Friday, January 06, 2006

Candidates for the next national Democratic pageant

Last week I gave a rundown of the possible Republican presidential candidates for 2008, as well as the unlikely ones whose names are getting tossed around anyway. Some of the candidates on this list I see zero chance of their running, much less getting the nomination, but if I leave them off I’ll inevitably get someone saying something like, “How come Hubert Blint isn’t on that list? He’s definitely gonna run!” so I’ll list ‘em all—though I’m sure I won’t manage to list all of the ridiculously unlikely candidates. That’s your job!

I do feel the Democrats have a better bench than the Republicans do, and with Bush’s ratings in the toilet and with Cheney not being their unstoppable juggernaut of a standard bearer for 2008, things only look better for them. The Democrats have had better benches in the past, though. Like 1968, for example. And 1992. Regardless, they’ll have an easier time of it than the Republicans will.

Sen. John Kerry (MA)—I think he’s interested in running again, and while he’s doing well in certain polls, he’ll certainly slip back once the race really gets underway. Kerry had his shot, and he did well, but not well enough. The American people have given a candidate a second chance before, but I don’t think they’ll do it for Senator Kerry. I just hope he realizes this before the primaries start.

Gov. Howard Dean (VT)—When he took the DNC chief job, Dean promised that he wouldn’t seek the presidency in 2008. While Dean probably does want the presidency, I can’t see him running, simply because he’d infuriate too many people he’s made promises to. There’d be too much bad will for him to make a successful run, and anyway, the Democratic Party is happy enough to have him where he is.

Sen. Hillary Clinton (NY)—Everybody’s talking about Senator Clinton, who’s been taking great pains never to set foot in either Iowa or New Hampshire, lest she draw unwanted attention. Of course it’s a given that she’ll win reëlection to the Senate this year, and a lot of people expect her to kick her presidential campaign in gear after that. Me, I expect her to, too—but I don’t expect her to get the nomination. East of the Appalachians, south of Fairfax County and west of the Sierra Nevadas, there’s a frothing, irrational hatred of all things Clinton, which won’t let her survive Super Tuesday.

Rev. Al Sharpton (NY)—This blowhard got the national recognition he wanted in 2004. I don’t see him running again. If he does, he’ll do just as well as before, if not worse.

Sen. Joe Lieberman (CT)—Connecticut is only a few hours away from New Hampshire by car, but Mr. Lieberman hasn’t bothered to drive up there for a while. Connect the dots.

Sen. Chris Dodd (CT)—Senator Dodd was a tertiary contender in 2004. Occasionally you hear his name mentioned, but you diehard Doddheads had better not get your hopes up. He’s an asset in the Senate, anyway.

Sen. Bill Bradley (NJ)—Remember the dreams of 2000? I voted for this guy in the New Jersey primary that year, months after he’d dropped out. Now he seems to have dropped off the face of the earth. Senator Bradley is a very private person, so I don’t know why he wanted to run for president, but I would have liked to have seen him win. If Bradley reënters the public eye, it won’t be as a presidential candidate.

Gov. Ed Rendell (PA)—You hear his name come up more as a vice presidential candidate, though frankly, I don’t even see that. Rendell is popular enough to win another term as governor this year, but to make it to the White House? I don’t think so, not even as vice president. However, Rendell is an expert fund raiser, so who knows? That’s the qualification that got Joe Lieberman on the ballot in 2000.

Sen. Joe Biden (DE)—Biden was the first candidate to officially announce that he’s running in 2008. Biden fell apart during the 1984 campaign, and I just don’t see him pulling it off. He’ll have particular trouble squaring his vote for Bush’s Iraq War with the criticism he made of that war later, I suspect. (On the other hand, there are plenty of one-time war supporters on both sides of the aisle who are now criticizing it, but that’s a tenable position only if you’re a Republican. The attitudes on the part of Democrats is more likely to be, “You finally came around, Joe. What took you so long?”)

Gov. Mark Warner (VA)—Warner won the Virginia gubernatorial race in 2001, working from his base in Richmond, where he was mayor, and the natural Democratic base in northern Virginia. He appealed to western Virginia, making inroads into Appalachia, which Democrats haven’t managed to do for some time. Warner also helped his lieutenant governor, Tim Kaine, win the state over last year, by being a very visible asset to the Kaine campaign. Warner is a moderate, a good speaker, and a proven fundraiser—well positioned to make a run, and there’s been a lot of talk about him doing so. A Virginia Democrat would be poaching on Republican turf—Dixie—making for an uphill battle for the Republican nominee. Warner could well have what it takes. My hunch is that he’s the Democrats’ frontrunner right now.

Sen. John Edwards (NC)—I get the feeling that he’s going to have another go at the presidency, but I really wish he’d return to the Senate. With his name recognition and national prominence, he’d do better there this time. Regardless, it looks like he’s gearing up to run again. He’s got definite crossover appeal, too, though I personally find him a tad too conservative. His recanting his 2002 vote for the war, calling it a mistake, is a refreshing position, and that makes me a bit warmer to him. Considering that by next year there’s a good chance that many of the one-time war supporters will be regretting their former support, this could help him out, especially among the more conservative Democrats. Edwards’ position is quite different from that of Joe Biden, who doesn’t seem interested in admitting that he made a mistake. I’m not sure if Biden could successfully sell the notion that his war vote was a mistake and that he regrets it. I suspect that Edwards could.

Gov. Phil Bredesen (TN)—Bredesen is another guy who’s running for vice president, I think, but we’ll have to see if the voters send him back to Nashville this year first. I suspect they will, but I don’t know if Bredesen has the panache to appeal nationwide. He’s got a decent track record in Tennessee, though, and his regional popularity could land him on some northern nominee’s ticket—or possibly another double-Dixie ticket, like Clinton/Gore. Warner/Bredesen? Edwards/Bredesen? Clark/Bredesen? I could see it. I just don’t see him as a headliner, but I do expect us to hear him musing about running in early 2007.

Vice President Al Gore (TN)—Here’s a progressive wonk who would have been a real macher in the White House, had the Supreme Court simply voted with the will of the people. While these past five years have demonstrated just what a tragedy it is that we never saw a President Gore in the Oval Office, I don’t think he’s interested in running again. I really don’t think enough Democrats would be interested in giving him a second chance, really. That’s moot, though, if he’s not running. Gore has his hands full with his media company, and while his following remains loyal, I don’t even think his fans could coax him into taking a third crack at the presidency.

Rep. Dennis Kucinich (OH)—I don’t think Rep. Kucinich will run again in 2008. If he does, he’ll stay as marginal a candidate as he was in 2004. Kucinich is the kind of liberal that right wingers like to claim that all Democrats are. If the 2004 campaign didn’t make that clear to the right wingers, nothing will. So… nothing will. At any rate, no one’s going to knock Kucinich out of his House seat.

Sen. Evan Bayh (IN)—Son of popular Senator Birch Bayh, also of Indiana, Evan Bayh is attractive and personable and conservative, so he’s got a definite appeal. A presidential run would most likely throw his Senate seat to the Republicans if he gets the nomination, but since his term doesn’t end until 2010, he has nothing to lose. I expect him to run, but I don’t expect him to win the nomination.

Sen. Barack Obama (IL)—I’m only mentioning Senator Obama because so many people do. Obama does seem to have been cut from presidential cloth, but the fact is that he was just elected to the Senate in 2004. That’s awfully early to be quitting your job to run for president (just as John Edwards.) I’m sure Obama is going to season himself in the Senate for a while, and will probably run for president one day, but not so soon. I hope he does run, but running in 2008 would just be too early. I think he knows that, too. I’m sure Senator Obama will spend his time helping out whoever the nominee is, but that’ll be it. Mark my words, though: his time will come.

Sen. Russ Feingold (WI)—Feingold is a good progressive from a swing state. He’s got good ideas on universal health care, reduction of the deficit, curbing military spending, aid for the poor, education spending, protecting the environment and supporting abortion rights. He was opposed to this Iraq War nonsense from the getgo, and he appeals to pretty much every fiber of my being. Conservative America probably isn’t ready to vote for a Jew for president, though; they’re not even ready to vote for a Mormon for president. (Well, 17% of them aren’t, anyway.) Here I mean the social conservatives, mind: the purely fiscal conservative Republicans would be willing to vote for a Jew or a Mormon, I’m sure, no problem. However, with Feingold’s legislative priorities, he’d never win over any conservative Republicans anyway. Feingold is already running for president, and I think he’d make a good one, but sadly, I think he’s too progressive to win over enough American voters. He’ll probably have better luck raising issues during the primaries, but there’s just something about the guy that… well, that a country that saw fit to vote for George W. Bush probably couldn’t embrace. I can’t put my finger on it, but I have my doubts. Still, I’d be very happy to see a President Feingold, but I’m not going to get my hopes up. I do like this guy, though.

Gov. Tom Vilsack (IA)—Governor Vilsack could seek a third term in Des Moines, but he isn’t. It looks like he’s running for president, and he’s got definite geographical appeal. Vilsack is a middle-of-the-roader and more known to political junkies than to the voters. I don’t see him making himself known for any issues, either, but that will inevitably change. Still, I don’t know why Vilsack might be running for president, and he’d better start making his case, and soon. Chances are better for him to wind up as a running mate rather than a running man.

Gen. Wesley Clark (AR)—The General has kept himself well known in the public eye, campaigning for candidates and speaking on TV. Still, I don’t know if he’s really thinking about running again. He’s not letting us forget about him, at any rate. I just asked my Magic 8-Ball™ “Will Wesley Clark run for president in 2008?” and it said, “Can’t say now.” Me, neither. If he’s going to run, he’s going to need to define himself a little better. Military credentials just aren’t enough to win a campaign on. Just ask John Kerry…

Gov. Bill Richardson (NM)—Clinton’s former Energy Secretary would be our first Hispanic president, if elected. And he’s probably running. The man is no-nonsense and speaks his mind. He’s not the most telegenic, to say the least, but if he keeps it up with the straight talk, he could pull it off. I’d be quite glad to see Richardson become president. His name has been floating around for long enough—but he hasn’t been picked over too much—so I’d say he’s one of the strongest Democratic candidates. He’ll have no trouble winning another term as governor this year, and then we’ll see what his intentions are. He’ll at least run, and who knows? He could surprise us in the primaries. Richardson is a serious enough person, which is something that America will probably agree it needs after eight years of George W. Bush. Heck, enough of us already feel that way…

Sen. Barbara Boxer (CA)—Her name comes up as a candidate, but I’m not sure why. I don’t think she’s interested in the job, and I’ve seen nothing coming from her to indicate otherwise. Probably just more conservative reactionaries trying to scare their base into thinking that the Democrats have a serious female candidate in the wings. They don’t, so they need to make up as many as possible. (The Democrats’ best potential female president is, I’d say, Arizona Governor Janet Napolitano, but she doesn’t seem to be running. I think she’d make a fine chief executive, though. Not that Boxer wouldn’t, but I don’t think she’s doing it.)

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