforms and a welcome continuation of Putin-era financial policies.