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I thought it would be good to take a look at the upcoming landscape for the 2008 Presidential race. I'll update this monthly and hopefully try to keep my personal preferences out of the objective analysis (I love Barack Obama and wish he gets into the race, I am also working for Senator Evan Bayh of Indiana). Here we go:

The Democratic Side

Clearly, Hillary Clinton dominates any analysis of the race, and each candidate in the race will have to work to take her down. In fact, Democratic candidates in this race has a doubly difficult effort -- take down Hillary Clinton and overcome all of the other candidates to look like the best alternative.

Hillary Clinton will start out with enormous advantages (money, establishment support, great staff, a brilliant husband, huge name recognition, rock star status, and a very talented political instinct). She, however, is vulnerable. Hillary's move to the right (actually, I think Senator Clinton has always been more conservative than her critics give her credit for, after all, this woman was a Goldwater girl in 1964, and she was President of the Wellesley College Republicans) will make her extremely vulnerable on the left of the party, among those who are looking for someone who will espouse traditionally liberal Democratic values.

But a candidate coming from the left won't do it alone. Democrats want it all in 2008; they want a Democrat with a spine, someone who will stand up to Republicans, a candidate who can win the general, who inspires, who will be an excellent President, who has experience, and who will leave the Democratic Party in better shape than he/she found it. A candidate who fits this profile will win the nomination.

John Kerry is seriously done with presidential politics. Though he is clearly running for President, he has zero chance of winning as he is registering at about 15% in national primary polls, even though he was our nominee in 2004 and has 100% name recognition. John Kerry, even though he has shown spine with his call for a troop withdrawal by the end of 2006, still cannot shake the flip-flop nature of his political persona.

Tom Daschle, while an exemplary public servant, has no chance of winning the Presidency (he is seriously considering it, as he has made numerous trips to Iowa.

Wesley Clark, a fantastic retired General, does not have the domestic or political credentials necessary to win the nomination.

Russ Feingold, once thought to be the challenge from the left that would give Senator Clinton a run for her money, has appeared recently to be a gadfly in the race. He has recently called for federal gay marriage (a position I wholeheartedly support), a position that will crush him in the general election. Senator Feingold no longer seems serious about being elected President, a sad change of affairs since he is so good at communicating progressive positions. His unelectability will kill him in the nomination fight, though he may gain some netroots support early on that may make him a force in New Hampshire.

This brings us to the serious contenders in the race for President. Many believe that a red state governor is necessary to win the White House, a theory I think is speculative at best. Tom Vilsack, Bill Richardson, Mark Warner, and Evan Bayh all fit this profile. However, many who have heard Tom Vilsack and Bill Richardson speak realize that their ability to communicate to big crowds is inadequate at best. Bill Richardson, a Latino governor of a red state in the Southwest, a swing region, who has enormous foreign policy credentials, would make a formidable Vice-Presidential candidate. Tom Vilsack won't win his home state of Iowa in the primaries, and he will drop out after that.

Mark Warner and Evan Bayh are different. Mark Warner, an extremely popular governor of a red state, has achieved star status in the progressive blogosphere, even though his positions on issues is less than progressive. He is a one-term governor, the only elective office he has ever held, and has no foreign policy experience, and has a very undeveloped understanding of foreign policy. But he is loaded, estimated to be worth $200 million, enough to go head to head with Senator Clinton's estimated fundraising ability.

Evan Bayh has a great story. He was elected five times statewide in a red state, a very red state, that hasn't voted for the Democratic presidential candidate since Lyndon Johnson's 1964 landslides. Bayh has won each election by huge margins and remains immensely popular. He was a popular two-term governor, who has a host of accomplishments to tout, and he has extensive foreign policy experience, being on the Armed Services and Intelligence Committees in the Senate. He has a demonstrated fundraising ability; he has $10 million in his bank account now, the thrid highest among Democratic candidates (Kerry has $15 million and Clinton has $20 million). But he has problems, he is a virtual unknown throughout the country and is more likely to get confused with his father, Birch Bayh, who was also an Indiana Senator. He also has very centrist positions on most issues, including abortion, which has angered abortion rights activists. He will need to raise an enormous amount of money, campaign heavily in Iowa and New Hampshire to raise his name recognition, and prove to the left that he is a mainstream Democrat who cares about progressive Democratic values.

Then there is Joe Biden and John Edwards. Joe Biden is a great and brilliant Senator, but he lacks charisma and tends to go on speaking like a professor. He is very smart, understands his crowd extremely well, and can articulate a message better than most Democrats. But he lacks stature. He cannot muster the left or the center, he brings no state to the fold, he lacks executive experience, and he has low name recognition.

John Edwards is a force to be reckoned with. He has very high name i.d. He is a rock star in the Democratic party, registers high in Democratic primary polls, second only to Senator Clinton, is an impressive speaker with a great social justice, pro-labor, anti-poverty message, can raise impressive amounts of money from trial lawyers and labor, and has built up a network in Democratic politics, and has loyal supporters still in Iowa and New Hampshire. He is young and attractive, smart and charismatic, and has already done well in Iowa (he came in second to Kerry with 32% to Kerry's 38% in 2004). If he can raise money, convince Democrats that Senator Clinton is unelectable, and garner the support of the left, he will be a formidable candidate. However, he is a former Senator, and is running from no current office. His relative inexperience may hurt him, and he will need to work overtime to convince the entire party that he is the strongest general election candidate, the strongest liberal, the most courageous partisan, and the best President.

But this all depends on the fortune of Senator Clinton. Many say she is unelectable in the general election. But Senator Clinton is one of the smartest and most talented politicians around. She will no doubt barnstorm through Iowa and New Hampshire and galavanize women, African-Americans, and other Democratic groups. Unless most Demcrats are convinced Senator Clinton is entirely unelectable, not liberal enough, too politically calculating, and would not make a good President.

The only person I can see beating Senator Clinton with little difficulty isn't running. Barack Obama could definitely beat Senator Clinton, yes, but I was actually referring to another Clinton, first name Bill.

Republican nomination outlook coming up tomorrow.

2 comments:

Rach C said...

I completely disagree with your analysis of Wes Clark's chances. While I agree that he is ultimately unlikely to win the nomination, he doesn't deserve to be blown off completely, as you've done here. In 2004, Wes Clark was completely new to Democratic politics, with hastily assembled campaign and no experience in public speaking. But he has spent the last two years establishing some political credentials and polishing up on his public speaking and gladhanding. I think that Wes Clark has the foreign policy experience to be good for the Democratic party, and that voters will at least seriously consider him come primary season. While ultimately I suspect he is not likely to be at the top of the ticket in 2008, he deserves more attention than he has been paid here.

OrSkolnik said...

I'll be honest-- Bayh right now is pulling off an almost unbelievable balancing act. A good example of this is the recent hotline article on how he's basically managed to be both pro-labor and pro-free trade at the same time. He's also a lot better of a speaker than Mark Warner (and from much redder territory), though neither has a ton of charisma at this early pre-presidential speech training stage of the game. If Bayh can keep his balancing act up, he'll face Clinton; but if he doesn't watch it, his delicate stance will come crashing around him amid accusations of rampant flip-flopping.