Faith & Social Justice: In the spirit of Richard Overton and the 17th C. Levellers

Handicapping Presidential Hopefuls for ’08

I can’t really resist this post. Tuesday’s elections have everyone thinking already about ’08. (Sigh. There are no “non-election” years in U.S. politics anymore.) But events of the past few months, plus the elections themselves have eliminated many of the superstars or obvious choices from both parties, but especially from the GOP.

Former Sen. Bill Frist (R-TN) is out of it, whether or not he knows it. Once a darling of the Religious Right and the powerful Senate Majority leader, Frist began to lose ground when he proceeded to misdiagnose Terri Schiavo as NOT brain-dead on national TV. (Autopsy showed the front 2/3 of her brain was liquid!) He is now under investigation for ties to Abramoff and may be in jail before ’08 arrives. The new Sen. Majority Leader-elect, Harry Reid (D-NV), has also been linked to Abramoff and other scandals and, even if he survives, has now seen his presidential hopes evaporate. Ditto Tom Delay (R-TX), and the delusional Tom Hunter (R-CA), the latter of whom is under investigation for both the Abramoff AND Duke Cunningham scandals. Both Santorum (R-PA) and Allen (R-VA) had once been touted as “presidential timber,” but both lost their senate seats on Tues. That may not end their political careers, but it will take longer than 2 years for them to regroup.

So, who’s left?

GOP hopefuls: Rudy Guiliani (R-NY), the strict law-and-order mayor of NYC whose crackdown arguably lowered crime rates and whose rallying of the city and nation after 9/11 inspired many. He is even now trying to raise funds for a try at the big seat. But I place his chances of getting out of the primaries at 100 to 1. To win in the GOP primaries, Guiliani would have to get significant votes from Christian conservatives, but Guiliani is well-known to have had several mistresses and he is also strongly pro-choice on abortion and in favor of gay marriage. Those positions could help him in a general election, but he’ll never make it that far.

Newt Gingrinch (R-GA), former Speaker of the House and mastermind of the ’94 Republican victory. Gingrich has been through 3 marriages–leaving one wife right after she was diagnosed with cancer, and marrying his latest mistress after stepping down as Speaker so the House could impeach Bill Clinton for HIS adulteries!!! Also, Gingrich was an extremely polarizing figure. He is still highly regarded by business conservatives and some social conservatives with short memories about his affairs. So, he might be able to survive a primary since the field has been cleaned out. But, I place his odds of winning the general election at 25 to 1. Independents and conservative Democrats just do not like him well enough.

Mitt Romney (R-MA), former governor of Massachussetts. He is liked by business conservatives, social conservatives, and independents. He is not tainted by the Iraq war and has been almost as critical of the way it was waged as Democrats. If he survives the primary to be nominated, he would stand about a 5 to 1 chance of winning, at this point in time–and better odds once he got more name recognition. But Romney is a Mormon and most of the Religious Right consider the Mormans to be a cult (as do I, actually). Would the Right, especially in the South, be willing to vote for a Mormon? I doubt it. I place his odds of getting the nomination at 10 to 1.

John McCain (R-AZ), Senator from Arizona. Because the field has been so cleared of others, McCain is the most likely frontrunner. He has repaired bridges with the Religious Right and he is free of scandal–and is still a strong proponent of ethical reform in politics, particularly working to eliminate the power of money to corrupt. He is also a fiscal conservative. I think his chances of getting the nomination right now are dead even. But his chances of getting the presidency are less than previously because of his strong defense of the invasion of Iraq– a policy the public has rejected. McCain wants to send in more troops–something that might have worked in ’03 or ’04, but those troops are just not available now. McCain still says that the invasion was morally right, despite the lies about WMDs, no links to 9/11, etc. He might be able to repair that deficiency if he could find a path to success in Iraq before the end of ’07, but if we still have a significant number of troops in Iraq in January of ’08, then anyone who has not been pulling for withdrawal is doomed at the polls. Also, McCain’s attempts to repair relationships with people like Jerry Falwell have alienated him from the independents and conservative Democratic swing voters that he will need to win the White House. Unless “facts on the ground” change dramatically, McCain’s odds of winning the general election in ’08 are about 20 to 1.

Democratic Hopefuls:

Sen. John Kerry (D-MA) wants another shot. Get serious, John. Sure, you (finally) apologized for voting for the war and have criticized now not just the conduct of the war (as in ’04), but the war itself. But Democrats remain angry at how your lackluster campaign in ’04 cost us our best chance of ending the war early, with losses still relatively low on all sides. And your botched joke nearly “lost elections you weren’t even in” as Dave Lettermann put it. No, I put Kerry’s chances at the general election at 50 to 1 and his chance of getting the Democratic nomination higher than that.

Former Sen. John Edwards (D-NC), Kerry’s erstwhile running mate, may have a better chance. His economic populism matches the public’s mood and if the housing slump and the rising national debt pull us into a recession in ’07, as many economists believe, Edwards’ message will be even more welcome. He beat Kerry in apologizing for voting for the war, has repeatedly been to the Gulf Coast to help Katrina victims, and to prod the government to keep its promises to the Gulf. A trivial matter is that he finally had that growth on his lip removed, but in an age of 24 hr. TV and YouTube, that growth could be a real distraction. I make Edwards’ odds at 10 to 1 in getting the nomination and the presidency.

Gov. Tom Vilsack (D-IA) has very little name recognition, now, but America has a habit of choosing governors as presidents. (Carter, Reagan, Clinton, and Bush II, for instance.) Vilsack would have no Iraq baggage and a huge advantage in the Iowa caucuses. But few people, including me, know yet where he stands on any important issues. These things change rapidly, but right now I place his odds at 20 to 1 in getting the nomination and higher in getting the presidency.

The same could almost be said for Gov. Bill Richardson (D-NM). He is Latino and, as the fastest growing segment of the U.S. population, the Latino vote is crucial. His name, however, isn’t Latino, and this could help him with other segments of the population. He also has no Iraq baggage and could be a leading voice in the debate over immigration policy. And Democrats are getting stronger in the Southwest. But Richardson has no more name recognition than Vilsack and, except for immigration, his policy positions are also not well known. I give him the same odds, currently.

Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton (D-NY) has all but been anointed as the front-runner by the media since she was first elected to the Senate in 2000 and even more so since she won reelection with 73% (and spent more campaign money than anyone else!). Had 9/11 not happened, I would give her good odds. She raises money easily and knows how to campaign. But Sen. Clinton has inherited her husband’s baggage in dealing with al-Qaeda. The public still remembers her botched work at comprehensive health care reform, too. She voted to authorize the invasion of Iraq, has never apologized or called that vote a mistake, and has only criticized the conduct of the war (although she did slow-roast Rumsfeld in public hearings!). That view on the war has made her unpopular among Democratic liberals and she needs the liberal base behind her in the primaries. If she doesn’t change her tune on Iraq soon, she might as well give up any presidential dreams, because peace groups, especially the women of Code Pink, will continue to dog her steps every bit of the way with “Hillary supports the War” signs. Even if she can survive primary challenges, her negatives run at 42%. She is hated by the Religious Right with extreme passion. Falwell wasn’t kidding when he said her presence would energize the Right against her. She could win the White House and help Democrats lose Congressional seats at the same time!! No, I place her odds of getting the nomination at 10 to 1 and of getting the presidency after that at 5 to 1.

Sen. Barack Obama (D-IL). Despite lack of experience (he has yet to complete a single term as senator), Obama has become the rising star of the Democratic Party, this generation’s Bobby Kennedy. He did not vote for the war. He helped many candidates win this time. He is a progressive that can still talk to conservatives. He connects with so many parts of the American story, immigrant father, mixed race parents, etc. He speaks authentically of his own adult conversion to Christian faith while outlining a moral vision for the country that people of many faiths or no particular faith can join in. He reminds people of the purposes of government in working for the common good–doing together what we cannot do separately. He certainly has the best chance yet of becoming the first African-American president. I have heard Obama speak in person and he truly energizes and lifts spirits. But his lack of experience worries me. I’d rather him try a run after a solid list of legislative accomplishments. I give him 5 to 1 odds at the nomination and the same for the presidency. Nevertheless, as of this writing, Obama is the only real hope for a fairly progressive candidate.

Sen. Russ Feingold (D-WI)’s removal of himself from contention leaves a vacuum. He voted against the war and was one of the first to call for troop withdrawal–the first in the Senate. He is an old fashioned liberal Democrat, yet capable of co-sponsoring legislation with John McCain. I wish he had not dropped out. Who will fill his spot? Many want Former VP Al Gore (D-TN) to run, but he has so far said no. I wouldn’t want the lackluster Gore of ’00, even though he won the popular vote (at least!), then. But since that time, Gore has come out strong for peace, for the environment (much stronger than when he was VP), for economic justice. He now speaks with passion and seems far more at home in his own skin. If he decides to run, I think his chances are dead even, especially if he doesn’t do something stupid like pick someone like Liebermann again as a running mate.

Update: IF (and this is a big “if,”) Democrats in Congress were either making progress ending the war in Iraq and passing popular legislation OR forcing Bush vetoes and showing clear differences, the renewed, populist Gore could not only win, but could bring in several more Democratic seats in the House and Senate in a “coattail effect.” But IF the GOP is successful either in making the Democrats look weak on defense or as “obstructionists” in Congress, then Gore would have a very uphill battle and, even if he won, could find either one or both chambers of Congress back in GOP hands. But he could face such a challenge better than Hillary, I think, and with more experience than Obama.

Update II: I just heard about Sen. Joe Biden (D-NJ) and his plans for a presidential run. I am less than impressed. Biden is a DLC Clintonista and the DLC is why the Democratic Party has become “Republican-Lite” and spent so many years in the wilderness.

Look for dark horse candidates. Currently, neither liberal Democrats or social conservative Republicans have a clear standard bearer. The field of hopefuls is likely to grow before thinning again.

November 12, 2006 - Posted by | U.S. politics


  1. Newt is a joke. I suspect we’ll see a Romney vs. McCain. If Romney were an evangelical, I’d call him the front runner. Whether fundy’s will vote for Romney is a huge question that remains unanswered.

    Rudy, Newt, and McCain have all had affairs. Fortunately for McCain his infidelity was many years ago. We can catch Rudy sleeping with his assistant by visiting our local video store.

    You left off Joe Biden. He’s supposed to run. What do you think of him?

    Comment by Big Daddy Weave | November 13, 2006

  2. I thought the rumors of McCain’s affair was created by Karl Rove as part of the 2000 smear campaign against McCain by W’s campaign. You know, the campaign in which Rove spread the rumor that McCain’s adopted child was actually a mixed-race child he conceived by a black woman? No race baiting there!

    I just found out today that Biden is running. Biden is a DLC Clintonista–type. He voted for the war, although he’s singing a new tune, now. I am looking at him with some suspicion.

    Comment by Michael Westmoreland-White | November 13, 2006

  3. I wrote a post about the three adulterers (Newt, McCain, Rudy) a few months ago.

    According to Nicholas Kristof of NYT, McCain was still married and living with his wife in 1979 while “aggressively courting a 25-year old woman who was as beautiful as she was rich.” He divorced his wife, who had raised their three children while he was imprisoned in Vietnam, and then launched his political career with his new wife’s family money. In 2000, he accepted responsibility for his failed marriage…

    Here is the Washington Monthly article on all three men…


    It’s a good read. I don’t see how any honest Clinton-bashing evangelical could vote for Newt or Rudy….

    Comment by Big Daddy Weave | November 13, 2006

  4. What’s an “HONEST” Clinton-bashing evangelical? You’ll remember they saw nothing hypocritical in then-House Speaker Henry Hyde, a confirmed adulterer himself, leading the impeachment charge against Clinton. Hyde called his affair a “youthful indiscretion,” but he was 44 (my age!) when he had this long, drawn-out affair. Get serious. But evangelicals never saw any irony at this.

    Comment by Michael Westmoreland-White | November 13, 2006

  5. McCain could never win – not because of the Dems, but because he’d be swift-boated by his own party. They’ve done it once, already and I don’t think they’ve learned their lesson.

    Comment by Dan Trabue | November 13, 2006

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