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Pay no attention to the people behind the curtain

Monday, January 22, 2007

2008 Thoughts

by folkbum

Katherine Skiba's got another big wet sloppy kiss for Tommy Thompson in this morning's paper, prompted in part, I'm sure, by the 2008 field's expansion over the weekend. (By the way, Kathy, it's not news that "Thompson likes his prospects." It would be news if "Thompson admits he's running a vanity campaign." Remember, you're looking for a man-bites-dog story.) Anyway, that story's prompted some thoughts from me about 2008. Let's start with Republicans.

I've said before--and will keep saying it until someone proves me wrong--that the Republican to be reckoned with is Mike Huckabee, former Arkansas governor. I say this for two reasons. First, aside from Huckabee, here's what the Republican field looks like right now:
  1. The Desert Flip-Flopper
  2. The Yankee Adulterer
  3. The Mormon Flip-Flopper
  4. The Southern Adulterer
  5. Kansas's Second Least-Popular Senator
  6. The Texas Libertarian
  7. Tommy!
  8. Duncan Hunter
You can see how Huckabee, a very conservative, very Christian, very unblemished-by-scandal candidate, would look appealing against all of them. He's personable, has a great biography (including a great weight-loss story), and has demonstrated his willingness to buck the anti-tax fiscal conservatives in favor of the social conservatives, who will do a lot of the heavy lifting in the primaries. His book (they all write books) was not your standard "Ain't I Great?" tome, but rather a call for small, positive action to make the readers' lives, and the world, a little bit better.

In short, he scares the crap out of me.

On the Democrats' side, I will repeat what I've said before about Hillary: I really, really, really want to have an election sometime in my lifetime without someone named Bush or Clinton on the ballot. Please. (Technically, 1976 was "in my lifetime," but I obviously couldn't vote then.) We don't--we shouldn't--have an aristocracy in this country; another eight years of a Clinton would make it feel uncomfortably like we do.

I have little doubt that Hillary would make a good president--and I think she can, indeed, win--so I will vote for/ volunteer for/ get excited about her candidacy should she be the nominee. But I don't think I'll be connecting the arrow next to her name.

As for Barack Obama, I will again repeat myself: I think so few people know much about about him, except his rock-star vibe, that they are projecting onto him what they want in a candidate, which is not necessarily what he has. On the other hand, being a rock star is a big part of the battle--there is little question that he's got the genuine charisma that catapulted Bill Clinton to the top in 1992. And, from what little I do know about him, I think I will also be quite pleased to be talking about a President Obama someday.

John Edwards is at least a better-known quantity than Obama, and he's been making a lot of good moves so far in terms of talking about his issue--poverty. There is no question that Edwards's "Two Americas" frame is perhaps the most powerful one out there. And I really appreciate that he's been calling Bush's Iraq troop surge the "McCain Doctrine."

I really, really like Bill Richardson, though. He is, without question, the single most qualified candidate to have announced, from either party. He's been both a Congressman and an executive; he has cabinet-level experience; he has by far the best foreign-policiy credentials of anyone to run for president since, well, ever (he just brokered a peace agreement in Darfur, for example). He may be the only candidate that, were he to call me, I would pack up and move for. But he lacks Obama's charisma, Edwards's money, and Hillary's, er, Hillaryness. That makes it hard for him to shine among those other three.

As for the rest of the field--Joe Biden, Chris Dodd, Tom Vilsack, Dennis Kucinich, and Mike Gravel (Gore and Clark probably aren't running)--they will be inconsequential. Even if Vilsack does win Iowa--a big if--it will be dismissed as home-field advantage, and everyone will instead watch Nevada.

Perhaps the most interesting news is that California is looking to move its primary up to be second after New Hampshire. This helps both Hillary (she has the money to run there and everywhere else at once) and Richardson (if he can mobilize the Hispanic voters).

So those are my thoughts, with a little less than a year until Iowa gets us started. Any questions?

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