I'll start off with some lighthearted factoids that have caught my attention the past few weeks. The American republic likes to distance itself from the evils of George III and his decendants that occupy the the British throne but the elitism of their politics is quite striking. We've all heard the talk about the fact that a Bush or Clinton has been president or vice-president non stop since 1981. It is interesting to note however that should Hillary Clinton win the nomination and presidency in 2008, a frontrunner to face her in 2012 would be Jeb Bush, who would "probably be at the top of the pack right now... if he were 'Jeb Smith' instead of 'Jeb Bush'". In 2016, Jeb's charismatic son, George P. Bush, would be old enough to be president and it goes on and on...
Also interesting to note was this line in the same article, that the Republicans "had a Nixon, Bush or Dole on every ticket for a half-century"... that's right, take a look...
1952 - Eisenhower-Nixon
1956 - Eisenhower-Nixon
1960 - Nixon-Lodge
1964 - Goldwater-Miller
1968 - Nixon-Agnew
1972 - Nixon-Agnew
1976 - Ford-Dole
1980 - Reagan-Bush
1984 - Reagan-Bush
1988 - Bush-Quayle
1992 - Bush-Quayle
1996 - Dole-Kemp
2000 - Bush-Cheney
2004 - Bush-Cheney
2008 - ???
The Republicans need not fret however as their dynasty could well continue. Elizabeth Dole and maybe even Jeb Bush would be solid vice-presidential possibilities in 2008.
Now for a rundown of the actual race. I'll break by standing in the race, not by party.
The Big Six (i.e. the perceived frontrunners)
Senator Hillary Clinton (Democrat of New York)
The frontrunner to end all frontrunners - think Gary Hart in 88, Mario Cuomo in 92, Howard Dean in 04 - the point is that she is not a sure bet to win. That said, I think she probably will win the Democratic nomination and that is a real shame.
I have nothing against Hillary Clinton, the problem is that a lot of Americans do. A lot of examples can be found on a quick Google search of her high "negative" ratings among Americans. Most people have already made their minds up about the junior senator from New York about about half of eligible voters would never vote for her. That is a pretty strong hurdle to overcome were she to win the Democratic nomination.
Hillary Clinton is the perfect example of how the Democrats could give away what should be a sure trip to the White House in 2008, there is nothing in Karl Rove's playbook that would better motivate conservatives to come out to vote than a Hillary Clinton candidacy. I hope, for the world's sake, that the Democrats consider this and nominate someone else.
Hillary Clinton would get a very respectable 42%-45% of the vote were she to be the nominee. However no matter how good or bad her campaign was she would still get that same 42 to 45 and that isn't enough to win.
(Former) Senator John Edwards (Democrat of North Carolina)
John Edwards was on hell of a fast rising star. In 1999, he took his first political office - U.S. senator. A noted litigator, he was immediately named one of the key members of the "defence team" for Bill Clinton in his Senate impeachment trial. In 2000, he was - with John Kerry and Joe Lieberman - on the short list to be Al Gore's running mate. I think with the charasmatic southerner Edwards on the ticket, Gore would have carried Florida and several other close states like Tennessee (which is Gore's homestate which he lost by less than 4%) and maybe Missouri and Ohio. With a swing of just 163,143 in these four states (about the same by which Kerry lost just Ohio in 2004), Gore would have won the electoral college 334 to 204! Just one of them would have won him the election. Whoops.
Edwards went on to come out of nowhere and place a close second to John Kerry in the Iowa caucus and go on to win the South Carolina and Wisconsin primaries in 2004 and become the vice-presidential running mate for Kerry. He continues to build on his strength in Iowa where he outpaces bigger names Clinton and Obama in polls.
A lot of people say Edwards is running too liberal and that he has "changed" but his voting record in the Senate and his campaign in 2004 were quite liberal, he is just using stronger rhetoric.
Edwards I think has the best shot of beating Clinton for the nomination.
(Former) Mayor Rudy Guliani (Republican of New York)
Guliani is a hero to many many people in the United States for being, especially in contrast to George W. Bush, an ultra strong, firm and reassuring leader in the aftermath of the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks. For this, he is awarded high standing in the polls.
He, however, has absolutely NO chance of winning the Republican nomination and would be much, much smarter if he were to run as an independent where I think he would have a reasonable shot of winning, certainly at least as good as Ross Perot ever did.
Instead however, he is facing the Republic primary and caucus goer, who are more conservative than the average Republican voter and far more conservative than the average American. However, Guliani, with the possible exception of some law-and-order issues, is far to the left of the average American.
As one election predicition prognosticator rightly pointed out:
Rudy is coasting on a vague concept of "leadership." Very few people know about his marriage to his second cousin, Regina Peruggi, its annullment 14 years later, his various public affairs, his marriage to (and later divorce from) actress Donna Hanover, and then his recent marriage to a divorced nurse, Judith Nathan. Giuliani's official Website does not mention his first two marriages or the fact that he has two children with Donna Hanover. That will all come up during 2007. Mark my words. Polls have repeatedly shown that almost no one outside New York knows that he has been very pro-choice, pro-gay, and pro-gun-control for years.Anyone who watches The West Wing will tell you that the least realistic thing they ever did was let Alan Alda's charcter - a liberal Republican from California - win the Republican nomination. Guliani is WAY to the left of Alda's character and it is just as unrealistic to imagine him as the Republican nominee.
I doubt Guliani will even remain in the race until the Iowa caucus, though perhaps he may shift gears and become an independent.
Senator John McCain (Republican of Arizona)
Only in America could a man be against gay marriage, against legal abortions and hugely pro-war and somehow not be deemed "conservative".
This is the John McCain dilemma. McCain's mistake was appealing to too many moderates. For decades the Democrats have had unpredictable nominations choosing all kinds of unsuspected candidates (Stevenson, Kennedy, McGovern, Carter, Dukakis, Clinton and Kerry were all way off the radar and came from nowhere) but Republicans always have an establishment candidate who wins. Ford held back Reagan in 76. Vice President Bush was easily nominated in 88. Bob Dole crushed his opposition in 96.
In 2000, John McCain shocked the Republican establishment by beating their candidate, George W. Bush, in the New Hampshire primary. Following it, he surged in the polls and was expected to win South Carolina after wish time his momentum would be almost impossible to stop. So the religious right mobilized, dug into McCain's conservative record and found some moderate items. They spun them as liberal and screamed bloody murder and convinced conservatives and moderates in South Carolina to abandon him. They used racist baits and all kinds of nasty tools to beat him and John McCain dared to respond by calling these right-wing Christian leaders "hate mongerers". Ever since he is anti-religion. Throw in the fact that he mused that repealing legal abortion might have some negative concequences because illegal abortions would happen and they would be unsafe. Ever since he is a crazy-go-nuts-ultra-left-wing dirty pro-choice liberal. Former Senate colleague Rick Sanatorium calls himself an anybody-but-McCain Republican - does this include backing the true liberal Guliani over him if it comes to that? Get real.
People also point out that on election day, John McCain will be 72. Age dogged the campaign of his friend Bob Dole when he ran for president at 72 and he would be older that Ronald Reagan was in 1980 and deemed too old by many (though younger than Reagan in his successful re-election in 1984).
Nothwithstanding this, McCain is the front runner for the Republican nomination and is gathering a lot of establishment support. He is a strong supporter of the Iraq War which, despite its unpopularity in general, remains popular among Republican primary voters. John McCain knows better than most that it is hard to beat the establishment candidate for the Republican nomination and I suspect he will be the winner.
Senator Barack Obama (Democrat of Illonois)
Barack Obama swore up and down everytime he had a chance from his keynote speech to the Democratic convention in 2004 clear through election day 2006 that there was NO WAY he would run for president in 2008. Here is a video sample. It was clear he was sincere so it is also clear that some positive poll numbers proved he is an opporunist. That will come back to haunt him.
I think running in 2008 is a HUGE mistake for Barack Obama. Even in 2016 he would be a relatively young presidential candidate at 55. Obama's record in the Illonois Senate is far to the left of Teddy Kennedy. In Canada, he would be on par with Svend Robinson. This does not sell with Americans. After being the first Black editor of the Harvard law review, he wrote a book - not as well known as his more recent politically correct book. Many argue that his African raised father and white Kansas mother have produced a child who is obviously of African decent but is not a "Black" in the sense that most Americans see it which is to be descended from slaves. Worse, in his earlier book he criticizes Blacks and says he does not identify with them. He also admits cocaine use. Bill Clinton got away with "not inhaling" marijuana but I doubt Americans would vote for an admitted coke user.
His liberal record and his past writings would be difficult, but not impossible, to overcome if he had a strong career in the Senate to back him up. Unfortunately for him, he became a U.S. senator in 2005 and has no such record. He could have been president of the United States if he waited but instead he will be so badly damaged in this primary cycle that he will never have that chance. A shame for such a intelligent and charasmatic figure but sometimes greed is hard to resist.
Like Guliani, I am not sure he will even stay in the race until the first primary votes.
(Former) Governor Mitt Romney (Repubilican of Massachusetts)
Mitt Romney was originally listed in the next category and I called this the "big five" rather than the "big six". However in the preceding weeks he has continued to grow as a serious candidate, especially when it comes to raising the all important money.
He has a long record of being a fiscal conservative an ideology that the mainstream of the Republican party has left and many argue explains their losses in 2006 as much as Iraq does. However his record as a conservative on other fronts is in question.
His father, a Michigan governor, was a frontrunner for the 1968 Republican presidential campaign before Nixon got into the race but made some controversial statements about Vietnam and had to withdraw. However the elder Romney, like his son, has some challenges because of religion. Unlike Guliani and McCain, his challenge is different. Romney is a Mormon. His religion is one that is not well understood and many claim is a cult. Notwithstanding this, of the big three, he seems to be playing best with Christian conservatives despite the fact he was pro-choice when he ran against Ted Kennedy for the Senate in 1994 and for governor of Massachusetes in 2002.
He has changed his mind and seems to be getting away with it. Romney has an outside chance of winning the nomination and, if he returns to his moderate streak, could win a Reagan sized majority.
Other serious contenders
Senator Joe Biden (Democrat of Deleware)
Joe Biden is my pick in the race. He has been a politician almost his whole life. The U.S. constitution requires senators to be at least 30 years old. He was elected to the Senate when he was 29. How'd he pull that off? His thirtieth birthday fell between election day and the first session of the new Senate.
He ran for president in 1988 and was making a strong showing and might have won the nomination after Gary Hart's campaign self-destructed. However, Michael Dukakis organizers followed him around taping his stump speech in which he often quoted the leader of the British Labor Party. The one time he forgot to cite the quote they released the tape and claimed he was plagarizing. He eventually had to drop out of the race and the Dukakis organizers got the boots put to them for the dirty tricks but the damage was done an Dukakis won the nomination.
He is a bright light and thinker in the Senate and was expected to be Secretary of State if John Kerry had won in 2004. Despite being a life-long politician, he has remained in touch with the common man by commuting to work from his home state of Deleware on public transit every day (it is just a one hour train ride to D.C.). He is currently chair of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee and will be getting a lot of face time as he holds hearings on the unpopular Iraq war for which he has a great solution - create a decentralized federation of three distinct states: one Shite, one Sunni and one Kurdish.
If Clinton and Edwards falter, he could be the nominee and if I were an American, he'd have my vote.
Senator Sam Brownback (Republican of Kansas)
Brownback is a dream candidate for the Christian right. He is attractive and charsimatic and not at all "scary" yet he shares all of their issues. Except for one. He is not anti-immgrant and doesn't support closing down borders and imposing dranconian anti-"alien" laws. For this, many on the right will not endorse him.
However, the right are having a hard time finding a good candidate and may settle on him. They should, if they did he could win the election and he would be the most socially conservative president in American history.
Let's hope they don't know what's best for them!
(Former) General Wesley Clark (Democrat of Arkansas)
Poor Wes Clark. John Kerry and John Edwards ended up as the 2004 Democratic ticket because of their surprise top finishes in the Iowa caucus well ahead of Howard Dean and Richard Gephardt who were supposed to win according to the polls. This happened because Dean and Gephardt ran some nasty attack ads against each other in fighting for the lead and Iowans just abandoned them both. Clark, who entered the race late, decided to skip Iowa and fight to finish second in New Hampshire. If he hadn't made that choice, I am convinced that it would have been him that benefited when Dean and Gephardt dropped and he would have won the nomination and maybe become president.
I think his campaign has no steam this time and the novelty of a former Republican retired general switching over because of disagreement with Bush's war policy having unique credibility to run against the Iraq War has passed. He is an attractive compromise candidate and could emerge as the winner but I don't see it.
(Former) Governor Jim Gilmore (Republican of Virginia)
Gilmore has not attracted much attention yet but is a good social conservative who could be one of many to get a big push from the religious right if they collase behind one candidate. If this candidate is Gilmore, he would instantly become a serious force.
(Former) Governor Mike Huckabee (Republican of Arkansas)
Like Bill Clinton a governor of Arkansas who was raised in the small town of Hope, Huckabee is running for president as a long shot. I think it is far less likely for him to rise to the top of the pack than it was for Clinton however.
He is a well liked social conservative with a strong network among religious leaders but he did the unforgivable when he was governor: raised taxes.
Notwithstanding this, if he were to get the backing of a substantial majority of the religious right, he would be a serious force.
(Former) Speaker and Representative Newt Gingrich (Republican of Georgia)
It remains unclear if Newt will run, but he is a hero to conservatives of all stripes and would be a formidible candidate. If he won the nomination, I think he would have a hard time winning the general election. Numerous affairs while chasing Clinton on the Lewinsky scandal, ultra conservative and resigning from Congress for misspending money does not a good general election candidate make.
Ironically, in my view, Gingrich would be a good president. His domestic policy might not be great but that is largely controlled by Congress. On foreign policy he is a true internationalist and would do a great job for the world.
Governor Bill Richardson (Democrat of New Mexico)
Richardson is an attractive candidate on paper. A successful governor in a swing state with federal legislative and cabinet experience and foreign affairs experience (ambassador to the UN under Clinton). However a good political resume is never a guarantee of being a good candidate in U.S. politics.
Richardson faces a number of challenges which may prove him not ready for primetime. There were some questions of his treatment of women and sexual harrassment claims; he had said for decades he was drafted to be a major league baseball player but has recently admitted this was untrue; he is hispanic and the organized African Americans in the Democratic Party are a strong force and will not want another minority group to eclipse them by getting on the party ticket.
Richardson will do moderately successful but will not win the nomination.
(Former) Senator Mike Gravel (Democrat of Alaska)
He has been out of politics for a looooong time and is 78 years old. However, he is making a serious grassroots campaign similar to John McCain in 2000 and Howard Dean in 2004. He could, especially in a crowded field, surprise a lot of people in New Hampshire like Pat Buchanan in 1996 or John McCain in 2000. If McCain is seeming to be the presumed nominee, 78 might not seem too old and he could gain traction. But that is a pretty big long shot.
Gravel could score an upset first or second place in an early hotly contested primary or caucus where it only takes 20-30% to win but he will, of course, not be the nominee.
Senator Chuck Hagel (Republican of Nebraska)
Hagel is a really good guy and a common sense man. He is a conservative, but he is strongly against the Iraq War and doesn't like to play to the fringes. Although he would be an excellent president - and I would vote for him in a heartbeat if I could - he has no shot.
Representative Duncan Hunter (Republican of California)
Hunter is a little known congressman but he is the only social conservative in the Republican field who is "right" on all of the issues according to social conservatives. He hasn't seemed to get much traction but he could all of a sudden jump to the top of the pack if the stars align right. This is unlikely for Hunter however as Romney, McCain, Brownback and Huckabee all pick up substantial chunks of Christian Conservative support.
Representative Ron Paul (Republican of Texas)
The 1988 Libertarian candidate for president would be a pretty big stretch to win the nomination BUT there is always a chance.
(Former) Governor and Secretary Tommy Thompson (Republican of Wisconsin)
Tommy Thompson thought of running in 2000 and opted out to back Bush and was rewarded a spot in his first cabinet. Thompson sounds like a great candidate on paper - 4 term governor of a Democratic-leaning state - but he has some where between zero and no charisma so his victory would be quite unlikely.
Senator Christopher Dodd (Democrat of Connecticut)
No charisma, no profile, no money, no chance.
Representative Dennis Kucinich (Democrat of Ohio)
Like in 2004, he'll be in for the long haul to get out his message but as the party has turned to the left - especially in terms of the Iraq War - his chance is even smaller.
(Former) Governor George Pataki (Republican of New York)
There is already another liberal Republican from New York who was a leader during 9/11. However people know his name, but you still have no chance to be the Republican nonimee.
Reverend Al Sharpton (Democrat of New York)
Everybody loves Al Sharpton a big heart and a great sense of humour but he has no votes to go with it.
Represesntative Tom Tancredo (Republican of Colorado)
This guy is running on three issues: immigration, immigration and immigration. As in "kick out all of the dirty Mexicans". He has a constituency and will probably go alright in some midwest and border states but, thankfully, he'll never win the nomination.
If he/she ran...
Mayor Michael Bloomberg (Independent of New York)
If Bloomberg ran it would be on ego and he would have no chance to win the election but it is being considered. He is a nominal Republican but governs like a Democrat (like his predeccesor Rudy Guliani) and would run as an Independent.
However, he could alter it significantly. He is well liked in New York City and that makes up about half of the population of New York state. Especially if Hillary Clinton is not the Democratic candidate he could carry New York. He could also probably carry New Jersey. Maybe some other states.
If he won New York and New Jersey (47 electoral votes) it would be impossible for a Democrat to win the election outright. However, it could make for a very interesting result because if no candidate has 270 electoral votes - a very likely happenstance if a third candidate had 47 - then the election goes undecided until January at which time the President would be elected by the House of Representatives - with each State getting 1 vote - and the Vice President by the Senate. This would guarantee a Republican president (because they hold a majority of seats in more states because the dominate in small states) but possibly a Democratic VP.
(Former) Vice President Al Gore (Democrat of Tennessee)
People have been talking about the possibility of Al Gore running for a long time. And it seems more and more likley that he will. A recent poll however showed that many think gore can't win.
However Richard Nixon was VP from 1952-1960 and went on to run for president in 1960 against a guy with almost no political experience. Nixon was far more qualified on paper but lost one of the closest elections in American history in large part due to lack of charisma. No one expected him to run in 1968 and, when he did, few thought he would have a chance.
Change "Richard Nixon" to "Al Gore" and add 40 years to the dates and you have the exact same story... Nixon won huge.
Secretary Condoleezza Rice (Republican of California)
It is awkward for Condi Rice to think about running for president especially as Secretary of State because that is a role in which you are supposed to be, at least a bit, non-partisan. However, there is growing talk that Dick Cheney might resign and that, if he does, she would be nominated to succeed him as VP. As VP she would be the instant frontrunner and would be free to campaign full time. She already does well in polls with no interest... it would be interesting to see if she ends up as a candidate in which case it would make the race hard to predict. Does a Black woman steal a lot of traditional Democratic voters? Does she hold on to Republican ones? Would be very interesting...
Anyway, I hope you enjoyed this run down. It will be an interesting race and I look forward to watching.