Yellow Dog Sammy's First White House 2008 Cattle Call
(Well, why not. I guess I'm just in the mood. Next time I'll do the Republicans.)
Here's a complete roster of Democratic presidential hopefuls, with some background information about each, listed in order of their prospects for winning the nomination ... all as scientifically determined by everyone's favorite political prognosticator, Yellow Dog Sammy.
• Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton (D-NY) - The former First Lady, best-selling author, and member of the National Women's Hall of Fame is clearly the front-runner for the nomination. She has enormous name recognition, commitments from a large number of Democratic fundraisers and major donors, a superior campaign organization, and a proven ability to endure and excel in gruelling campaigns (I'm counting when she was the spouse rather than the candidate). Many Democratic activists at the grass roots level are upset that she has gravitated to the political center and avoided taking aggressive stands on critical issues (especially the one that ends in "q"), but in the general milieu of Democratic voters she is exceedingly popular. Since we're talking about the nomination here, there's no need to get into her standing among non-Democratic voters.
• Former Sen. John Edwards (D-NC) - Yes, I place the former presidential and vice presidential candidate, personal injury trial lawyer, director of the Center on Poverty, Work and Opportunity at UNC-Chapel Hill School of Law, and People Magazine's "Sexiest Politician Alive" in second place, not third. He is a very compelling speaker (I loved his speech at Antioch Baptist Church the day before the 2006 election, although I didn't find it quite as inspiring as Obama's later that evening). Edwards has big-time name recognition, the critical experience of a national campaign, huge support from organized labor, and a strong populist message. There's a lot of time between now and the primaries, and I feel that Edwards will endure and eventually mount the strongest challenge to Clinton.
• Sen. Barack Obama (D-IL) - I LOVE this man, this brilliant former Illinois state senator, organizer, civil rights attorney, member of the Harvard Law Review, and gifted author. He is also a tremendous orator, as proven with his keynote address at the 2004 Democratic National Convention (and the speeches I personally heard at the ODP 2006 State Dinner and the night before the 2006 election at the Civic in Cleveland Heights). Right now the media and the portion of the public that is aware of him are enthralled, and if this campaign were short he'd be a formidable threat to Clinton. However, this contest is a marathon, and his prior campaigns are nothing like what he (and his spouse) will endure. Eventually his relative lack of experience and some controversial things in his past (e.g., admitted cocaine use in his youth) will take their toll. I think that he may drop out of this round and mount another presidential try in the future, and that will be fine. If he stays in, my sense is that his star will fade somewhat. (And, by the way, if I'm wrong I will be thrilled about it.)
• Gov. Bill Richardson (D-NM) - The best political resume in the field. Former congressman, Ambassador to the United Nations, and Secretary of Energy. One-time major leaague prospect (he pitched in high school and at Tufts University, but arm trouble ended his professional aspirations). Being a governor, and in a purple state, is huge. The Latino vote is increasingly important in Democratic politics. (For the record, his mother was born in Mexico and his paternal grandmother in Nicaragua.) I've only been around him in person once, but he was impressively smart and appealing. There has been at least one complaint that he is too touchy-feely -- as in with a woman, who didn't appreciate the attention. I think that as he travels the country his stock will rise, but I don't see any sign of traction in the earliest polling.
• Former Gov. Tom Vilsack (D-IA) - If presidential candidates were used automobiles, then this two-term governor and former mayor, state senator, and leader of the centrist Democratic Leadership Council (and graduate of ultra-cool Hamilton College) would be like a really good deal on a four-door sedan, no rust or dents. He's a very nice man (I've met him), and in terms of the car metaphor he'd get you everywhere you want to go with room for luggage and kids. The problem is that he just lacks sizzle. His advantage, however, is ... Iowa. If the polls showed Iowans responding strongly to his candidacy (which I guess could still develop but hasn't yet), then he'd be in position to use an early win there to ramp up his campaign for New Hampshire and the rest. I just don't think it's going to happen.
• Former Vice President Al Gore (D-TN) - Polls show sizable support for this non-candidate, the environmentalist Vietnam vet and former Congressman, Senator, vice presidential candidate, teacher, author, and documentary filmmaker. It's a combination of name recognition and a feeling that he really deserves the presidency that he "won" in 2000. Also, replacing Bush with Gore would be the ultimate, cathartic act of contrition for a country that deeply regrets installing a hugely unpopular leader, and his signature issue (global warming) seems to be coming into vogue (and rightfully so). However, my friend Pho helped convince me that if he got into the race those feelings would be dispelled and the nation would suddenly remember the awkwardness and inept campaigning that plagued this brilliant man in the 2000 race.
• Retired Gen. Wesley Clark (D-AR) - I don't think that this retired four-star general and Supreme Allied Commander of NATO is running. He has significant netroots support left over from his 2004 run, but I don't think the dynamics that made him seem formidable then exist now.
• Sen. Chris Dodd (D-CT) - Why is this former Peace Corps member, Army Reservist, and Congressman running? I don't get any sense of urgency from the way he's handled it, and I don't see what about him is likely to capture the popular imagination. Good legislator, though.
• Sen. Joe Biden Jr. (D-DE) - I don't see the campaign of this lawyer and former city council member (a surprise winner in his first Senate race in 1973 and the longest-serving Delaware Senator) going anywhere. Yes, it is unfair that his 1988 presidential bid was cut short by a brain aneurysm, and it's neat that he's becoming one of the few presidential candidates to try again after 20 years, but I don't think he has the charisma or compelling message to attract wide support. (I have to confess, I would have ranked him higher if it weren't for today's appalling gaffe about Barack Obama. If you think that's unfair, consider him placed two positions up.)
• Civil Rights activist Al Sharpton (D-NY) - I don't think that this Pentecostal minister, political and civil rights activist, speaker, and actor (cameo appearances in movies and on TV) is going to get into the race. (By the way, he preached his first sermon at age four and became famous in Brooklyn as the "wonderboy preacher," and even toured with gospel great Mahalia Jackson.) His presidential bid in 2004, including that great speech at the Democratic convention, are sufficient to insure that he stays in the spotlight and can advocate his opinions on the issues, obviating the need to be an actual candidate. If he does run, however, he will get (and deserves) a small but loyal following.
• Rep. Dennis J. Kucinich (D-OH) - Ah, bless him. Can't help but admire and like the former municipal court clerk, city council member and mayor -- certainly one of the few vegans of Croatian-Irish descent in American political history. I want to write his biography, but I can't imagine that his campaign is anything but quixotic. He's going to go through the whole process espousing unflinchingly anti-war, pro-environment, anti-death penalty, pro-universal health care, pro-gay marriage positions. I have no problem with that.
• Former Sen. Mike Gravel (D-VA) - First in the race (he declared last April 17th), this former Alaska state representative, army Counter-Intelligence Corps vet, and upstart vice presidential candidate at the 1972 Democratic Convention is off the national radar but has been campaigning incessantly in New Hampshire. He is best known for reading the entire 4,000-page Pentagon Papers into the Congressional record and blocking the renewal of the draft with a five-month filibuster. After leaving Congress he advocated for voter-initiated federal legislation similar to state ballot initiatives. His campaign platform includes a national sales tax, abolition of the IRS, and term limits. Right.