2008 Speculation - The Democrats
The 2006 elections are fast approaching, but mid-term elections are rarely as interesting as presidential races, so let's take a look at what's on deck for 2008. For this column, we look at the Democrats.
Given that the nomination process consists of multi-candidate primaries and caucuses where it is only necessary to win a plurality of the vote in order to "win", the candidate with the organized support of the radical, internet-centric "new left" will have a big head start over the competition.
If the radical left can gin up interest among its adherents for a US Senate primary in a state like Connecticut on behalf of a no-name guy like Ned Lamont, and deny the nomination to an incumbent Senator, then doing the same to help get a plurality of the vote in a few states early in the nomination process won't be a stretch.
I think it's fair to say that in 2004 Howard Dean only scratched the surface of what was possible in terms of marshalling such support and focusing it in targeted states via the internet. Now imagine the same scenario, but on behalf of a politician that has more established credentials, or who is already accepted by more segments of the party base as well as the national media.
Also, as Dean proved, they can be an invaluable source of money, no small fact when one considers the cost of being competitive in the rush of early primaries where it's likely a majority of delegates will be chosen in the first six weeks or so. To say nothing of being said to have "momentum" by the press, or "Big Mo", as George Bush, Sr. once referred to it.
Yes, Hillary has a lot of money and a lot of support, both in the Democrat party and in the press, but does that mean she will be the nominee? Especially when you consider that she's extremely polarizing, with a pre-existing national image that gives moderate Democrats the willies, (no pun intended). And she also has problems with the Democrat base, specifically the "new left" variety that provided the muscle to beat Joe Lieberman in Connecticut. They don't like her stance on the war in Iraq, or her overtures to moderate how she is perceived on some issues, such as abortion.
So how about the rest of the field? Al Gore's a no-go. He's seen as even more liberal than Hillary by the general public as well as a bit of a sore loser. John Kerry's just a loser, and not well liked by the Democrat base (that used Dean as their vehicle against him), or the financial base (such as the Hollywood types) that feel their 2004 investment in him was wasted.
Then there's former VP candidate and NC Senator John Edwards, who's seen as somewhat of a moderate. He's also a southerner with enough mainstream appeal that he may do better in the south in a general election. Ditto that for former Virginia Governor Mark Warner. Very similar are Indiana Senator Evan Bayh and Iowa Governor Tom Vilsack. These four will essentially be competing for the mantle of the "moderate who can win".
There's Joe Biden, the Democrats most prominent voice on foreign policy, but who loves the sound of his own voice a little too much, has a bad comb-over and keeps getting caught suggesting that the Democrats should write off the south and then denies he suggested it.
Finally, there's Russ Feingold, a real liberal's liberal. He's the anti-war guy, the reform guy, liked by big labor, the enviro-radicals and anti-capitalists. And unlike Howard Dean, he's managed to win a general election in a state that doesn't elect socialists.
So how do things shake out? I see a showdown looming between the new left and the hopeful moderates, which will ultimately have the effect of squeezing Hillary out of the race. (Memo to Harry Reid: your days leading Senate Dems may be numbered).
This presupposes that one of the moderates can raise enough money to be competitive but, granted that, the Democrats could have a real knock-down, drag-out fight for control of the party. And not just among competing personalities, but between competing visions.
Get out the pop-corn, this will be entertaining.