Saturday, July 15, 2006

Fun in 2008

My takes on the major candidates for president in 2008.

Hillary Clinton
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.

John Edwards
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.

John Kerry
No chance whatsoever.

Mark Warner
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.

Russ Feingold
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.

Evan Bayh
Completely unexciting but completely electable. Who knows?

Al Gore
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.

Joseph Biden
Annoying and implausible.

Now to the Republicans...

John McCain
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).

Rudy Giuliani
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.

Condoleeza Rice
At the moment she's not even running. I doubt she will, and I very much doubt that she would win.

George Allen
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?

Newt Gingrich
It would be a hoot, but a Gingrich victory isn't going to happen.

Mike Huckabee
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.

Mitt Romney
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.

Sam Brownback
He's the religious right's ideal candidate but doesn't have any broad appeal.

Bill Frist
Brownback may not have broad appeal, but Frist has no appeal.

Bill Owens
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.

3 comments:

Zeke said...

A few more comments on the candidates:

Hillary Clinton
Still the undisputed heavyweight in the Democratic field, although, as you point out, her strength in the polls may well be an illusion of name recognition. This also makes her the most vulnerable candidate in the pack: if her performance in the early primaries is anything less than stellar, she'll have failed to meet expectations, and the political media loves nothing more than the sight of a giant being slain. Still, she maintains two major advantages: her husband, and her gargantuan (and growing) war chest. So, we'll see what happens...

Mark Warner
Smarter than you give him credit for, and his reputation as a successful businessman (a real one, not the George W. Bush kind) probably will sell with Red America. Still, he's not exactly Jack Kennedy, and I have a sinking suspicion that the buzz surrounding him has more to do with biography than actual skill. And look where that got us last time.

Russ Fiengold
Not a chance. The comparison to Dean is more apt than you think: his support comes almost entirely from pissed-off bloggers and college kids, so expect him to get a lot of undeserved press before totally burning out after the Iowa caucus. And deservedly so: despite his tough-talking liberalism, he's a bit lacking in actual substance, and his one famous policy accomplishment turned out to be an absolute mess of a campaign finance bill. Also, he's kind of an idiot.

Evan Bayh
Jesus, I hope not.

Al Gore
Forget 2000. The media loves a comeback story, and Al Gore version 3.0 gives them everything they could hope for. On top of which, he's got more political experience than anyone else in the pack, and certainly has the most comprehensive and wide ranging set of policy initiatives. He'll be Hillary's biggest threat if he runs. But right now, that's a pretty big if.

Joe Biden
Oh, he'll fuck this up somehow. Just you wait. He'll...what's that? Biden just made a mildly racist comment about Indians in convenience stores (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OIT3jUrNTX0)? Yeah, that sounds about right.

John McCain
Still the frontrunner, but his flip-flopping blunders with the religious right (and his subsequent grilling at the hands of the media) have significantly tarnished his image as a straight-talker, and polls have begun to reflect his new weakness. If he plays everything right from here on out, he may be able to squeak through the primary. But I'm beginning to have some serious doubts.

Rudy Giuliani
A tough one to get through the primary, to be sure, but if he wins he might be the most dangerous opponent the Democrats could face. Why? Because he's the only Republican in two decades who could actually put New York in play, forcing Democrats to spend time and money on an expensive state that they should be able to win without trying. Keep your eye on this one.

Mike Huckabee
A great politician, but still probably a long shot because of lackluster fundraising. I don't think this will be the last we see of him.

Mitt Romney
Superb political skills and some great early buzz from Tennessee, but can he sustain it through the race? And do Republicans really want to run an out-of-touch Northeastern elitist? And then there's that Mormon thing...

I notice you didn't bother to include Bill Richardson or Wes Clark. Longshots, of course, but the Democratic field is still open enough to give them mention, I think. Also, all politics aside, which candidate do you actually want to win? Personally, I'm partial to Gore, Edwards, and Clark. How about you?

Anonymous said...

As radical and crazy as Dean is...I wish my fantasy dream would come true, and he would win the election of '08...

-Liz

Anonymous said...

I would also add to the list Barack Obama.