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Tuesday, February 06, 2007

The Contenders for the Crown (Part 2)

Countdown to Democratic Iowa Caucus: 342 days
Countdown to Republican Iowa Caucus: 346 days

We’re less than one year away from the Iowa Caucuses; less than one year away from the firing of the official starting gun in the race to the White House. On January 14, 2008, the Democrats of Iowa will go to their polling place and cast their vote for their favorite candidate. On January 18th, Iowan Republicans will do the same. Who knows how these candidates will rank in the minds of Iowans one year from now? Who knows how they’ll rank to all Americans?

Until that point, there will be a perpetual jockeying for position among the candidates, like horses heading into the final turn at Belmont. Throughout the coming year, I will rank the candidates from both parties in order of likelyhood to secure a nomination. My old blog had these as well, and I will refer back to them to see how candidates have shifted rank over time. As 2007 progresses, there will be periodical updates on these rankings, so if these interest you, make sure to check back every Tuesday. Also, feel free to drop a line in the comment box with your opinions. (Example: “IC, these rankings are terrible. Don’t quit your day job.” Trust me, I won’t.)

This week, I’ll offer some general thoughts, possible VP candidates, and a wildcard for the Dems. Next week, I'll rank the contenders, including a dark horse. I combined the two for the GOP back on January 16, but it ran quite long, thus my decision to split the column in two for the Donkeys.

Without further ado…

Just like the Republican nomination battle, it seems as if a clear Big Three have risen to the top of the Democratic field. It is more than likely that one of these three will be the next Democratic nominee for President: Senator Hillary Clinton (NY), Senator Barack Obama (Il), or former Senator and Vice-Presidential nominee John Edwards (NC). The rest of the field seems to grow by the week, but they’re all long shots to join or overtake The Big Three.

Before delving into said field, let’s examine several candidates who could affect the nomination process by throwing their support behind a candidate in exchange for the #2 spot on the Democratic ticket.

Top VP possibilities:
Mark Warner, former governor of Virginia – Last June, in my old blog, I listed Warner as the #2 most likely Democrat to be nominated for President. This was, of course, before he decided to drop out of the race without ever officially entering it. His strengths were clear: Overwhelmingly popular governor from a southern state, very articulate, he got a lot done as an executive, and he was liberal enough for the base but moderate enough for the general. The problem was, as a one-term governor from Virginia, he probably would never have had the resources (money, staff, name recognition) to do battle with national names like Clinton, Edwards, and Kerry. Thus, in early October, citing family and personal concerns about a rigorous national campaign, Warner stated his intention not to run.

However, because I’m smarter than the average bear, I saw through this announcement for what it really was. He doesn't want to go through the ordeal of a Presidential primary. I believe him. However, he wanted to be President. That much was clear. So what should he do?

Think about it. Due to term limits, he was a one-term governor of Virginia with and lacked national name recognition. What's the best way for a one-term governor of Virginia to become President of the United States? Become Vice-President. And do you think a 53-year-old popular southern governor might be a useful tool on a Democratic ticket? Yes. Yes I certainly think so.

Evan Bayh, Senator from Indiana – Evan Bayh entered and dropped out of the race in one week. Bayh made an attempt to rally support in New Hampshire but was completely overshadowed by Obama-mania. He’s since understood that he’s a welterweight in a field of heavies. Still, he could bring a lot to a ticket. He gave the keynote address at Bill Clinton’s 1996 nomination. His popularity in a typically Republican state is impressive. In fact, in the state of Indiana, Bayh received more votes than President Bush in the 2004 election. That is a great sign for having Bayh on a ticket. And not to be overlooked, President Clinton had this to say back in 2000, “I hope and expect some day I'll be voting for Evan Bayh for President of the United States.” The VP spot would be a great stepping stone.

Tom Vilsack, Governor from Iowa - He has eyes on a bigger prize, but support from his home state will make him a very attractive commodity for a bigger name candidate.

Bill Richardson, Governor from New Mexico – More on him coming. He’s still a contender for the top crown, but VP is a more likely scenario, unlike this next candidate.

Barack Obama, Senator from Illinois – At this point, it’s either all or nothing for Senator Obama. After being thrust into the spotlight like the offspring of two celebrities, he won't be swallowing his pride to accept a #2 spot. Moreover, no Presidential nominee is going to choose a running mate that will outdraw and overshadow them throughout a campain. Still, the #2 spot is the perfect situation for Obama. He’s young, he’s got very little national experience, and frankly, he can’t win a general election yet. In fact, my Dream Team for the Democrats has him as the Vice-Presidential nominee.

Speaking of Vice-Presidents...

Wildcard who could change everything:
Al Gore, Former Vice-President of the United States – Like Condoleezza Rice for the Republicans, Al Gore is a candidate that is probably not running, so when examining these races, we can assume these two won’t be partaking and analyze accordingly. But if they did run, it changes everything. In the Democratic field, The Big Three would temporarily become The Big Four. I say temporarily because one or two of them would drop out once they see the shakeup in the poll numbers. Obama would be the first to drop out because he no longer has the unique stance of being against the war from the beginning. Edwards might be able to hang on because of his strength in the early primary states, but his advantage as Resident White Guy would be compromised.

And that, of course, leaves Gore vs. Clinton in what would have to be the most exciting election since Adams-Jefferson-Burr.

I’d be remiss if I didn’t point out the similarities between a Gore run in 2008 and Nixon’s run in 1968. Both were Senators chosen and elected to serve a two term Vice-Presidency under a popular President. (Nixon 1953-1961 under Eisenhower.) Both eventually lost a razor thin election when their boss' terms expired. (Nixon lost the controversial 1960 election to President Kennedy.) Nixon then waited two terms as the rival Democrats held the office. In 1968, Nixon took another shot at the Presidency and defeated Hubert Humphrey to take back the executive branch for the Republicans. If Gore were to follow suit, he’d be doing the same for the Democrats. And considering many people still think he won the 2000 election, he'd just be claiming his rightful place at the head of the party.

I'll be back next week with a Top 10. Feel free to play along at home and make your own list - a prediction if you will. Leave comments with those predictions. Not only can we compare lists, but we can see who's right come 2008.

I'll give you a hint to get started: Dennis Kucinich is #10.
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