Five for 2008
Over at the Weekly Standard Duncan Currie is looking at 5 for 2005--which reminds me that the 2008 presidential race is now under way.
No, it's not too late to start thinking about this. The British nominate a leader of the opposition, so one knows from the outset who the candidates in the next race for prime minister will be. As leader of the opposition, the country gets a chance to see how a candidate responds to the crises of the day. It can be very instructive, and a good test of leadership.
Although a bunch of names are circulating, the truth is the field (particularly on the Democratic side) is small:
1. Hillary. Of course, she's running. She's been running ever since 2000. She has 100% name recognition, widespread and intense support among Democrats, and a huge fundraising ability. Some Dems are already muttering that she's not electable. But her answer is going to be clear: W won because he scooped up women; his support from 2000 to 2004 went up 2% among men, but 5% among women. Her selling point will be that she will bring the women back into the fold. And she is laying the foundation to run as a moderate, not a liberal: there's a reason she has a seat on the Senate Armed Services Committee; and she's making immigration reform a key national security issue. Peggy Noonan has a good analysis: sooner or later, another terrorist strike will happen, and Hillary will then be positioned to claim she was right from start; Hillary can use the next national tragedy to position herself as tough on terror.
2. Kerry. JFK will take his second shot. Press reports list him with roughly $15 million left over from his 2004 run. That's not an accident. This is a man who has wanted to be president since he was 7, and the chances that he will make a second run are excellent. Count on him to position himself as a "real liberal" over against Hillary the Moderate.
1. John McCain. His extensive campaigning for W was more than party loyalty. His war credentials and his name recognition probably make him the front runner. I admire John McCain as a Senator and worry about him as a president: the Straight Talk Express? A president is a leader of a coalition, and leading a coalition requires diplomacy, not "straight talk". He's clearly succeeded in ticking off a large number of GOP conservatives who ought to be rallying to him. The GOP majority is a 51% majority, and it will become a minority if it is not carefully courted.
2. Rudy Giuliani. A brilliant mayor and a brave leader. He is almost certainly too New York and too socially liberal to win the GOP nomination. But he'll run a great campaign.
3. Jeb Bush. He says he's not running in 2008. My Florida contacts all say he's a better politician than his brother. Hmm: is it really his hurricane experience that has W sending him to the Asian tsunami relief? The knock on him is that he would be succeeding his brother. But the 2008 Dem nominee is about 70% sure to be Hillary: what will she say? She's against one family controlling the White House?
Right now the guess is Hillary vs McCain. The November 2004 poll says McCain would beat Hillary by about 50-40. It's a long way off, but for Democrats, 2008 looks very bleak indeed.