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