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

Just for Fun: People Who Will Never Be President of the U.S.

Well, me, for one.  But this is a list of people who WANT to be President and think they have a chance of becoming President who will never be President.  (Of course, once upon a time, I would have said that no 2nd rate Hollywood actor and no pretend cowboy from Texas would become POTUS, so my track record might not be too good.)  Let’s make it a sort of game.  You can either add your own list, argue for the viability of one or more people on my list, or both.  I am going to include people from several different political parties.

  • Ralph Nader.  Pack it in, Ralph.  You were an excellent consumer advocate.  You make a decent progressive pundit (with a few reservations), but not even the Green Party will have you now.  You helped Al Gore to lose (if he did) the 2000 election.  That was the last time you were relevant. Give it up.
  • Al Gore.  Fortunately, Gore knows that 2000 was his last hurrah.  Even though he became a far more interesting and progressive person (who could hold young folks attention) AFTER 2000, he wisely refused calls to run in ’04 and ’08–not wanting to make the race(s) about the past.
  • John Kerry (D-MA).  I THINK Kerry is in the same boat as Gore. He knows he’s reached the apex of his career.  Now that Obama passed him over for Sec. of State (to his surprise, I think), Kerry seems to have his sights on Sen. Majority Leader. I think he’d make an EXCELLENT improvement over the boring and weak Harry Reid.  He could possibly run for Gov. of MA after retiring from the Senate—but he’s never going to be president.
  • Newt Gingrich (R-GA).  I DON’T think Newt knows he will never be president.  The former Speaker was disgraced and had to resign in the ’90s for trying to impeach Clinton for adultery while himself having (another) affair. Newt NEVER had more than a 30% national approval rating.  You can’t even win a nomination with that, never mind a general election campaign.  And Newt hasn’t held ANY elected office since 1997.  By 2012, there will be voters who weren’t even BORN the last time Newt was in office.  People under 30 in 2012 will be going, “WHO?” And, IF, by some miracle, the Republicans go crazy and actually nominate Newt, Obama might repeat Reagan in ’04 and win 49 states out of 50! Seriously, Newt, get off my TV and go back to being a poli-sci prof–aren’t your students missing you?
  • Joe Biden.  I heard a rumor that the Vice President wasn’t ruling out running for Pres. in 2016.  Please say it ain’t so, Joe.  You are 66, now.  Ronald Reagan, the oldest person ever elected POTUS, was 68 when elected.  Your campaign got nowhere this time out–although your foreign policy work did attract Obama to you as VP.  But you tend to ramble when you speak, you are a lousy debater, and you make WAY too many unscripted gaffes.  I think you’re a good guy and you added some key ingredients to Obama’s campaign. I think you are proving to be a balance, now.  But, unless, God forbid, something happens to Pres. Obama, you will never be president.  In fact, I hope you consider retiring at the end of 2012 and let the President pick a young and strong, savvy woman as his running mate for 2012.  If not, 2016 will be another wide open Democratic primary.
  • Hillary Rodham Clinton.  Unlike Joe Biden, I think Hillary knew her only shot was in ’08–unless McCain won, in which case, she would have been back in ’12.  She seems to be on her way to becoming a far more effective and wise Secretary of State than I expected–better than she was as a Senator from NY.  I think I LIKE Hillary now better than I have ever done.  She MIGHT be a viable candidate in ’16, but she’ll be 68 then and our society is still sexist enough to prefer younger women, sadly. (I don’t think Margaret Thatcher could have ever become a president.  She became UK’s PM because, in a parliamentary system one votes for the party instead of the person.  The PM leads the ruling party. )  But, I might be underestimating the nation’s views by 2016.  It’s possible that in the next several years, Sec. Clinton does something extraordinary–like negotiate a 2 state peace in Israel-Palestine, or a nuclear free subcontinent for India and Pakistan.  If she gets a major portion of credit from an Obama foreign policy that is viewed as successful, she could, just possibly be a viable 2016 candidate.  But I think the odds are against it.
  • Mitt Romney (R-MI/MA/Wherever). It is possible that Romney is the 2012 Republican nominee.  If so, I expect Obama to wipe the floor with him.  He’d have a better chance in 2016.  But I think ’08 was Romney’s best chance.
  • Tim Pawlenty (R-MN).  Pawlenty is conservative enough for the GOP base, but reasonable enough for national independents and he’s likeable.  He would have made a MUCH better VP choice for McCain than Palin did.  So, why am I saying that he won’t be president?  Frankly, he has Norm Coleman to thank.  Coleman’s refusal to do the honorable thing (like Al Gore did) and give up his attempts to deny that he lost the MN senate race, put Pawlenty in a vise-lock:  He has been seen as encouraging Coleman’s obstructionism.  This plays well with the national GOP base, but not with MN voters.  That’s why he”s not running for a 3rd term.  I think he’ll run for the GOP presidential nomination in ’12, but I think that he will be slammed by the party insiders, the base, and MN voters–and most of this is Coleman’s fault.  It’s also going to hurt him that several of his attempts to balance the MN budget WITHOUT approval of the MN legislature are probably going to be overturned by the courts as unconstitutional–people will see that as a warning that he could be another president with an unhealthy view of executive power.
  • Sarah Palin (R-AK).  IF she was willing to sit out 2012, study up and become a policy wonk, she could have a great chance in 2016.  After all, charisma, charm, and the ability to rally crowds cannot be taught–but actual knowledge of the issues can.  But Sarah is not that patient.  She’s never stopped campaigning–which has caused her once sky-high approval rating in AK to plummet. She might not survive reelection if either she draws a strong primary challenger or the Dems can field a decent opponent.  Why? Because she has neglected GOVERNING Alaska and the populace there knows it and hates it.  And because she has refused to drop off the radar, govern well, and study up, she remains a cartoon figure on the national stage.  If she is the Republican nominee in 2012, Obama will win reelection even if the economy still stinks.
  • Dennis Kucinich (D-OH). I campaigned for him in ’04 because I thought he could push the Democratic platform to the left.  But Dennis should never have tried again in ’08–it almost cost him his seat in Congress.  America may become as progressive as Kucinich (We aren’t there, yet), but he is the wrong messenger for that mesage. 
  • Bill Frist (R-TN), Pat Roberts(R-KS), Rick Santorum(R-PA), and George Allen (R-VA).  These were all very powerful GOP Senators just a few years back.  Now, Roberts is the only one left in the Senate.  All used to be seen as strong possibilities for future Republican presidents–but they missed their opportunities.  The country changed faster than they expected.  Sen. Bill Frist (R-TN), a medical doctor, never recovered from the humiliation of misdiagnosing Terri Schiavo on TV–claiming that she wasn’t brain dead and trying to override the courts and her husband’s desire to “pull the plug” and quit dragging out her death.  When the postmortem revealed that Ms. Schiavo’s brain was largely LIQUID, Frist’s claim to see (via TV) evidence of her continued life and consciousness looked silly–and he was revealed as either a complete ideologue or someone who would say anything to score political points.  Sen. George Allen’s racism was revealed late in his senate reelection race on national TV–leading to the narrow victory of Jim Webb (D-VA) and the march to turn VA purple! Sen. Rick Santorum was seen by PA voters as just as much an ideologue as Frist.  Roberts has retained his senate seat, but he will never be president.  The country is nowhere near conservative enough for that, now.  It barely was in ’04–when George W. Bush narrowly won “re”-election.  That was the only year that any of these men could have won–and Bush was their party’s nominee, and they knew better than to run a primary against a sitting president.
  • Michael Steele(R-Republican National Committee). It’s amazing he keeps his job.
  • Howard Dean(D-VT), former Gov. of VT, former presidential hopeful, and former Democratic National Committee chair.  His one chance was ‘o4, but he knows it.  He WILL continue to play important roles in U.S. politics.
  • Liz Cheney, daughter of the Dark Lord of the Sith, Dick Cheney.  She’s been on TV 22 times in the last month, but no one from the Bush admin. (what was her office, again?) and no one from the Cheney family is going to win.  Yes, Jeb Bush, that also rules out you–and it probably rules out Condaleeza Rice, although if she lays low for about 8 years, she has a SLIGHT shot, depending on what else is revealed about her involvement with torture, etc. in the meantime. (I was very worried that McCain would choose her for VP. That ticket would have been much harder to beat. Rice was one of the very few people to come out of the Bush admin. with even PART of her reputation intact.  But McCain would not choose any pro-choice running mate, and the country has moved since last Nov.  But, trust me, international readers, if McCain had chosen Condi, the race would have been MUCH closer even after the economy tanked–especially with Obama choosing Biden. Unlike Palin, Rice would have beaten Biden in televised debate and SNL would have made far more fun of Biden.)
  • Mike Huckabee (R-AR).  Yes, his Fox News gig is keeping in view. Yes, the GOP base love him.  And he’s a good speaker with a great sense of humor (usually–I exempt the stupid joke at the NRA last year).  But ’08 was his real chance and he blew it.  I don’t think he’ll even get nominated in ’12, but if he does, Obama will cream him as bad as Newt or Sarah.
  • Tom Tancredo(R-CO).  He thinks he will.  He still can’t see why his campaign didn’t get off the ground in ’08. But let’s do the math:  The fastest growing ethnic group in the nation is Latino/Hispanic at 15% and growing quickly.  Tancredo thinks ALL of them are “illegal aliens.”  Latinos voted for Obama by 67%.  Had he been running against Tancredo, it they would have voted for him about 90%!  Had Tancredo been on the GOP ticket, even the Cuban-Americans (the most conservative, most Republican section of U.S. Latinos) would have voted for Obama by more than 80%!  Sorry. No “only us Gringos are worthy” strategy is ever going to win the White House again.


Now, just for fun, a few people who might be president of the U.S. one day:


Gov. Deval Patrick (D-MA).  Like many governors of both parties, Patrick is struggling for reelection because of the economy–and if he fails to get reelected, that may be as high as he goes.  But, if he gets reelected and is successful, he could be a future POTUS.  Of course, Obama may nominate him for the Supreme Court in the future, too.

Secretary of Homeland Security Janet Napolitano.  She was a very popular Gov. of Arizona and if she resigns Homeland Security in ’12 to run for the U.S. Senate against Jon Kyl (R-AZ), she will probably make it.  And she could run for Pres. in ’16 or ’20.

Cory Booker, mayor of Newark, NJ.  I expect this young man to become Gov. of NJ one day and then maybe the second African-American POTUS.

Senator Amy Klobuchar (D-MN).  Senators don’t often become presidents, but she might retire from the senate in a few years and run for MN Gov.  She is young and dynamic and progressive and she’s getting huge kudos from folks because she has had to function as MN’s sole senator while Norm Coleman drags out his loss for months.

Christine Gregoire (D-WA).  She will have to improve her state’s economy and she might need to be a vice presidential nominee first for greater exposure, but she has real potential.

Rep. Raul Grijalva (D-AZ).  He is hugely respected and if he won a senate seat or governor’s race, he would have far more exposure.  With the growing power of the Latino/a vote, Grijalva (whom I wanted Obama to pick over Salazar as Secretary of the Interior) could be a real powerhouse. He gets rave reviews from environmentalists and young people, too, and his base is in the increasingly Democratic Southwest.

Rep. Linda Sanchez (D-CA).  Same story, but is younger.  Also, she has a great American story as the child of poor immigrants who worked her way through university and law school as an electrician (still pays her dues as a member of the electrician’s union) and became a labor lawyer before running for Congress.  And CA is a BIG state as a starting point if she had a statewide office like governor from which to run.

Chelsea Clinton, daughter of Bill and Hillary.  I don’t think it’s all that likely, but these things sometimes do run in families–and she certainly learned how to campaign.  For the same reason, no one should rule out completely, either Mahlia or Sasha Obama, though children of presidents tend to become private persons more often than not. 


Charlie Crist (R-FL).  Now that he is resigning FL’s governorship to run for the U.S. Senate, it won’t happen in ’12, but he could make a credible run in ’16.  Americans almost never let one party keep the White House for more than 8 years, 12 tops.  (The last time it went longer than 12 in one party was the FDR-Truman years!) And I think the Republicans may be ready to nominate a moderate to moderate-conservative in  ’16.

Bobby Jindal (R-LA). His national TV debut as the rebuttal speaker to Obama’s non “State of the Union” speech this January was so bad it has killed any chance he had for ’12.  But  Jindal is much smarter than that dumb speech showed and he is popular–or as much as most governors are in this economy.  If he bides his time until ’16, he could be the conservative favorite for the GOP.

Meghan McCain (R-AZ).  Okay, she was an art history major! She would have to go back to school–maybe not officially, but in terms of learning far more about economics, foreign policy, etc.  But Meghan is a powerful speaker and writer and is brave enough to stand up to the GOP far right.  She knows that Republicans have to shake off the anti-gay fringe, especially, and she knows that they can’t keep pushing “abstinence only” education as an answer to teen pregnancy.  If she started right now and ran for smaller offices, she could be a future governor, senator, or president–with a MUCH better campaign staff than her father had.  I don’t know if she wants that life, and the current base of the GOP hate her.  But if the Republican machine was SMART, they’d be trying to woo her for offices that would give her responsibility and on the job training and keep her in the public eye.  She’s one of the few nationally known Republicans that the public actually LIKES right now.

Gov. Jodi Rell (R-CT).  She is one of the most popular governors in the nation, thrives as a fairly conservative governor in a very liberal state.  She can tout her veto of a recent bill repealing the death penalty (which I think she should have signed) to show conservative bona fides to the base.  She probably isn’t yet well enough known, but if nominated as VP by Charlie Crist or Bobby Jindal, she could one day be president.

Carly Fiorina (R-CA), former CEO of  Hewlett-Packard and wannabe future Governor of CA.  The question is WHEN she would be viable.  She ran H-P into deep problems and then bailed out with a golden parachute. Widely trumpeted as a possible running mate for McCain in ’08, she’d have destroyed any chance he had at CO (which he lost anyway), where Fiorina’s idiocy cost thousands of jobs while she got richer.  If she won Gov. in CA in ’10 (I hope not but the Dems running are pretty lame–even though AHNOLD has made CA remember why it no longer likes Republicans)  and was successful in salvaging the messed up economy–a big if, considering what she did to H-P–she might be a good GOP candidate in ’16 or ’20.  Not beforehand–and not losing in CA and then going to run for Pres.

Gov. Linda Lingle (R-HI).  A popular governor of a normally liberal state, Lingle would be an excellent recruit for the GOP.  She’s a free trader and for low taxes.  She doesn’t like gun control and thinks gambling is a mythical economic cure (and here I agree with her).  She’s the first woman governor of HI, the first Jewish governor of HI, the first to go from a mayor’s office to the governor’s mansion, and the first GOP governor since the year I was born (1962).  She also took a huge state deficit and turned it into a surplus.  Unfortunately, I think Gov. Lingle would have to wait until the GOP stops embracing the far right.  She’s currently too moderate to get the nomination:  pro-choice on abortion; against the death penalty; divorced twice and no children; wants addicts to get drug treatment and reserve jail for dealers.  These views would help her in a general election, but are currently too moderate for the GOP base.  Lingle will need to wait until at least 2016 to set her eyes on the presidency.

Any others? 


June 7, 2009 - Posted by | Uncategorized


  1. Good analysis. I think you are right on.

    Comment by Ralph | June 7, 2009

  2. Anyone to add or subtract?

    Comment by Michael Westmoreland-White | June 7, 2009

  3. Gov. Deval Patrick has many, many detractors in his home state. Massachusetts is deeply unhappy with its economic condition and IMO the “state of the state” will be a big factor for governors who choose to run for Pres.

    If Meghan McCain ever runs for office, she’ll run in a blue state or as a Dem. That’s my guess.

    Comment by K Gray | June 7, 2009

  4. The economy has really hurt many governors of both parties and Patrick is certainly among them. He will have to get reelected and MA will have to recover if he is to have any viable future as a presidential candidate. The economic meltdown may make him think more strongly about accepting a federal judicial appointment than he otherwise would have.

    Meghan won’t switch parties. Although she used to be independent, her campaign with her dad has made her a true believer in the GOP–although she sees herself as a reformer. I don’t know whether the GOP base or party insiders are smart enough to woo her and groom her for future leadership–but they should. As I said, she’s one of the very few national GOP figures who is genuinely LIKED by more than the shrinking GOP base. Young people, otherwise known as “The Future,” like her and Ron Paul more than ANY other Republicans–except Laura Bush.

    Comment by Michael Westmoreland-White | June 7, 2009

  5. I think you can add John Edwards to the list of Democrats who will never be president. Like you, I was once a big supporter of Edwards, and voted for him in the Democratic primary in ’04. But Democrats don’t come back from sex scandals (unless their last name is Clinton).

    He missed his chance.

    Comment by Sandalstraps | June 13, 2009

  6. Good addition, Chris. I wasn’t that big a fan of Edwards in ’04. I worked for the KY chapter of the Kucinich campaign (tilting at windmills), but my “realistic” hope for someone progressive was Howard Dean–until the Iowa scream. (Sigh)

    I WAS enthusiastic about Edwards in (pre-scandal) ’08. I thought he was the most improved candidate out of those who had run before. But I am SO glad he didn’t become either the nominee or Obama’s running mate. And, you’re right, sex scandals seem to hurt Democrats more than Republicans–unless public bathrooms or underage pages are involved for the latter. (Vitter (R-LA) the hookerlover with a diaper fetish may actually win re-election to the Senate!) Actually, the way that Edwards treated Elizabeth, I now wouldn’t vote for him for dogcatcher. If her health were better, I’d vote for Elizabeth, though.

    Comment by Michael Westmoreland-White | June 13, 2009

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