My takes on the major candidates for president in 2008.
Nominally the "front runner," she possesses weak political fundamentals. The myths establishing her supposed electability have been convincingly refuted: for instance, she actually performed worse than Al Gore in upstate New York in 2000. Clinton has stratospheric negative ratings for a potential candidate, and her supposedly wide support in the Democratic Party owes more to the lack of a preeminent challenger than anything else.
His sunny composure and uncontested eloquence make him a political natural, but his apparent youth will lead to a "lightweight" vibe if he faces a candidate like John McCain or Rudy Giuliani. Sure, Bush supporters couldn't make a very coherent attack on these grounds, since their candidate ran for president with an equal amount of experience (6 years) in major office. But my guess is that there won't be many Bush supporters left by 2008; his utter failure as president will only illustrate why candidates should have experience. Edwards' past maneuverings to avoid Medicare taxes also constitute a serious liability. Even if his actions were legitimate, this kind of issue can frame an entire campaign. I like his recent rhetoric about poverty but remain skeptical of his ability to effectively confront the problem.
No chance whatsoever.
His success in Virginia gave him a strong buzz, but he is an unimpressive speaker with little else to recommend him. I think that the media narrative will make an enormous difference in the race for nominee: someone will emerge as the "anti-Hillary." Warner has a shot, but thanks only to process of elimination.
His two divorces will raise eyebrows, although depending on the Republican nominee they may damage his perceived electability more than his actual potential. He's a champion of the left with a maverick record and solid home-state support. Although this makes him a possibility for the nomination (and even the presidency), he has two obstacles: first, he must pierce the media haze to become a well-known contender. Second, Feingold needs to stifle any attempts at caricature—he can't be another Dean. I think he's in better shape than Dean on that point, although I might be wrong. It's still a long shot.
Completely unexciting but completely electable. Who knows?
Sadly, I don't think he has a good shot. There would be high drama, of course, in a Gore run to avenge the loss in 2000 and the unspeakable disaster of Bush's term. But we tend to remember caricatures better than actual policies—it's the reason why the election was even close in 2000, and the effect only grows with time.
Annoying and implausible.
Now to the Republicans...
An obvious frontrunner. I'll echo the mainstream view: if McCain manages to win the nomination, he'll have an excellent shot at the presidency. The wildcard here is the nature of the religious right's challenge. Barring any significant change in party dynamics, it could come from Allen, Huckabee, Brownback, or Owens (who might surprise us).
If he runs, he certainly has potential. His strength with the base seems to be stronger than McCain's, despite his substantially more liberal positions on social issues. I suspect that these weaknesses will become clearer when brought into public view. Both Giuliani and McCain are past adulterers, but Giuliani's two divorces and far more egregious behavior contrast unfavorably with McCain's single divorce. Rudy's only asset is really the semi-mythical train of events after 9/11, and with his weaknesses I don't think that will be enough. Even if he wins the nomination, he'll have serious trouble with the presidency.
At the moment she's not even running. I doubt she will, and I very much doubt that she would win.
He's pathetic but has a chance for the nomination. Allen has emerged as the consensus right flank challenger to McCain, but a smiling countenance and football star father can't overcome his essential vapidity. It's certainly possible that he'll be the Republican nominee, but his past remains an overwhelming liability for any general election. What kind of blowhard proclaims "Confederate History and Heritage Month," citing a ''four-year struggle for independence and sovereign rights" while ignoring slavery?
It would be a hoot, but a Gingrich victory isn't going to happen.
His main accomplishment: a hundred-pound weight loss. No joke. Unless there's some serious upheaval, I can't see a scenario where Huckabee would gain support and Allen wouldn't. He's a mile-long shot and isn't general election material.
He's a lot like McCain, and that doesn't bode well for his chances. Why would Republicans choose McCain junior when the real deal's running? The Mormon question also lingers.
He's the religious right's ideal candidate but doesn't have any broad appeal.
Brownback may not have broad appeal, but Frist has no appeal.
Why not? Although a lack of exposure makes him a default dark horse, his blend of attributes is as favorable as any candidate's. He is both solidly conservative and articulate, possessing a solid gubernatorial record and no apparent negatives. If Owens can manage to insert himself into contention, he just might pull an upset.