Tuesday, May 10, 2005

Leaner, Meaner, More Beastly
Nothing is a greater waste of time here in the spring of 2005 than handicapping a presidential election that's three years away, but let's do it anyhow, since the commenters got started earlier today.

A poll out this week named Hillary Clinton and Rudolph Giuliani as the leading candidates for 2008. At this point, such a poll is the grossest sort of name recognition. (A more sensible polling strategy at this point might be to ask voters to name three people who might consider running in 2008--except you'd likely find that anywhere from a quarter to a third of the electorate thinks Arnold Schwarzenegger is eligible.) Giuliani might run, although he's reportedly a candidate for New York governor if the incumbent, George Pataki, retires. Speculating on a Giuliani presidential run has been a New York pastime for years. He's been mentioned as a potential Republican presidential candidate since he was a racket-busting New York City DA in the mid 80s. And Hillary is Hillary--the conventional wisdom has had her in the race since about 1994.

The real entertainment is going to be on the Republican side next time anyhow, although Democrats are likely to be thick on the ground as well. Will Jeb take his turn? Will Bill Frist get Jesus to come down and nominate him at the convention? What about John McCain? Chuck Hagel? Rick Santorum? The Reverend Ashcroft thought about taking the plunge in 2000 but did not. Surely he couldn't lose to a dead guy this time, could he? John Kerry sent me a fundraising letter the other day, so he's in. So is John Edwards. I'll wager Joe Lieberman tries it again, too. My heart pines for Russ Feingold. But just as there was talk of the "seven dwarfs" during the Democrats' charisma-challenged 1988 primary campaign, the Democrats' 2008 field will be made up of dwarfs alongside giant Hillary.

Would Hillary make a good president? Probably. Would she have the chance to A) get elected and B) govern if she won? The answers are maybe and no. The Repug slime machine is already cranking up to smear her, but that can be overcome. After all, her husband did it. But even if she somehow gets the nomination--and isn't assassinated by some wingnut with a gun, which is my great fear for her--she's got big problems. She can't credibly claim to be from Arkansas anymore--she'd be a New York liberal, with all the baggage that carries in the provinces. But even if by some miracle she overcame that and managed to win, without a solidly Democratic Congress behind her, she would be finished before she began. And that's probably the best reason to support Anybody But Hillary if you're a Democrat--to spare the country at least two and maybe four years of partisan gridlock that will make everything we've seen before look like sweet Christian love.

Commenter Tom suggests that if Hillary gets the nom, Bill would be a good pick as running mate. He's not eligible, though, having served two terms already. But I have this fantasy. The Repugs decide that none of the heirs presumptive are fit to hold office. They repeal the Constitutional amendment limiting presidential terms so Bush can run again. And the Big Dog comes out and says, "I'm back." Except he'd have to elbow Hillary out of the way, which might be entertaining in its own way.

But first we've got to do 2006. Kos had some interesting stuff on governor's races around the country today. I wasn't aware Tom Vilsack was hanging it up in Iowa, but he apparently is, setting up a race between Repug Congressman Jim Nussle and current Iowa Secretary of State Chet Culver, son of former U.S. Senator John Culver. Here in Wisconsin, we've had two Republicans announce for governor in the last couple of weeks--Milwaukee County executive Scott Walker and Green Bay-area Congressman Mark Green, both of whom started their campaigns by trying to outdo one another in moving furthest to the right. (Our Assembly speaker, Republican John Gard, is probably going to run for Green's seat, which is interesting, because Gard lives in the Madison suburbs most of the year, three hours from Green Bay.) Kos speculates about former governor Tommy Thompson entering the race, but nobody is talking about that here. On the Democratic side, incumbent governor Jim Doyle has no primary opposition yet and we don't expect any, although a few progressives yearn for somebody not so likely to play footsie with right-leaning business interests. Doyle hasn't been Democrat enough for a lot of Democrats, and even if he makes nice with Republicans, they'll vote for the other guy anyhow. I'm not writing Doyle off yet. He was the least charismatic and interesting candidate in the Democratic primary field in 2002 but had the money and organization to win, and his base in Madison and Milwaukee remains fairly solid.

Recommended Reading: Few news stories have given me as much pleasure lately as the one from last week noting that Biblical scholars now believe that the Number of the Beast, 666, is actually 616. What will Jack Van Impe say?

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