A preview of 2008

Dateline: 13 December 2006

What will America seek in a candidate? Being closely related to a previous president is a big boost in the fundraising stakes. But it could be a handicap when the primaries are over. There is something that feels not quite right about following a sequence of Bush-Clinton-Bush with another Clinton or another Bush. Jeb Bush, the outgoing governor of Florida, recognizes this and has declared that he will not run. But he is known to be politically ambitious and motivated. Always more political than his elder brother, he was the one his parents expected to see in the White House. If he ever wants to run, the chance of fighting Hillary Clinton for the post must be tempting. Why not take on the one candidate who could not accuse him of running on his family’s name?

It would be astonishing if Hillary Clinton did not run. She has had ample opportunity to talk down expectations and has chosen not to do so. She does have the luxury of being able to hold the formal announcement a while yet, though. Her stellar fundraising ability means she can enter later than would be possible for other contenders.

With former Virginia governor, Mark Warner, out of the race, her biggest rivals are John Edwards and Barack Obama. All three of these front runners are current or former Senators – traditionally a kiss of death to any political campaign. There are also two big name former candidates mulling a run: John Kerry and Al Gore. With stars like this battling for the money and the airtime it will be hard for lesser-known candidates to break through and take the coveted ‘not Hillary’ slot. If some space does emerge, retiring governor Vilsack of Iowa, current governor Richardson of New Mexico and Senator (but former governor) Bayh of Indiana could gain traction.

On the Republican side the candidate to beat is also a Senator – John McCain. But there is more room for credible candidates with experience outside Washington to emerge. For different reasons big state governors from California, New York, Florida and Texas face major problems. In one case, a constitutional bar.

Could Giuliani be the one to rally support against McCain?. Republicans love him, and his name and fundraising ability were powerful assets on the campaign trail. He has run a city that his bigger than all but a handful of states and triumphed in a city that is Democrat by seven to one. But will his party still love him as they get to know him? He is pro-choice on abortion and favors gay rights and gun control. McCain takes a staunchly conservative line on all those issues, but conservatives still seem to like and trust Giuliani far more.

Former governor Tommy Thompson of Wisconsin is considering a run. He could deliver his home state, and possibly Minnesota and Michigan – all of which narrowly voted Kerry. He could even shore up the vote in Iowa and Ohio, which narrowly voted for Bush. The mid west remains where elections are fought and won. Retiring Massachusetts governor Mitt Romney is running and gaining support.

Previous columns assessed McCain , Clinton and Newt Gingrich , as well as the possible independent bid by Mike Bloomberg . In 2007 expect a run down of the other contenders.

Quentin Langley is editor of http://www.quentinlangley.net an academic at the University of Cardiff and is a columnist with Campaigns & Elections. This article was first published in the Common Sense series for Lake Champlain Weekly.

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