A friend of mine commented that Jeb Bush was a strange emissary to send to southeast Asia to oversee disaster relief. My friend also wondered why Colin Powell was along, given that he left the administration recently. My immediate thought was that the Republicans were giving Jeb a higher profile statesmanlike image to boost his chances in 2008 if they needed him. Jeb has said he’s not going to run, but given the current state of the field, they may want to keep around as a viable high profile candidate just in case. And I could totally see Powell being there as a possible vice-presidential nominee.
That started me speculating on who the possible nominees for 2008 are. I honestly don’t know. Nor does anybody else. I don’t really believe that most of the candidates that MSNBC mentions have a chance. It’s been demonstrated repeatedly that Senators make very poor presidential candidates. The number of compromises made in any omnibus deal opens you up to too many attacks, as John “Soft on Defense” Kerry found out this year. Where you really want an experienced senator is in the VP slot, where they can knock heads together to achieve a legislative agenda (think LBJ to JFK). In fact, in retrospect, the ideal Democratic ticket this year would have been General Wesley Clark with Kerry as his VP. Alas. I’d hoped for Clark from the beginning to no avail. He never put together a decent campaign team and couldn’t even win his own state.
So ignoring the Republican senators, who’s left according to MSNBC? A couple low profile governors (Pataki is lower profile than the mayor Giuliani, for instance). Not looking promising. There’s always Giuliani or Arnie as possibilities, but that would mean alienating the evangelical conservatives, since neither Giuliani or Arnie are exactly pinnacles of moral rectitude. It will be interesting to see which way the Republicans jump on this – continue moving towards being the party of the evangelical right, or move back towards the center (Senator McCain might fall in this category as well). It will depend in large part whether the Arnie Amendment goes through; I think they would decide that Arnie was popular enough to declare their independence from the evangelicals. They have a bonus in that the evangelicals, at worst, will just stay home – they would never defect to the other side.
On the Democratic side, the drums have already started beating for Hilary. I think it’s a terrible idea. I don’t think the Republicans could ask for a better candidate to unify all of their different factions. She alienates the big business guys because of her attempt at health care reform. She alienates the evangelicals pretty much by existing (Lakoff had a great bit in Moral Politics where he described how Hilary basically violates every single Strict Father precept). There couldn’t be a more polarizing figure. Not that polarizing is necessarily bad, given Bush’s candidacy. But if you have a polarizing candidate, they better be able to mobilize 100% of your voters, and I don’t think Hilary can do that; too many left-wingers have felt betrayed by the Clintons.
Edwards is a hopeless candidate, because he’s not only a senator, but he’s an inexperienced senator, so he has all of the downside and none of the up. Barack is too far off. Basically, I hate all my choices. So I’m going to toss out one of my own.
Eliot Spitzer. In 2012. The high profile attorney general of New York is running for governor in 2006. In the modern era, governors make the best presidential candidates for taking back control of the White House; after Nixon, we have Carter, Reagan, Clinton and Bush as the candidates that won back the White House. Spitzer has hard core credentials for fighting for the little guy on his side, taking on multi-million dollar companies. He seems like a pretty intelligent guy. If he wins the governorship, and does as good a job of general administration as he has in running his cases, I could see him as a very viable candidate in 2012. Long way off, though.
What to do for 2008? I don’t know. I expect the Republicans will try to get the Arnie Amendment passed and run him. If that doesn’t work, their fallback plan is probably Jeb Bush in a “I will serve my country if asked” kind of deal. The Democrats will probably nominate Hilary, because they have no other viable candidates, and she’ll have the best political machine for the primaries. The Republicans will win, because the Democrats are idiots. So, yeah, 2012. Spitzer. Here’s hoping.
Of course, I’m going to be continuing to keep an eye on this. In one of my fantasy worlds, I’ll spend the next year or so scouting out the candidates, call it correctly in 2006, join the right candidate’s campaign early, ride the campaign to a position of prominence and then be set for life as a political advisor or commentator. Isn’t dreaming fun?