Thursday, August 11, 2005

Campaign 2008

[Had this in the queue forever. Might as well posted it now as I'll be offline for the next three days.]

Over on Tradesports, where you can bet on (I mean, bid on the futures contracts of) presidential contenders, Hillary is a prohibitive favorite to win the Democratic nomination, while the GOP contest looks to be a neck and neck race between Reaganite-wingnut George Allen of Virginia, wingnut suck-up Bill Frist (now in trouble over his stem cell flip-flop), and John McCain. My dream: the GOP puts up Dick Cheney. And reportedly, Bob Woodward thinks it's gonna happen! Yes!

A tip[1]: the 98:1 contract on the non-major party candidate winning the presidency is a bargain. A not implausible scenario in 2008, promoted by McCain staffer turned centrist Dem blogger Marshall Wittman, finds McCain losing a nasty GOP primary battle to a wingnut candidate (probably Allen or Frist) in a climate of economic anxiety. Knowing that 2008 is his last chance for the White House, McCain launches a third party candidacy in May, picking up a fellow maverick like Bob Kerrey, Joe Lieberman, Giuliani, or some nominally Democratic businessman-celebrity (Warren Buffett?) as his running mate. Running on a platform of national unity, independents, centrist Democrats, and most significantly, libertarian and moderate Republicans flock to the McCain candidacy. A 39/30/30 race develops, with McCain dominating the center and finally cobbling together 270 something electoral votes from mainly blue states and western red states. Improbable? Yeah. It's a fanciful scenario. But I think there's better than a 98-1 shot of this scenario happening, mainly because McCain clearly wants to be POTUS, and he's got little shot of winning the GOP primary with the Dobsonite fundies pulling the strings. A third party candidacy, in the mold of his idol Teddy Roosevelt, might be his best bet. And with the internet making it much easier to raise funds and organize the grassroots, the lack of a party structure wouldn't be the disadvantage it was to other third party candidates like Perot. It's surely a better bet than Colin Powell becoming the 2008 Democratic nominee, which is close to the same price.

It's early, but better to think about this now than dwell on the continuing disgrace of the present administration. Heck, there's a blog devoted to 2008 already. Stories about would-be contenders trickle out every day. So here are my current rankings of the Dem 2008 field (currently, the futures market has the Dem candidate a slight favorite in the general election over the Republican nominee). My priorities are: (1) electability; (2) electability; and (3) electability. Or, "Just win, baby." It's not that I don't care much about ideology -- I would strongly prefer a Clintonian-type pro-free trade moderate -- but there are no issues I care about more deeply than preventing the Repugs from fucking up the country for another four/eight years.[2] And any of these guys will be better than anybody the Republicans put up.

Hillary Clinton, Sen-NY. (Horse race position: 1) (My own preference rank: 7)
In her corner: After eight years of the catastrophe called the Bush presidency, the country may feel nostalgia for the prosperous if decadent Clinton years. Plus: 8 years of distance from wet cigars; the current health care crisis may make Hillarycare look like a tragic missed opportunity; her largely moderate Senate record; and the Democratic Holy Grail of waking up those millions of single women nonvoters, the equivalent of Karl Rove's 4 million evangelicals.
Points docked for: 45% of the country will not vote for her even if the other choice is Osama, so she has little margin for error. She'll be a lightning rod for the right-wing, driving up wingnut turnout and fundraising.
My take: Can only win if there's a massive GOP backlash or if her opponent is Dick Cheney. Besides the polarization problem (which Dubya himself conquered in 2004), she's not a dynamic speaker or an appealing personality (though I personally find her appealing). And I don't really believe that this country will vote a woman in as President in wartime.

John Edwards, former Sen-NC. (2) (3)

In his corner: Still the guy who can best tell you what the Democratic Party stands for. A natural born politician. Charismatic, disciplined, and with high name recognition, the reasons why Kerry tabbed him as VP still make him a formidable 2008 candidate. Now he's got national ticket experience . All he needs is to get some ingenious plastic surgeon to plant some "distinguished"-looking wrinkles for that extra gravitas-inflating touch.
Points docked for: "Breck girl" is still a little lightweight and too slick. And being a guest blogger for 4 years isn't gonna cut it.
My take: Tall order to keep himself visible the next two years when so many bigwigs are looking to get in the race. Still a solid candidate with discipline and optimistic vibe.

Al Gore, former VP. (3)(4)

In his corner: He wuz robbed. New "Fighting Al" persona much more genuine and likeable than the stiff technocrat he was as VP. Also, Bush's awful record makes Gore look that much better. In the Past Elections Reference Game, 2008 may well echo 1968: Like Nixon, Gore's the VP of an administration presiding over prosperous country in after the middle the opposing party's dominant cycle (Dems from 1932-1968)(GOP 1968-2008). He lost a close, possibly stolen election as standing VP 8 years before. 8 years later, the ruling party has become entrenched, corrupt, incompetent and the country's mired in an unpopular war led by an unpopular president. Too bad "Gore, the Democratic Nixon!" won't make a winning campaign slogan.
Points docked for: might be viewed as a has-been. He's a big target: Repugs will make headway painting Gore as both an opportunistic chameleon and liberal kook. If Clinton nostalgia drives the Dem primary voters, Hillary's more likely to be the beneficiary.
My take: Gore's much more comfortable in his own skin now, making him a better, more natural politician. But will voters give him a second chance? Gore's also the least likely to throw his hat in the ring of the top 8 contenders.

John Kerry, Sen-MA (4)(9)

In his corner: Ran an honorable campaign. A steady, stolid presence who's earned some goodwill from the party and at least can get 48% of the vote. He's got the organization in place for another run.
Points docked for: He had his chance and couldn't close the deal on a winnable race. East Coast cultural elitist persona still a huge, huge liability, especially since he personifies everything middle America distrusts about Democrats.
My take: Nice try in 2004, buddy, but give it up.

Evan Baye, Sen-IN (5)(10)

In his corner: Mr. Bland Moderate. Won landslides in a solid red state. Pretty much the perfect middle-of-the-road candidate manufactured to compete strongly in swing/red states.
Points docked for: Bland, uninspired speaker. Has a blow-dried politico from casting call quality. Will not excite anybody, and parrots right-wing talking points. Senator = Kiss of death.
My take: More than anything, Dems need someone who appears authentic and stand for something, not another poll-tested triangulator. Baye is the sort of faux "electable" wishy-washy candidate who appeals to CW Beltway media that the Dems are way too fond of sucking up to. Your party is widely perceived to not stand for anything. So what do you do? Try at least to not nominate a robotic, focus-group tested pol like Baye.

Mark Warner, Gov-VA (6)(5)

In his corner: Super-popular Virginia governor proves a Democrat can still stomp in the South. NASCAR-lovin', gun-totin' persona and moderate pragmatism may put some red states in play. Virginia is poised to become a key swing state. Pretty much defines a solid, electable Democratic candidate as moderate Southern governor is the proven winning formula for the donkey. Talks pretty good sense. Can fund himself.
Points docked for: Not much experience and looks far more like an Intel VP than the President of the United States. Will be out of office by '06, unless he makes a Senate run.
My take: A lot of insiders have been recently infatuated with a Warner candidacy, but let's wait and see. From what I've read, a perfectly fine candidate. Also, he's the most logical non-Hillary to emerge at this point, which would be a great asset if the race develops as CW predicts (as a race between Hillary and the Hill-alt).

Bill Richardson, Gov-NM (7)(6)

In his corner: Charismatic Latino governor from a swing state, with as impressive a resume as anybody in the field. His candidacy may finally solidify the fast-growing Latino population as dependable Dem voters. What's not to like?
Points docked for: Are Americans ready for a half-Latino Prez (I don't think so). Skeletons in the closet? Couldn't deliver NM for Kerry.
My take: A great VP choice on a dream Obama/Richardson '12 ticket if the Dems lose again, but there doesn't seem to be great enthusiasm for his '08 candidacy.

Wes Clark, Ret. Gen. (8)(1)

In his corner: Was right on Iraq from the start! Right on Iraq. Right on Iraq. Still the best biography around, and more than anyone can close the supposed "national security gap" with the GOP. Also, Clark's one of the rare Dem commodities: a guy who can stand his ground and be strongly partisan without being seemingly too "liberal". Also, right on Iraq. How many other people in this field can say that? If Iraq quagmire continues, his (fairly consistent) Iraq position will be a big plus.
Points docked for: Has he learned to blink? Can the thin-skinned general survive another arduous campaign? Might be seen as a one-shot wonder.
My take: Dismissed by the mainstream media but wildly popular in the liberal blogosphere (he's been winning all the lefty blogosphere straw polls, like the recent Kos poll). I'm sorry I missed his fundraiser in LA two months back, but all reports are that he's dramatically improved from 2004. Still my man, and never moreso than now as the designated Dem national security spokesman launching trenchant critiques of Administration boneheaded policies on Iraq on a weekly basis.

Russ Feingold, Sen-WI (9)(8)

In his corner: The Democratic version of John McCain - a likeable maverick. Right on the war. And of course, right on the war.
Points docked for: Too principled to get elected? Also, senator = kiss of death.
My take: I have nothing against Feingold, one of the most admirable politicians on the national scene, and I give bonus points to any politician with the cajones to oppose the Iraq invasion from the start, but I'm not convinced he's electable.

Brian Schweitzer, Gov-MT (10+)(2)

In his corner: Kos thinks he's the party's best bet: a folksy, gun-lovin' charismatic rancher who can relate to middle America and neutralize the coastal elite stereotype. Check out this terrific Salon interview for more ("They look up there and say, "That guy's a straight shooter. If I wasn't so busy bowling and working and fishing, and if I had time to spend on these issues, I bet I'd come to the same conclusions that that guy would. But it's a good thing that he's doing all that studying and stuff, because I'm busy fishing and bowling.") -- the dude makes sense. Proves he can win the libertarian Western states (the most promising region for Democratic gains in 2008) by winning in Deep Red Montana. Guy's even lived in the Middle East and speaks Arabic!
Points docked for: The governor of Montana as leader of the free world? You might as well elect the mayor of Akron.
My take: exactly the kind of small-state governor Dems like to nominate, and the kind of personality they need in this era. If Schweitzer has no major skeletons in the closet, he'd be the ideal "electable" Democratic candidate in the next two election cycles.

No-mentum: Joe Lieberman. No chance: Joe Biden.

[1] Pigs & Battleships does not encourage or otherwise endorse gambling in any form. However, this new weblog from Gawker Media, Oddjack, does. Go there for gambling related nonsense.

[2] My ideal candidate is one who has four priorities: (a) aiming to win the war against Islamo-fascism through a combination of effective military strategy and "hearts & minds" approach (and avoid launching costly wars against toothless distractions); (b) is a deficit hawk; (c) is looking to implement a national health care plan; and (d) is seriously committed to a alternative energy sources and environmental protection. Everything else is window dressing.