Whoa. I think I've had my eyeballs on the P2008 race more than most people, but I didn't know til I saw early accounts of the CNN Republican debate today that Harold StassenAlan Keyes is running for President.
A professor of public policy
at Baruch College, Douglas Muzzio, said Mr. Bloomberg's best chances
lie in states that traditionally vote for Democratic presidential
candidates and have big press and broadcast markets or are near New
To put it another way, Bloomberg threatens Democrats in the states they need to win in 2008. I doubt that Bloomberg would win any state, but he could certainly draw off enough Democratic support to throw one or more "blue" states to the GOP--which might be all it would take to swing the election.
With a month to go before the first primary, I predict that the GOP race--which has been much more interesting and dynamic than the Democratic contest--will be won by McCain, who will then pick Mike Huckabee as his Veep. It's 1996 all over again: the GOP turns to the guy who made a strong showing four years before, an older man with an impeccable war record and the scars to prove it, a guy who projects traditional Republican Main Street common sense but can't really connect with the social conservatives.
With Giuliani sliding and Romney hemmed in by the religious bigotry of the large segments of the GOP primary electorate, I think that voters will turn again to McCain much as they turned to Bob Dole 12 years ago. And McCain, to allay lingering doubts among the religious right about his commitment to their issues, will tap Huckabee for the second spot on the ticket.
I'm rarely right about such things--but prognosticating sure is fun, isn't it?
Columnist David Shribman had a a column out Sunday about all the questions surrounding the 2008 Presidential election. To be sure, there are more uncertainties this year than in most elections past, which with neither party fielding a sitting President or Vice-President and with the race in both parties in both New Hampshire and Iowa being so close. As a public service, though, I thought I would dust off the crystal ball and answer Mr. Shribman's questions.
North Conway, N.H. — We are heading into uncharted territory.
We have the first important test of the presidential season on a
Thursday night. We have the second important test five days later. We
have candidates preparing to campaign through the holiday week between
Christmas and New Year’s Day. We have a woman heading the Democratic
field. We have a Mormon making a strong play in the Republican field.
We have a minister-governor from the last president’s tiny hometown
coming up fast in the polls and bragging about having the endorsement
of a pro wrestler and the star of “Walker, Texas Ranger.”
And there are people who do not think that politics is interesting?
Yes. Angelina Jolie, Brad Pitt, Paris Hilton and Jessica Simpson are far more interesting than Hillary Clinton, Joe Biden, Fred Thompson and Mitt Romney. This is a fact; look it up.
What are they looking for, waterboarding at the Republican debate?
Yes! They could waterboard illegal immigrants. It would be awesome.
There are a hundred questions, terribly important and terrifically
interesting questions, that will be settled in the next 11 months. Here
are some of them:
What will happen to the religious conservatives who once felt so
comfortable in their Republican Party harbor?
They will vote for Mike Huckabee, propelling him to a spot on the bottom half of the Republican ticket. The more telegenic of them will appear in videos that will be played at the Republican convention to loud applause. After the convention, they will be discarded like used Kleenex, as usual.
Is the new calendar so
warped that the parties will tire of their nominees in a giant case of
buyer’s remorse around Tax Day in April?
I'm tired already, and it's only December. But so what? It's not like there's some other election that will determine the identity of the leader of the free world I can tune in on. We're stuck.
Will that new calendar help
clarify the differences between the parties and between the presumptive
No. In fact, the obfuscation of such differences will be easier, since there will be less time for voters to compare the candidates' positions.
Will there be any role for the national conventions in
Minneapolis and Denver, especially since the mainstream media outlets
are so budget-conscious that there’s little money to cover these
See response above re telegenic Christians.
More: How will the Internet change campaigning?
Hasn't Mr. Shribman been paying attention? Quick answer: 1) it will enable candidates to raise more money more efficiently, and 2) it will facilitate the viral transmission of gotcha videos (e.g., the Macaca comment two years ago) and kick-ass speeches (e.g., Howard Dean's speech to the California state convention four years ago).
Will some states opt
out of the traditional Electoral College scheme and divide their votes
rather than sending them in a big bloc, as they pretty much have done
since the 18th century?
No. Both parties fear the idea of actual representative democracy.
Will voters choose a candidate they don’t like
even if they think she is competent and has mastery of the skills they
believe a president needs?
She . . . she . . . she . . . . I wonder who that refers to? But to answer the question, no. American democracy now resembles nothing so much as a high school popularity contest. The next President will be the man or woman Americans feel more comfortable having a beer with.
Will the apparent success of the Iraq surge
provide a surge in support for the candidate who supported it in the
first place?(If it does, will the country feel comfortable with a
president who would take the oath of office as an older man than Ronald
McCain will wear his Iraqi albatross even if Iraq becomes as peaceful and democratic as Sweden. The American people are sick of the war and will continue to be so, regardless of how things evolve there.
And: Can a system that rewards the extremes, particularly in Iowa
and New Hampshire, select candidates who can relate to the center of
Where are these "extremes"? The difference between the "extreme" candidates and the "mainstream" candidates can be measured in inches. In the single digits.
Does it matter if the candidates raise and spend more
money than candidates ever have before?
Not in absolute terms, no. Only in relative terms. It matters only if you raise more money than the other guy.
Will New Hampshire, which has
chosen John F. Kennedy, Paul E. Tsongas and John F. Kerry (though not
Edward M. Kennedy) in the past, give a boost to another son of
Massachusetts, even though Mitt Romney is not a native Bay Stater?
No. As the recent endorsement of John McCain by the Manchester Union Leader indicates, New Hampshire Republicans are not in step with Romney. Apart from the benefits of name recognition he's got there by virtue of proximity, Romney won't get much support from the anti-tax live-free-or-die Granite State GOP.
I’m not done yet: What is the relationship in the modern day between
experience and competence?
They both take a back seat to celebrity.
Can a superpower afford to select a
president more out of hope of what he might accomplish than out of a
reckoning of what he has accomplished? (And what’s an Illinois state
senator do anyway? Get back to me on that.)
Sure. We did with both Bush II and Clinton, Reagan and Carter. Not the most distinguished company to be in, though. But Illinois state senators grapple with policy issues far more intimately than Texas governors.
Are debates illuminating in any way anymore?
Sure. Without them I wouldn't know that Dennis Kucinich's wife is a total babe.
Will the fact that the
Iowa caucuses may be dominated by people over 50 skew the results and
Could you repeat the question? My hearing aide was turned down. Did you say something about Medicare and Social Security?
Is Gov. Bill Richardson of New Mexico stuck hopelessly
in fourth place in the Democratic contest or is he perfectly positioned
to take advantage of his rivals’ stumbles?
Poor Bill. Maybe he deserves a better result than fourth place, but that's where he'll end up.
Stay with me here a few more moments: Why do reporters, even liberal
ones who are skeptical about foes of abortion and people who can quote
the Bible without having their aides look up quotes from Ecclesiastes,
admire Mike Huckabee so much?
Because even political reporters--I know this is hard to believe, but it's true--even political reporters eventually get tired of bullshit. Huckabee communicates clearly and well.
Is it true that reporters are so invested
in the notion of an underdog insurgent that they are propping up or
propelling Huckabee’s campaign? (Don’t try to answer this question
without calling former Gov. Bruce W. Babbitt of Arizona, the 1988 press
darling who dropped out the day after the New Hampshire primary.)
John Anderson in 1980 is a better example, which only goes to show you how much being a media darling helps.
Are people going to want to encounter candidates at the shopping
mall in Cedar Rapids while they are trying to finish their Christmas
shopping? (Tell me the truth: Who’s more appealing, the guy ringing the
bell for the Salvation Army or the traveling salvation show of Rep.
Dennis Kucinich, the Ohio Democrat?)
Will Dennis's wife be with him?
The questions just keep on coming: Can John McCain find success in
New Hampshire (where he won the 2000 primary by 19 percentage points)
by appealing to a group of independents that is substantially bigger
than the group of Republicans who find him unforgivably iconoclastic
Yes, but after New Hampshire he's probably doomed.
How many people will vote for Romney because he is so good-looking?
All of them.
Will it be more than the number who will vote for John Edwards for the
If Jesus got into a fight with Superman, who would win?
And is Edwards fishing in the wrong hole by being labor’s
man (a big boon for Walter F. Mondale in Iowa in 1984, a disaster for
him eight days later in New Hampshire)?
Look how little organized labor's endorsement did Howard Dean in Iowa four years ago. Labor's endorsements are sadly irrelevant.
One more time around the circuit: Can Hillary Rodham Clinton
continue to deal in airy canned remarks, or will she have to succumb to
I'll take airy canned remarks for $100, Alex.
Will Rudolph W. Giuliani show his lovable side, if he can
A purely hypothetical question. Giuliani is about war, not love.
Can a campaign that does a credible job in the first two
states live to fight again if its candidate isn’t named Clinton, Obama,
Giuliani or Romney? (If you know the answer, you should get it to Mr.
Yes, so long as Johnny Boy wears his asbestos underwear, because the heat from the media ("Are you dropping out yet?") will be intense.
Did you read this deep into this column to see if the names
Christopher J. Dodd and Joseph R. Biden Jr. would finally appear? Will
either man be able to compensate for the fact that there is almost no
article that contains their names anymore?
A totally disingenuous question. Mr. Shribman is the executive editor of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, so if the names Dodd and Biden haven't appeared in the media much, it's because he and his colleagues have deliberately avoided mentioning them.
The last one: Honestly, has there ever been a reality television show nearly as good as this?
The amount of time devoted to discussions of theology at the Republican debate the other night was just crazy. Are these guys running for abbot or for President? The candidates were asked if they believed every word of the Bible and then fell all over themselves assuring people that they believed that the Bible was indeed the Word of God®. One of PZ Myers' readers, Kseniya's Ideal Candidate, has come up with the proper answer to that asinine question:
I support your right to ask me that question, but I must insist that it is an inappropriate question to ask during a political debate.
I believe in the Constitution of the United States of America, and
if elected I will swear by oath and affirmation to uphold that
Constitution, including Article 6, which states that "no religious Test
shall ever be required as a Qualification to any Office or public
I believe in the Separation of Church and State - not the one-way
separation imagined by those with a predilection for poor scholarship
and wishful thinking, but the two-way Wall about which Jefferson wrote
in 1802. I believe in the Constitutional right to freedom of and freedom from
religion, and whether or not I believe every word of The Bible or any
other religious text is nobody's business but my own. Thank you.
David Mizner makes a good case for John Edwards by conducting a thought experiment: contrast how would the media interpret a Clinton victory in Iowa with how they would interpret an Edwards victory.
If Clinton wins, this is what we'll be reading on the morning of January 4:
Observers said the [Edwards] loss called into question Edwards's strategy of using a populist message to try to appeal to the party's activist base. "He made the same mistake that Howard Dean made in 2004," said Will Marshall of the Progressive Policy Institute. "You can make some noise running left but you can't win a primary. Will these candidates ever learn?"
But if Edwards wins, the narrative is different:
Although Edwards had campaigned heavily in the state and pinned his hopes for capturing the nomination on a win here, it was still a striking upset, one that validated his emphasis on economic inequality. Crisscrossing the state he relentlessly sounded his populist themes, railing against corporate interests which, he said, had corrupted the political system and rigged it against middle and working class Americans.
"This is a real wake up call for the moderates in the party," said political analyst Stu Rothenberg. "This is not Bill Clinton's party anymore. Which means it might not be Hillary Clinton's, either."
I asked Mr. Romney whether he would consider including qualified
Americans of the Islamic faith in his cabinet as advisers on national
security matters, given his position that "jihadism" is the principal
foreign policy threat facing America today. He answered, "…based on the
numbers of American Muslims [as a percentage] in our population, I
cannot see that a cabinet position would be justified. But of course, I
would imagine that Muslims could serve at lower levels of my
Steve Benen thinks this position will actually help Romney in the Republican primary:
It’s painful to recognize, but in modern Republican circles, there is
widespread tolerance for intolerance. Open and unabashed discrimination
towards certain Americans — Muslims and gays, among others — is not
only acceptable to too many conservatives, it’s expected. It’s why
Romney’s vow to discriminate against Muslims will probably not hurt him
politically — given the ideology of the GOP base, it might even help
Although Benen and others have made the point that as a Mormon, Romney ought to be the last person to suggest that members of minority religious faiths should be disqualified from national service, I think his comment was made precisely because he is a Mormon--not in spite of it. Romney is so anxious to convince evangelicals that he is really just like them, despite his Mormon faith, that he has adopted what is actually a fairly widespread belief that non-Christians should not sit anywhere near the levers of American power. This is discouraging and depressing--but that's politics.
Mike Huckabee has apparently made that most difficult of leaps: from asterisk to contender in the Presidential primaries. As befits his newfound status, he is starting to draw more scrutiny and criticism.
This piece by Matt Taibbi for Rolling Stone is interesting for what it doesn't do. Entitled "My Favorite Nut Job" (in the print edition), it's certainly long on epithets ("kook," "full-blown nuts, a Christian goofball of the highest order," "dangerous," "commitment to religious wackohood," "batshit," "thin-skinned and petty," "obvious and undisguised lunacy," etc. ). But it almost seems like Taibbi is trying too hard. Yes, Huckabee doesn't believe in evolution, is staunchly anti-abortion, opposes gay rights and stands accused of using public money to buy some personal items while he was governor of Arkansas and other penny-ante ethical lapses. But even while penning what is billed as a hit piece ("The GOP's Weirdest Nut Job" is the cover teaser), Taibbi can't seem to help but serve up a lot of very positive factoids about Huckabee:
Rather than employing the patented Bush-Rove tactic of using
abortion and gay rights to hoodwink low-income Christians into
supporting patrician, pro-corporate policies, Huckabee is a
bigger-government Republican who emphasizes prison reform and
poverty relief. In the world of GOP politics, he represents
something entirely new — a cross between John Edwards and
Jerry Falwell, an ordained Southern Baptist preacher who actually
seems to give a shit about the working poor.
* * *
Choosing that strategy also allows Huckabee to do what no
evangelical since Jimmy Carter has, which is talk about his faith
in terms of sympathy for the underprivileged. "You can't just say
'respect life' exclusively in the gestation period," he says.
Huckabee also edges openly into class politics, criticizing his own
party for harping on the supposed success of the overall economy.
"The reality is, there are many families that really are
working as hard or harder than they've ever worked in their lives,
and they're not seeing that pay off," he says.
For Huckabee, such lines aren't just lip service. As governor of
Arkansas, he outraged Republicans with his plan to expand health
coverage for children, his embrace of refugees from Katrina and his
support for subsidized higher education for the children of illegal
immigrants. Worse still, from a Republican standpoint, Huckabee
showed little hesitation in raising taxes to pay for such programs
— one analysis claims that new taxes initiated during his
tenure resulted in a net tax increase of $505 million.
Really, that doesn't sound so bad. And apart from its passing mention of issues such as abortion, evolution and gay rights that most Republicans and Democrats are going to disagree on, there was little in Taibbi's piece to show that Huckabee is weird, crazy or corrupt. In fact, remove the name-calling and the article is actually fairly flattering.
The adjective I'd use to describe Huckabee is dangerous--dangerous to the Democrats' hopes of recapturing the White House. Far from being The GOP's Weirdest Nut Job, Huckabee seems both politically and personally normal. He's certainly much less kooky than Ron Paul, Tom Tancredo, Duncan Hunter, Rudy Giuliani or Mitt Romney. If this election is to be won or lost in the center of the political spectrum, I think Democrats have real reason to be alarmed if Huckabee improbably got the Republican nomination.
I still think that his weaknesses will preclude him from capturing the
Presidential nomination. He's underfunded and not well-known (although
that could change in the matter of a few weeks). He's got no foreign
policy experience and doesn't seem to have thought deeply about
international relations and the war in Iraq. Still, Democrats cannot
afford to take this man lightly.
Back in mid-May, I was impressed by Huckabee's performance in one of the early debates. I noted the obstacles he faced, but suggested that he'd make a strong VP candidate. He'd help shore up the votes of Christian conservatives, people who feel uneasy about Giuliani's relative social liberalism, Romney's Mormonism, and McCain's centrism. I'll stand by that. But if the piece in Rolling Stone, written from a frankly liberal perspective, is the best that can be done to convince the world that Huckabee is a menace to the republic, then Huckabee just might ride the balloon that he's been floating on lately all the way to the top.
WASHINGTON (Reuters) -
Democratic front-runner Hillary Clinton trails five top Republican presidential contenders in
general election match-ups, a drop in support from this summer,
according to a poll released on Monday.
Clinton's top Democratic rivals, Barack Obama and John Edwards, still lead Republicans in hypothetical match-ups ahead
of the November 4, 2008, presidential election, the survey by
Zogby Interactive showed.
Clinton, a New York senator who has been at the top of the
Democratic pack in national polls in the 2008 race, trails
Republican candidates Rudy Giuliani, Mitt Romney, Fred Thompson, John McCain and Mike Huckabee by three to five
percentage points in the direct matches.
All along, we've known that there are a lot of people who won't even consider voting for Hillary Clinton. I doubt their numbers have grown recently. What has changed, I suspect, is that Clinton's opponents have succeeded in painting her as the incumbent in a throw-the-rascals-out kind of primary. In such an environment, a lesser-known candidate (which would include the entire Republican field) has an advantage.