Friday, January 13, 2006

Who's next?


Everyone has thoughts on who should, shouldn't or might move into the White House in Janurary of 2009, but those thoughts are mostly pushed aside for the moment in favor of a focus on surviving three more years of Bushevism, what Congress will look like after November, etc. Still, it's nice to keep a finger on the ol' pulse. As a matter of fact, it's time for a stemwinder.

The Next Prez deals exclusively with the 2008 presidential election and offers frequent updates on poll standings, events affecting various candidates' (or possible candidates') prospects and such. The site is also reasonably "third party friendly."

Also of great use is Ron Gunzberger's Politics1 -- my source of first resort for campaign, election and candidate information. With respect to this article, of course, Politics1's P2008 page and its complementary pages on the contenders, probable contenders, possible contenders and likely also-rans is of special interest.

Thoughts:

I'm still not seeing any "there" there for the GOP. The 2008 Republican nominee is going to be in, to put it mildly, a bad position: He can't get the nomination without lionizing the incumbent, and he can't win the election by lionizing the incumbent. That's why I can't get myself too worked up over who's a player for the nomination. At this point, barring some unforeseeable change on the order of, say, Independence Day, I have to work from the assumption that the Democratic nominee is going to win the general election. The very best the GOP can hope for is to pull off a Buzz Lightyear "falling with style" performance, perhaps by throwing Newt Gingrich into the ring and giving him a bully pulpit from which to start re-framing the party's message back toward something more less Rocky-Horrorish and more Reaganesque (yeah, yeah, I'm hitting the Amazon links hard today -- hey, I've got the tab open, why not? But I'll knock it off now).

Giuliani would crater almost immediately -- his, uh, "interesting" personal life aside, we got a glimpse into his political skeleton closet with the Bernard Kerik fiasco. If he runs, and especially if he's nominated, the door will be thrown open and the light will shine in. It won't be pretty. Giuliani has about as much chance of being inaugurated as I do.

Allen and Romney just don't create excitement around themselves. They're only presidential material in the same sense that Gerald Ford was -- if either of them stepped in to replace Dick Cheney and if anything happened to Dubyah, he could hold the seat down for awhile and then lose gracefully. But win the thing in an election? Ain't gonna happen.

McCain doesn't unify the GOP. That's not all his fault (as a matter of fact, a lot of it is George W. Bush's), but it's a fact. I can't see him making it past New Hampshire.

None of the others even show up on my radar screen as real prospects. Condoleezza Rice might pull the nomination if she threw in, but I don't think that will happen ... and she'd take a shellacking in the general election, if for no other reason than because she's too closely associated with Bush's foreign policy failures.

On the Democratic side ... well, like I said, I'm working from the assumption that the Democratic nominee will win the election. As a Democrat, I'd like to be happy about that. Unfortunately, Hillary Clinton still seems to be the front-runner, and I can't be happy about that. When it comes to the Clintons, I'm of the opinion that it's time and past time to, um, MoveOn. As a matter of fact, if she's the Democratic horse, and if the Libertarian Party nominates anyone remotely plausible, I'll give up the "dual party, with emphasis on the one that actually elects people" thing and go back to the third party trenches.

I've written about the Democratic contenders before, and my opinion hasn't changed too much:

Governors Bill Richardson of New Mexico and Janet Napolitano of Arizona have started playing to the "seal the borders" crowd, which doesn't sit well with me, but a western governor would be an asset to the ticket, perhaps in the second slot. Governor Brian Schweitzer of Montana is a dark horse, but one worth keeping an eye on.

Apart from my aversion to nominating sitting Senators, Russ Feingold still strikes me as the Democratic Party's best batter, save one ... Al Gore, whom Politics1 lists as "not running." I'm still thinking a Gore/Feingold ticket would be a slam-dunk in November, but it doesn't look like it's going to happen.

Biden, Bayh, Dodd and Nelson join Feingold, 2004 nominee John Kerry and Hillary Clinton in the "ambitious Senator" crowd, but none of the four have a shot and all four know it. They're angling for the veep slot, probably. The party needs to get over Kerry and Clinton. Either of them could win the general election, but neither should be nominated, because they'd be bad for the party in the long term. So would Jimmy Carter John Edwards. If we're remaking the party -- and we should be -- the last thing we want to do is put the Old Guard out front.

The only other contender who really captures much attention is Clark. Frankly, he didn't impress me in 2004 and he doesn't impress me now. He didn't, and doesn't, seem to be ready for prime time when discussing or debating policy questions, and if that changes, my gut feeling is that it will be due to focus group/"candidate packaging" hocus pocus and not because he really has a V-8 under the hood. As a former general, Clark ought to know that staff is there to provide information and opinion, but that the leader has to follow his own light ... and I can't see that Clark has any light to follow, except possibly "I want to be president."

Ah, now to the interesting stuff: As far as I can tell, the Libertarian Party is, once again, the last "third" party left standing. The Greens are in disarray and are much better at local than national politics anyway. The Constitution Party still shows no sign of having any gas in its tank. The Reform Party has been dead since before 2000 and will remain so, even if its corpse twitches occasionally.

Once upon a time, Michael Badnarik would not have been an obvious person to look at for a second run, because the LP eschewed nominating the same candidate twice from 1972-2000. However, Harry Browne brought that tradition to an end, Badnarik has expressed interest in the '08 nomination, and he's obviously the man to beat.

I like Badnarik. I worked as a volunteer early in his nomination race before Aaron Russo got into things, and I served on his staff post-nomination. I was wrong when I told him -- in March of 2004 -- that he couldn't win the nomination, and I believe that he did a creditable job in the general campaign. I also think he'll find it harder to win the nomination this time than last time. In 2004, he was virtually ignored by his opponents right up to the convention. This time, they'll be gunning for him from day one. I wouldn't count him out, though ... I've made that mistake before.

I also like Lance Brown and David Hollist. They're great guys. But Hollist has run several times now without garnering significant support, and I've not seen anything from Brown to convince me that his candidacy (which he's been openly planning for years) is backed by a significant -- actual or potential -- volunteer base. It's early for 2008 ... but Brown has been planning his run for years, and I'm puzzled not to be seeing more from him already. I'm willing to be surprised, though.

Politics1 lists Gary Nolan, who fought hard for the 2004 nomination, as a possible candidate. I don't think that he can make a comeback.

The name that keeps popping up -- as it does every four years, although it's not listed on Politics1 (and although she does not appear to have expressed interest in running), is that of Dr. Mary Ruwart. The New Hampshire LP has already voted to commit a delegate to her at the nominating convention, she's listed in the polling at The Next Prez, and she has a substantial base of admirers within the party. She threw into the 1984 nomination race at the last minute, garnered substantial support, and withdrew from a real bloodbath to break a fourth-ballot three-way deadlock. This may be her time. She'd be hard to beat for the nomination, and she'd almost certainly turn in a good performance, especially by LP standards, in the general election.

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