My personal musings about anything that gets on my radar screen--heavily dominated by politics.


Handicapping the Presidential Race

Yes, I know it's very early. But we do, at least, know who most of the major players are going to be, so--before they all take the next 18 months off from their day jobs to campaign--we can at least look at what the people look like at this point in time.

For the purposes of this, I will limit my discussion to the top six announced candidates--three on each side. Also, I will break down the people based on some very simple principles that tend to define politicians: notable achievements, compelling personal story, fundraising ability, and political talent.

If I've left anything important off the list, please tell me so in the comments--I do effort to be thorough.

1. Mayor Rudy Guiliani--a state's attorney with an impressive record of going after organized crime, followed by a turn as a Republican Mayor of New York City, which he widely gets credit for revitalizing, and--oh, yeah--his famous response to the attacks of Sept. 11th. You won't find a much better record anywhere in politics.
2. Gov. Mitt Romney--a wildly successful businessman, was brought on to "rescue" the Salt Lake City Olympics, which he accomplished with higest honors, then became a Republican Governor of Massachussetts, during which tenure he stared down a legislature that didn't want to do its job and put a universal health care plan in place following conservative economic principles. He would be way out on top of this category if it weren't for Guiliani.
3. Sen. John McCain--a war hero who has served for decades in Congress; sadly, his most notable legislative accomplishments are Campaign Finance Reform and the Gang of 14. Probably shouldn't be this high on the list, but those below him are, well, even more deserving of their rankings.
4. Sen. Hillary Clinton--a one-term (now in her second) Senator with no record of public service prior to that time, save eight years as First Lady; no notable legislative achievements
5. Sen. John Edwards--a one-term Senator without significant legislative achievement, has spent most of his life as a palintiff's attorney (with next to no pro bono work) except for a few months campaigning for Vice President
6. Sen. Barak Obama--a first-term Senator who had a brief career in the Illinois state legislature before that; has had two books well ghost-written for him

1. Sen. John McCain--hard to beat the war hero angle--GREAT American
2. Sen. Barak Obama--after all, he is the first attractive, articulate African-American . . . whose history of travel and mixed ethnicity DO make him interesting
3. Sen. John Edwards--doesn't really belong this high (think "silver spoon"), but his wife's recovery from cancer is a great story
4. Sen. Hillary Clinton--to be compelling, it must be interesting; to be interesting, it should be new; there is NOTHING new about Hillary Clinton. Her life story is that of the shadow of the Bill . . .
5. Gov. Mitt Romney-- I'm not sure how the Mormon thing is going to play out over the next 18 months, but it will bear watching; otherwise, he seems pretty milquetoast.
6. Mayor Rudy Guiliani--I suspect we're going to hear much more than we want to over the next year about divorces and affairs and . . . not good.

1. Gov. Mitt Romney--though its early, his first-day total has got to have old pros looking over their shoulders
2. Sen. Hillary Clinton--an ENORMOUS war chest gives her an almost-unmatched ability to control the debate
3. Mayor Rudy Guiliani--America's Mayor draws huge crowds wherever he goes, and showed a lot of cache raising money for other candidates in 2004 and 2006
4. Sen. John McCain--an experienced and talented fundraiser, but has created huge problemsfor himself among the base of donors with his bizarre legislative record of late
5. Sen. Barak Obama--certainly doesn't have the nationwide database yet, but early hints out of Hollywood indicate he will have plenty of deep pockets to call on when he needs them
6. Sen. John Edwards--the numbers don't lie

1. Sen. Barak Obama--this is a tough category to judge, because he doesn't have the track record yet to show he can go the long haul; that said, no candidate has ever gone from such complete obscurity to superstar status in just three years like Obama
2. Mayor Rudy Guiliani--brings to every room an ENORMOUS wellspring of credibility and gravitas, which distinguishes him from just about everybody else
3. Sen. Hillary Clinton--like her or hate her, she is a juggernaut who can probably count on the media to cover for a lot of mistakes
4. Sen. John Edwards--his time in front of a jury does give him an easy way with a crowd that is hard to deny
5. Gov. Mitt Romney--I know there are those that would disagree with this ranking, but I've never seen him live, so it's hard to place him. What is obvious is that he has the lion's share of the intellect in most rooms--whether that translaes into good politics or not remains to be seen
6. Sen. John McCain--I've seen him live, and he did nothing for me; any body who spends as much time as he does with Chris Mathews, and repeatedly talks himself into corners which only goofy solutions like the Gang of 14 can solve, is not going to impress in a room with these others

It's hard to say what weighs more of the four categories--for a huge part of the electorate, clearly not the first, because we know that whoever gets the Dem nomination will get 48% of the vote, regardless of a nothing resume. But, to my way of thinking, the race shapes up like this at this point:

1. Mayor Rudy Guiliani
2. Gov. Mitt Romney
3. Sen. John McCain
4. Sen. Hillary Clinton
5. Sen. Barak Obama
6. Sen. John Edwards

I am still thinking someone else, who nobody has really thought of, will jump into this race well down the road and shake it up. All of these candidates have their weaknesses, so the field is still really wide open.

Which is good . . . since we're all going to get so sick of this in about nine months that a little drama will be welcome.


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