Archive for January, 2007

Election 2008, part 2: The Repubs

Friday, January 26th, 2007

Sorry for the lag between posts. No good excuse, just still getting used to the idea of blogging with regularity. You might remember Part 1 of this amateur political analysis, in which I declared John Edwards the frontrunner for the Democratic presidential nomination. Since then he has proven himself easily the most beloved among the increasingly influential “netroots,” and this can only bode well for him. Hillary is now officially in the running, and there appears to be a great deal of effort going toward creating a kind, more relatable image for her. Good luck with that, Hill. For now, I’m keeping my top five ranked as they were. And now, here are my picks for the Red Team (admittedly more difficult to make, which is perhaps another reason I put this off):

1. Mike Huckabee
It even surprises me a little bit that I’m putting a little-known Arkansas governor at #1, ahead of some pretty highly touted competition. As I go through that competition, however, it becomes clear that every candidate has at least one major problem that will be easy to exploit during the cutthroat primary season. We’ll get to those as they appear further down the list. Governor Huckabee, though lacking name recognition, is an ideal candidate for the Republican Party. He’s a family man, and a Southern Baptist minister with conservative social opinions — this is absolutely vital to winning the South and appealing to the Evangelicals who tend to vote in massive numbers (and give massive amounts of campaign dinero). Personally, Huckabee has a distinct charm and wit that has led some to compare him to another somewhat successful Arkansas governor. He has a great story — he was diagnosed with adult-onset diabetes in 2003, and proceeded to lose 110 pounds through diet and exercise. He has spoken and written about his experiences, becoming a major public voice in the fight against America’s obesity epidemic (he even ran the NYC Marathon last year). Americans, and Republicans in particular, love a good success story about the triumph of individual willpower. And then there’s the governor factor — governors have better success in presidential campaigns than senators, as I mentioned last time. Once Republican primary voters meet Mike Huckabee, I believe it will be hard for them to choose anyone else.

2. Mitt Romney
Former Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney is objectively the handomest Republican candidate, and we can’t overestimate the value of looks in a national campaign. He’s a social conservative who won the highest office in the most liberal state — that certainly must look appealing to primary voters. He’s proven his ability to take charge and manage a large, difficult situation like the collapsing Bain & Company or the 2002 Winter Olympics. How could he possibly not be the leading presidential candidate? Oh right — he’s a MORMON. Is the country ready to elect a Mormon to lead it? It’s a big question, and it’s only a question because Romney is such a strong contender in almost every other aspect. He has also come under fire by the Religious Right, for statements regarding gay rights made during his unsuccessful Senate run back in 1994… but if that’s his biggest scandal, I’d say he’s in great shape.

3. John McCain
McCain is the default Republican candidate in much the same way Hillary is the default Democrat — if no other Republican is able to distinguish him/herself in the primaries, McCain is the guy. He is widely recognized, respected, and trusted, even by many Democrats. But there are a number of things that can backfire for him. The most obvious problem may be his age — McCain will be 72 years old in 2008. He has been receiving treatments for skin cancer pretty consistently for the last 14 years, which doesn’t help matters. He can be a little too rough around the edges for some, as his refusal to apologize for using the slur “gooks” in 2000 exemplifies. His perceived independence from the strict party line has caused many significant Evangelicals to denounce his candidacy. The biggest problem of all may be that McCain is now heavily associated with the Iraq war, as he was and remains one of its strongest supporters (John Edwards is already calling the plan for a troop surge “The McCain Doctrine”). Iraq’s popularity is fading fast among Republican voters, and they may believe someone as involved as McCain cannot win the general election if things continue to get worse.

4. Sam Brownback
Kansas Senator Sam Brownback has many of the same pluses as Governor Huckabee — roots in the South, strong social conservative values, a close tie to Christianity. Another major plus is Brownback’s criticism of Bush’s handling of the Iraq war — few of his opponents can say they stood up to the president on that front going as far back as he did. Unfortunately for Brownback, he is a senator with little name recognition, which precedent shows us is much worse than being a governor with little name recognition. His religious beliefs, though presumably bonafide, seem to have changed quite a bit (raised Methodist, converted to Evangelical Christianity, then later to Catholicism). He doesn’t have nearly the personal charm or charisma that Huckabee has. And, of course, he has a reputation in some circles for being a bit “fringe,” especially with regard to abortion (he has said the result of Roe v. Wade has been “a holocaust”), teaching intelligent design in schools, and anything and everything having to do with gay rights. Brownback is beloved by the far-right Christian community, but he needs to find a way to appeal to a much broader segment of the voting population.

5. Rudy Giuliani
It sounds horrible, but 9/11 benefited no one more than Rudy Giuliani. Before he was “America’s Mayor,” he had to drop out of the 2000 Senate race due to his ugly divorce and related infidelities, as well as prostate cancer. After 9/11, he was Time’s Person of the Year, a symbol of strength from New York and an inspiration for America. I have to believe that by 2008, we’ll be back to seeing the old Giuliani. Other candidates will dig up any dirt they can on his personal troubles, not to mention his close ties to the gay community, pro-choice attitides, and support for stem cell research. And then there’s Bernard Kerik. No, I don’t see Rudy overcoming these problems, but when it comes to the prospect of a Republican potentially winning New York’s electoral votes, you can never be too sure.

Of the other various candidates, I’d say only Newt Gingrich and Chuck Hagel have any semblance of a chance. Others, like Tom Tancredo, George Pataki, Tommy Thompson, and Duncan Hunter have none.

And hey, let’s not forget Hewlett-Packard employee Michael Charles Smith.

New Job

Friday, January 12th, 2007

Yesterday I accepted a job offer to work as a full-time “search specialist” for a company called Global Strategies Int’l. If you have no idea what that means, and you probably shouldn’t, here’s the wikipedia entry on search engine marketing. That’s the stuff I’ll be doing. This is an entirely new field in marketing, and GSI is getting a whole lot of interest right now, so this seems like a great time to jump in. Looks like I found something where I can actually get some use out of my BA in New Media (recently renamed “Interactive Media,” apparently).

I expect I’ll be very busy with this job once it starts in two weeks, and there have been early discussions about turning me into their blogger (one of my goals in life has always been to have a business card that says “search specialist/blogger”). I will probably post occasionally about the job, though there are some company things I’m sure I won’t be allowed to reveal. Don’t know much about that yet.

Anyway, next post will go back to the 2008 presidential election, and the various Republicans pursuing the oval office.

Election 2008, part 1: The Dems

Thursday, January 4th, 2007

Everyone is pretty much resigned to 2008 being an ugly election year. Barring the imminent death/dismissal of Dick Cheney, a sitting vice president will not be rrunning for the oval office. That means it’s wide open on both sides, and if you thought the Democratic primaries were a circus in ’04, wait until you’re slammed with primaries for two parties in ’08 — with over ten candidates per party! That’s a lot of ego, and the vast majority of it is grossly inflated. It’s impossible to know who will survive the coming media war, since heaps of dirt have yet to be dug up on most candidates. You can never predict who will be accused of corruption, sexual deviance, or having a black baby next year (better hide the kids, Barack). Nonetheless, I’m going to take a shot at predicting the top five candidates most likely to win their party’s nomination in 2008. Today, the Democrats:

1. John Edwards
Edwards has a few things going for him that put him on top for now. First, he has national name recognition, behind only Hillary and probably on par with Obama. Second, geography is on his side, now that 2006 has shown it is possible to make a red state bend blue under the right circumstances. Third, he succeeds on the human interest/likeability side — the tragedy of his son’s death and his wife’s cancer help humanize him, and his law career was spent helping individuals fight for money in corporate negligence and medical malpractice cases. He comes across as a guy who sincerely cares, compared to the considerably colder Hillary Clinton. Most importantly, he has learned lessons from a national campaign already, and is unlikely to repeat the mistakes he made in 2004. He’s already building himself a strong public image regarding the war, heading off any new claims of opportunism or flip-floppishness. He’s even coining new buzzwords, in order to try and win the framing battle that helped the Republicans defeat John Kerry. He carries none of the stigma that Hillary does — Democrats either like him or don’t seem too sure either way yet. The one big spot where he fails is in foreign policy. That’s going to be a top issue, if not the top issue in 2008, and Edwards simply lacks foreign policy credentials. He will need a campaign team and running mate that will help counterbalance this significant downside, but for now everything is going the right way for him.

2. Hillary Clinton
There are a number of big problems with Hillary. The biggest is that there simply aren’t a lot of undecided voters when it comes to her — everyone already knows if they like her or not, and for a substantial voting bloc, it’s a definite “not.” It’s unclear what Hillary really stands for or embodies as a candidate — she hasn’t been the leading public voice on any single issue since the health care debacle of Bill’s first term. Her relative hawkishness on the Iraq war is extremely unpopular within her party. She has little charisma or charm as a public speaker. So why is she #2 on this list? Because: she’s the default choice. Every other Democrat is going to have to fight just to be heard by as many people as possible; she’ll have the media following her every appearance. The grassroots liberals who can’t stand her don’t have a Howard Dean to rally around this election, and their influence may be greatly diminished if they split their vote between Edwards, Obama, and others.

3. Barack Obama
Short of tragedy, it’s hard to believe the 45-year-old Barack Obama won’t be president… someday. He’s intelligent, a spectacular public speaker, and a charming family man beloved by women of all political affiliations. Never mind that he’s biracial, his middle name is Hussein, and his surname has already been the subject of inevitable bumbling by Ted Kennedy, CNN, and others. The man has all the right stuff, and people are going to want to elect him. But where’s the experience? He just doesn’t have much to his name yet. Certainly there’s minimal foreign policy experience, but more immediately concerning is his lack of campaign experience. He’s run two major political campaigns to date: the first he lost by a good margin, and the second he won follwing the self-destruction of one opponent after another. Does he have the skills to win the biggest campaign of all? I just don’t see it… yet.

4. Bill Richardson
No US senator since JFK has won the presidency. Senators usually go in with the most money, and in the greatest numbers; but it is governors who more commonly ascend to the country’s highest office. Any senator leaves behind him a trail of votes that can be twisted and contorted to paint whatever image the opposition likes, while governors tend to have a greater element of mystery — and, therefore, a tougher image to crack. Plus, governors have, y’know, actually governed — something that would seem more relevant to being president than legislating. At the front of the governors’ line this time for the Democrats is Bill Richardson of New Mexico. He might be the best “experience” candidate, having served as a congressman, US Secretary of Energy, and (foreign policy points!!!) Ambassador to the United Nations. He is Mexican-American, so electing him would be every bit as progressive as selecting Obama or Hillary in that sense. Unfortunately, with the country as paranoid as it has been, this may not be the time for a hispanic president with relatively liberal views on illegal immigration. Also, he lags on the national name recognition front in a huge way.

5. Wesley Clark
Wes Clark ran a terrible campaign in 2004, but he still has some things going for him: real military credentials, a great brain for economics, and the ability to rally Democrats of all philosophical shades, moderate and not so moderate. He’s not a seasoned politician, which could make him more likeable in a crowd of Joe Bidens (though it didn’t quite work that way for him last time). If primary voters are unhappy with the choices they’re given and Clark plays his cards right, he could be a surprise winner.

Should Al Gore decide to run, this list could change, but he’d better hurry up. These Democrats will not win no matter what happens: Tom Vilsack, Joe Biden, Chris Dodd, and Dennis Kucinich.

But the guy perhaps least likely of all to win is Mike Gravel.

In my next post, I’ll investigate the Republican side of primary season.