Thursday, December 07, 2006

First Steps Down the Road to the White House

Even though I'm Policy Guy more than Politics Guy, I confess to already jonesing for the '08 Presidential nomination. If I had a chance to put it off, that chance was quashed while I was sick and had too much time to watch C-Span, especially this program.

Aside from politics junkiedom, this election will generate endless facination because of the sheer once-in-a-generation singularity of it. For the first time since 1968, we are faced with wide open fields in both parties. Neither party has a presumptive nominee -- that is to say either an incumbent President or a Vice President of the outgoing two-term administration.

Yes, I agree that McCain is the prohibitive favorite in that he was the runner-up last time the Repubs had a primary and among the R's that's the same thing. I think he's a prohibitive favorite, but not presumptively so. Certainly the number of high-profile candidates seriously considering a run indicate his status is less than prohibitive.

A couple questions I'll toss out to my many readers, most of whom haven't come back since my unfortunate absence. Both concern the effect of the impending compressed primary schedule. First, pundits are asking whether there are "Three tickets out of Iowa" as has been traditionally the case, or whether there are now only two." For that matter, does the presence of Vilsack negate the importance of Iowa all together on the Dem side?

Second, because the compressed schedule will require simultaneous campaigning in multiple states, does anything other than money matter for emerging from the pack? Surely, no $20 million dollar candidate is going anywhere this time, but can $50 million beat $70 million, or will resources be the beginning and end of the conversation?

Finally, I leave you with my current assessment of the field. In each race, I see two early favorites, a couple legitimate contenders for the supposed "third ticket" and everyone else. For the purposes here, I'm assuming that everyone who has expressed an interest but hasn't yet bowed out is in.

Democrats

Frontrunners:
Hillary Clinton
Barak Obama

Second Tier:
Tom Vilsack
John Edwards
Wesley Clark

Everyone Else:
Evan Bayh
Bill Richardson
Chris Dodd
Joe Biden

Republicans

Frontrunners:
John McCain
Rudy Giuliani

Second Tier:
Mitt Romney
Sam Brownback
Newt Gringrich

Everyone Else:
George Pataki
Duncan Hunter
Mike Huckabee

Looking over the lists, I'd say the Dem field is somewhat deeper than the Republicans. Dems have some serious candidates far down the list who are longshots primarily because of who is above. The Republican third tier is a bit of a joke -- only Huckabee could be considered even a semi-serious candidate. Gingrich has to be considered second tier just because of his name recognition and bank, but speculation is that he's more interested in the campaign as an extended book tour than as a real run at the office.

Let the wild rumpus start.

9 comments:

John Ettorre said...

I think Obama is mostly a mirage, a testament more to our lack of seriousness about politics than anything. He doesn't have anything approaching the kind of track record that ought to get anyone considered a frontrunner for the presidency. Mostly, he has a routinely inspiring life story that perhaps a couple million other Americans share with him. Hell, even callow George W. had more experience than him when he ran.

He also is saddled with the middle name of Hussein, and his last name sounds uncomfortably close to the world's most wanted man. As a Republican political consultant nicely put it the other day in the NYTimes, and I paraphrase cause I can't recall the precise quote, Hillary will gut him like a baby lamb.

Anonymous said...

I'm pulling for a Clinton/Obama ticket or vice versa is fine with me. Anything other than another old white guy -- paired up with another white guy. How many election cycles has that been going on? Oh yeah -- all of them since the beginning. Gets tedious. Or worse.

Cee Jay said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Cee Jay said...

Hillary doesn't have a lot of experience either. She has had a lot of time as a first lady, but the Senate is her only real experience in elected office. Obama was in the Illinois Senate before becoming a US Senator. I think people will be afraid to vote for Hillary because they feel it will be like voting Bill into office for a third term.
How about a Bill Richardson and Wesley Clark ticket or the other way around? We need people with military and diplomatic backgrounds to get us out of this mess in Iraq.
I don't think Hillary can win because of her connection to Bill and her lack of experience on her own.
On the Republican side, McCain seems to be their strongest choice, especially if they want to keep their conservative Christian base.

54cermak said...

I think you overrate Vilsack and underrate Richardson. Richardson's going to have to catch some serious PR lightning in a bottle, but he has the most impressive resume of any of the Dem candidates.

If McCain actually wins the primary and the general, he will be a sure-shot one termer. He's got his hand in so many jars that he'll be unable to get anything done.

Pho said...

John:

Obama has a mark against him for lack of national-level experience, but also has strong marks for him. When I endorsed Subodh Chandra, I noted that it's rare for the most qualified candidate, the best campaigner and the smartest guy in the room to all be the same guy. Obama gets two out of three.

54:

I think you have to give Vilsack an edge just because of his likely strong showing in Iowa.

Bill Callahan said...

Don't you think it's weird that your two Dem frontrunners are both people who've never actually accomplished anything in the public realm but win elections and write books?

Oh yeah... and totally screw up the country's best chance for national health care reform.

redhorse said...

I agree with 54, I think you are overestimating the strength of Vilsack. Harkin proved just being from there doesn't win you the caucus and the last Des Moines Register poll found him dead last at 2%. Undecided fared better.

Bayh would make a great president, as would Richardson. But I don't think either will break through to the upper tier. They do, however, belong in the second tier.

I think Giuliani is too high. His social positions will turn off many R primary voters, so the question becomes: does "America's mayor" have the juice with everyone else to beat out McCain or Romney?

BTW, no predictions on the D side, but I like Romney to come out of the R primaries.

joebu said...

What about Al Gore? I know he's not officially in and that he has said that he has no plans to run, but the rumor is that he is very interested and is sitting back for now to watch how things initially play out.

I know some may groan at another Gore run, but they don't realize how much things have changed with him since 2000. He knows he ran a terrible campaign in 2000 because he took the notoriously crappy advice from the DLC people. In the final weeks of the 2000 campaign, Gore departed from the DLC advice and became more of his populist self (Clinton did the same thing in 1992). That's what boosted him just enough to win the popular vote, but unfortunately, not enough to keep the election from being stolen. Also, he knows he took bad strategy advice from the DLCers during Florida recount (see the film Unprecedented) and he has never forgiven them for it.

Since then, Gore returned to the guy he was before being overly packaged up by the DLC. In 2002, he said if he had to do the 2000 election over again, "to hell with the polls and the media" and would "let it rip." He had the good judgment (unlike most candidates in the field) to oppose the war in Iraq before it started.

In late 2003, he endorsed the fiery free speaking outsider Howard Dean, whom the DLC regarded as its biggest threat and enemy (ironically, Dean used to be a DLC poster child as a very moderate governor of VT, but as the DLC moved further right to follow the Republicans, Dean and Gore stood pat and now they're considered liberal enemies of the DLC).

The main reason Gore chose not to run in 2004 was that Tipper was not ready for it. She was not over the 2000 election yet. In 2005, she told him that she could support him in another run. Plus, the Inconvenient Truth movie has now boosted his standing tremendously in many circles.

So I think another Gore run would be refreshingly much different than in 2000.

The only question is whether Gore will run. Again, I think he wants to see how the field plays out in the early going.

The reason why Carville wanted Dean out as DNC chair is because he fears that if Gore runs (against Hillary), he will get party help from Dean. The attempted ouster was purely to pave a red carpet for Hillary's run.

But when one analyzes whose spending was most successful in taking back the House, it was the DNC's. The DCCC, run by the ultimate DLC corporate whore Rahm Emanuel, blew a lot of cash on lousy candidates who lost. The DNC's spending went toward candidates (some of whom were shunned by the DCCC) who had a much greater success rate than the DCCC funded candidates. Therefore, Carville's attempt to start an oust Dean movement quickly fell flat on its face.