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The Friday Line II: Readers Ask About Other '08ers

I chatted live online Friday morning and took a number of questions about omissions from this week's Friday Line. Many commenters wondered where people like retired Gen. Wes Clark, Iowa Gov. Tom Vilsack, Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee and former House Speaker Newt Gingrich -- among others -- fit into the 2008 picture.

To keep the conversation going, I'm posting some of the questions I received in the chat regarding specific candidates not mentioned in my first post. Feel free to take issue with me in the comments section below.

Fairfield, N.J.: Will Tom Vilsack run for the Democratic presidential nomination? If so, how will that effect the role of Iowa in the process? At least two candidates, John Edwards and Evan Bayh, have already spent considerable time and effort in Iowa.

Chris Cillizza: Great question.

Vilsack is someone I debated including in this week's Friday Line, but in the end I couldn't bring myself to do it because I remain unconvinced that he can raise the tens of millions in hard-dollar contributions to compete with the big boys (and girl).

Unlike some of the other Democrats "considering" the race (i.e. Bayh, Edwards and Warner), I think Vilsack is genuinely undecided about a bid. He is using this year as a testing ground to see whether he has the inclination and/or support to make a national race. The latest evidence is his decision to keynote the South Carolina Democratic Party's Jefferson Jackson dinner on April 28.

If Vilsack does run, he faces a VERY difficult task in Iowa. Sen. Tom Harkin set expectations ridiculously high for a homestate candidate in the 1992 Iowa caucuses when he won with 76 percent.

The problem for Vilsack in Iowa is that even if he wins the caucuses convincingly, he is not likely to be the story national newspapers latch onto heading to New Hampshire. The big story will likely be who finishes second -- especially if that person is not named Hillary Clinton.

At the moment, Vilsack seems to be more of a vice presidential pick than a someone to lead the ticket, but time will tell.

Houston, Texas: What about Bill Richardson and Iowa Governor Vilsack? The latter is doing the rounds quite well. Chuck Todd in 'The Hotline' also commented about Newt Gingrich in his '08 frontrunner list. What do you think about Gingrich's chances?

Cillizza: I touched on Vilsack above, but let's take a look at Richardson.

On paper, he looks great -- Hispanic, former member of Congress, former Cabinet secretary, current governor. But there remains a lingering sense of concern about Richardson among Democratic insiders.

That worry is centered on Richardson's lack of discipline. To run for president, a candidate needs to have strict message discipline -- see George W. Bush in 2000 and 2004 -- and many Democrats don't think Richardson can get over that bar.

Silver Spring, Md.: What about Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee as a contender for the Republican nomination? Is there anyone whom you see becoming a darling of social conservatives? They've never really liked McCain, who voted against the Federal Marriage Amendment, rarely speaks out about abortion, and doesn't share Bush's proclivity for "God talk."

Romney is a Mormon (and evangelicals hate Mormons) and was pro-choice as recently as 2002. Frist favors stem-cell research. Even Allen isn't quite reliably anti-abortion. Social conservatives are a big bloc of voters, especially in caucus states (including Iowa) and the South. Do you see them embracing anyone? Huckabee? Sam Brownback?

Cillizza: Huckabee -- like Vilsack on the Democratic side -- was the last person I eliminated when writing up the Line this week.

I think he has an extremely interesting profile (he has become THE image of eating right and taking care of yourself over the past year), but I wonder where he raises the money to be competitive.

Looking at the top tier in the Republican field (McCain, Romney and Allen), none is a so-called movement conservative. And dropping to the next tier (Frist, Giuliani), you don't find one either.

There is room for a candidate who is the darling of social conservatives in this top 5. Huckabee and Kansas Sen. Sam Brownback seem the two most likely candidates for that slot at the moment

San Jose, Costa Rica: What are your thoughts on the political futures of Phil Bredesen, Barack Obama and Ed Rendell?

Chris Cillizza: Several questions have centered around potential dark horses from the ranks of the nation's governors, given the poor record of senators seeking the presidency since 1960.

Let's take each of these potential candidate one by one.

Phil Bredesen -- Tennessee Gov. Bredesen seemed to be the flavor of the month in early 2005 but has since been eclipsed by former Virginia Gov. Mark Warner as the preferred southern Democrat in the field. Nonetheless, if Bredesen (as expected) wins reelection easily this fall, he could emerge as a possibility in early 2007.

Ed Rendell -- Rendell faces a surprisingly strong challenge from former Pittsburgh Steeler great Lynn Swann (R) in his reelection race in Pennsylvania this November. Like Bredesen, if Rendell wins by a comfortable margin, talk could increase about a presidential bid. The problem for Rendell (and Bredesen for that matter) is where they go to find votes given the number of candidates already running.

Barack Obama -- The junior senator from Illinois will run for president -- but not in 2008.

Washington, D.C.: I was disappointed to not find Sen. Feingold in the field of Democrat presidential hopefuls. Any particular reason he has fallen off the radar, so to speak?

Cillizza: Feingold gets lots of mentions in The Fix's comments section any time I omit him from the presidential Line.

His problem, like that of many of the candidates who didn't make the cut this week, is money. Feingold has yet to show an ability in his political career to raise the tens of millions he would need to stay competitive with Clinton, Warner, Bayh, Edwards or even Kerry.

Feingold does have the right profile to tap into the Internet gold mine that former Vermont Gov. Howard Dean found in 2004, but I am not sure that the Dean phenomenon can be repeated.

If Gore is in the race, Feingold has no chance. Without Gore, he is an intriguing candidate to watch.

Richmond, Va.: Newt Gingrich is the most articulate and knowledgeable politician of the lot who can speak extemporaneously on any issue. Why is it that he is not mentioned as a serious candidate? Is it the liberal press that would never give him a fair shake?

Chris Cillizza: I have mentioned Newt a number of times as a "serious" candidate as has the Hotline's Chuck Todd in his 2008 presidential rankings.

Newt is positioning himself as the "ideas guy" of the 2008 Republican field, presenting a number of new policy proposals and hoping voters rally to that flag.

Gingrich's problem is that he left Congress in 1998 with incredibly high unfavorable numbers nationally and beset by personal problems. While Gingrich's unfavorable ratings have declined as he has stayed -- largely -- out of the public eye over the last eight years, his opponents are sure to remind voters about those things that made them dislike him in the first place should he decide to run.

Washington, D.C.: Why do you continue to omit Sen. Joe Biden from any mention in "The Field" when he's the only announced candidate and is fourth in polls of likely Democratic primary voters?

Chris Cillizza: See Vilsack, Tom. Or Huckabee, Mike. Or Feingold, Russ.

The first hurdle for all of these candidates is financial. And none -- including Biden -- has proven that he has the capability and willingness to raise the massive amount of money necessary to run a national bid.

I will say that Biden's fundraising in 2005 surprised and impressed me. (I wrote about thebest fundraisers in the Democratic field in a Fix post earlier this year.)

Biden is an articulate spokesman for the party especially on foreign policy. But I am just not convinced he wants to spend hundreds of hours courting donors across the country for the next year. Maybe he will prove me wrong.

Arlington, Va.: The obvious knock on Hillary Clinton as the Democratic presidential nominee is her unelectability. In the polls I've seen, she doesn't have a prayer against McCain. To me, a guy like Wes Clark would seem to have a better chance appealing to moderate and undecided voters. Clark's campaign last time was so bad it doesn't look like he has a chance in 2008, but what about as a possible VP pick?

Chris Cillizza: Man oh man. If the presidential nominee was decided by which politician has the most people advocating for his candidacy on The Fix, Clark would win in a walk.

Yes, I think Clark has a terrific resume. No, I do not think he is even close to the top tier of candidates running for the Democratic nomination at the moment.

Clark had a perfect opportunity during the 2004 race and -- in the eyes of many Democratic operatives -- blew it within the first 24 hours of his candidacy when he seemed to equivocate on his position on the Iraq war.

That chance isn't likely to come along again. Could he be a vice presidential pick? Sure.

By Chris Cillizza  |  March 3, 2006; 5:28 PM ET
Categories:  Eye on 2008  
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Enough about Newt Gingrich supposedly being a viable presidential candidate. The guy is a hypocrite extraordinaire who has been maaried three times and dumped his second wife over the phone while admitting he had been having an affair for 8 years with a staff person. Does anyone think conservative Republicans would vote for such a person? He may be a bright man but he is immature, corrupt, foolish, and an egomaniac in love with himself. I would vote for H. Clinton over Gingrich even though I hate her, because at least you know what you're getting when you vote for her. Gingrich is a complete fraud.

Posted by: YoudontspeakformeCindy | March 6, 2006 11:41 AM | Report abuse

Hey woppy,

I appreciate your feedback here. You certainly do have an interesting way of looking at things, but I think you are overlooking some basic facts and recent history. Your general assesment that only politicians can win fly’s in the face of countless governors, congressional and even presidential races. How about Jess “the body” Ventura, Arnold, and Paul Wellstone? Ross Perot didn’t win, but for a nonpol he did receive a considerable amount of the vote, but lost because he’s crazy, not because he wasn’t a pol. My point is that nonpoliticans win all the time and most polling data supports the fact that people want some one who represents their values regardless of what kind of experience they have.

It’s still early and a lot will change, but all I’m saying is it’s too early to write Clark off he may be the best chance for the Dems to win. If McCain does get the nod we need a candidate with national security credentials who can appeal to moderates that is baggage free and right now Clark is the only one.

Posted by: Brent Parrish | March 6, 2006 9:19 AM | Report abuse

Clark was impressive in that he had some credible ideas for handling Iraq in a different way (whether they would work out is less certain). The most positive use for him would be if Rumsfeld were fired and Clark hired. Ain't gonna happen, although it would be a smart political move for Bush and the Republicans (it would deflect from the problem with Iraq driving down the party's poll numbers, and show a flexibility heretofor missing from the Bush WH). Perhaps, a cabinet post in a 2009, Defense or State. Democratic or in a McCain Administration. I also liked his bonding with the Democratic vets running for Congress this year.

The Time is ripe for many of Gore's ideas, but he has a tendency to shoot himself in the foot, from time to time. I guess there is no happy middle ground to being yourself. I'd rather have a candidate that let it rip, and is right most of the time, then someone who is overly cautious and poll-driven. It would at least give the American public something to vote for (or against). Warner as a VP candidate might be reassuring to moderate voters who are thrown off by the occasional Gore gaffe.

Posted by: Jeff-for-progress | March 6, 2006 7:39 AM | Report abuse

I was (silently) pooh-poohing people who have been touting Wesley Clark, but I thought he was impressive on This Week. Of course, that doesn't get him the money and the support of party insiders needed to survive in the primaries, but it's a start. I'll definitely be paying more attention to what he has to say in the future.

Posted by: THS | March 6, 2006 12:58 AM | Report abuse

Jason - the problem with your assessment of the public's view of the "outsider" is that while the voters do want someone detached from Washington politics, they still want a politician. There's a reason that only one President in the since Grant hasn't held any elected office before winning the Presidency (and the one exception, Eisenhower, was a political force at the time of his election), and that is that people recognize that some level of familiarity with government is needed to be a decent President. Frankly, Wes Clark has no shot at the Presidency simply (and I don't see this as the only reason why he can't win) because he isn't a politician.

Brent - is there a chance that Clark was on instead of Gore of Kerry because of scheduling? The fact that a candidate appears on one specific episode of a show instead of another doesn't say much of anything about his viability - it could just be an isolated incident. I mean, Joe Gibbs was on Fox News Sunday last week instead of Guiliani, McCain or Romney... so should I pencil in Good Ol' Joe for the wins in Iowa and NH? Your argument is shaky bordering on absurd bordering on severely ignorant.

Posted by: WoppyCos | March 6, 2006 12:54 AM | Report abuse

If Al Gore would decide to run, he would be a shoo-in if the press and media would not attack him. We all know that we would be a lot better off if the SCOTUS had not selected their Fortunate Son for the next President. There is just no argument against that premise!

Posted by: Sumac | March 5, 2006 6:19 PM | Report abuse


That is probably true but its not saying much for any of the three of them.

Posted by: RMill | March 5, 2006 3:39 PM | Report abuse

Seeing how Clark was on "This Week" with George steph and neither Al gore nor John Kerry were, it seems to me that George Steph seems to think Clark is a more likely 08 candidate than those two losers Chris seems to be enamored with.

Posted by: Brent Parrish | March 5, 2006 10:10 AM | Report abuse

I continue to champion Jimmy Carter as the Democratic presidential nominee in 2008. The more of this absurdity I read, the more sense a Carter candidacy makes to me.

Posted by: Sandwich Repairman | March 5, 2006 1:49 AM | Report abuse


For the past day we got a little concerned that you were going a little wobbly. Especially when you were talking to our good friend Al From at Ken's foam party last night, mentioning your concern about having to slip in something to keep the editors off you.

But now I see that Al helped you out. Beuatiful! You and Balz managed to retype the same article again about Dean "doing bad fundraising", and managed to use only the numbers that make things look bad. We really appreciate you not using those election cycle comparative numbers that show Dean rapidly closing the gap between us and the DNC. Boy, would that make us look silly!

Again, you are worth far more than what we are paying you. You'll find a second check this week from our friends at the DLC. Marshall says Hi!



Posted by: You the man! | March 5, 2006 12:13 AM | Report abuse

Q - you're wrong. Bush never showed he could run anything. Not an oil company. Not a baseball team (though I suppose he was just the owner). And let's not talk about being governor of Texas. It's about the same level of responsibility as the official ribbon cutter. If I understand correctly, isn't most of the power in the lieutenant governor's office? So, I guess Bush showed that he could get elected president without any real experience. And of course, I think we'd all believe that Clark would do better than Bush ever did.

Posted by: Joe Jackson | March 4, 2006 7:02 PM | Report abuse

Hey O your theory is interesting but how do you explain president Eisenhower? With all the coruption out there I think people would be delighted to have some one without the political damage if an incumbent.

Posted by: Brent Parrish | March 4, 2006 6:04 PM | Report abuse

Regardless of whether he blew it in the first 24 hours or won Oklahoma, hardly a powerhouse electoral prize, he lost in the primaries and couldn't maintain a national platform or fundraising team in the interim. He is a great choice for cabinet but that is about all.

Posted by: RMill | March 4, 2006 3:46 PM | Report abuse

My last post reminds me of another example of how not following conventional political wisdom is being seen as wrong and a major blunder. When former Massachusetts governor Michael Dukakis ran for President, in one of the debates Bernard Shaw from CNN asked him what his position on the death penalty would be if his wife was killed. I forgot exactly how he answered it, but at the time I thought it was a very sound answer. He was criticized for not getting emotional over the situation and saying the wrong thing. I must have been the only person who agreed with his answer from the way the media covered it! Anyway, the criticism of that response destroyed his campaign. And I don't think, looking back, people think that what he said was that bad an answer and deserved such a negative response. I mean look what taking it personally did for the current President. He took his father's troubles in Iraq personally and played a large part in his decision to attack it. Hopefully people learn lessons from paying attention to history.

Posted by: Jason | March 4, 2006 10:33 AM | Report abuse

Q, while you make a legimitate point, and it probably would have helped him overall if he had done what you say, there is a contrary view that makes sense too. He ran as an outsider and a non-politician. If he had served in elective office, people might have seen him as just another politican.

I think the first poster, Brent Parrish, analyzes it correctly. It was his first run, he got into it late, and made some comments that the media made out to be mistakes, although I didn't think they were mistakes at all. Any time you do something that goes against conventional wisdom, it is considered a political mistake. This is wrong. It is like coaching sports; sometimes the unorthodox move is better. It's true sometimes it isn't but my point is the situation isn't cut and dry like the media and critics would have you believe.

Posted by: Jason | March 4, 2006 10:21 AM | Report abuse

Chris is absolutely right about Clark. He did blow it in the first 24 hours by equivocating on the war. Clark created a splash by entering the contest late and providing a potential anti-war alternative to Dean. That statement ticked off the anti-war base he needed to pry from Dean. But he made his entrance onto the national stage by saying he'd have voted for the war resolution and then reversing himself. That immediately confirmed to many people that he was too green for the presidency. If you want to know why political novices basically never win the presidency, Clark is a good example of why. Not only do they have no record, they are prone to making rookie mistakes which hurt them badly. If Clark is serious about wanting to be president, he should run for governor of Arkansas, serve a couple terms and show he can lead. Then he'd be taken more seriously (because he had a record) and he would have learned what mistakes not to make. But he doesn't seem to be interested in lower office, similar to Steve Forbes. Forbes never wanted to run for lower office, but he failed to see that people just won't elect a novice president. If he had gotten himself elected governor of Arizona (quite doable) he could have been taken seriously. Clark running in '08 will be less serious than in '04 because he won't be a new face shaking up the field. Any political consultant worth anything will tell a novice candidate not to bother running for president. It just won't happen, no way, no how. People have to see you take on a smaller job first and show you can do it before they hire you to be president. Sorry Clarkies, but that's just the way it is.

Posted by: Q | March 4, 2006 5:13 AM | Report abuse

Please bookmark:

UAE buys British firm that runs U.S. military facilities

Friday, March 3, 2006

WASHINGTON — The United Arab Emirates intends to operate U.S. military factories.

The Bush administration has informed Congress of a review of the UAE acquisition of a British manufacturer of engine components for U.S. military aircraft and main battle tanks. The British firm operates nine factories, including military production facilities in Connecticut and Georgia.

Officials said Dubai International Capital has acquired the London-based Doncasters Group for $1.2 billion. Doncasters produces engine components and turbine blades for military platforms, and its clients include Boeing, General Electric, Honeywell and Pratt and Whitney, Middle East Newsline reported.

"It's a standard business deal by a consortium that seeks opportunities," an official said. "But it also fits in well with Dubai's plans to create an aerospace industry."

The Committee on Foreign Investment in the United States completed a standard 30-day review and last week decided to extend the investigation for another 45 days. Dubai International is part of Dubai Holding, the third-largest shareholder in DaimlerChrysler.

The latest reviews by CFIUS came amid sharp opposition in Congress to the panel's decision to approve the UAE takeover of operations of six U.S. ports. In January, CFIUS approved the $6.8 billion takeover of Dubai Port World of a British company that has long operated the American ports.

Congressional sources said the Senate Banking Committee was informed of the CFIUS investigation of Dubai International on Feb. 27. The committee was also informed that the Treasury panel has ordered a 45-day review of a proposed Israeli takeover of a U.S. contractor for the American intelligence community.

On Thursday, Deputy Treasury Secretary Robert Kimmitt said the additional review of Dubai International stemmed from what he termed unresolved security questions. He would not elaborate.

Officials acknowledged that CFIUS has reduced security reviews of foreign companies that aim to establish a presence in the United States. In 2005, 65 foreign companies were investigated, compared to 204 in 1989.

"We clearly have to do some things inside the departments, and we clearly have to do quite a bit in finding ways to provide you more promptly with the information you need," Kimmitt told the Senate Banking Committee.

Officials identified the Israeli suitor as Check Point Software Technologies, a company traded in Israel and the United States. Check Point has offered $228 million for the Maryland-based firm Sourcefire, which supplies security software for the Defense Department and intelligence agencies.

"Check Point and Sourcefire are both committed to working cooperatively with the committee during the investigative period," Check Point said in a statement.

Earlier this week, Congress was informed that CFIUS would undertake an additional 45-day review of Dubai Port World. The first review lasted for the standard 30 days.

"Dubai cannot be trusted," House Armed Services Committee chairman Rep. Duncan Hunter said. "I intend to do everything I can to kill the deal."

Posted by: Che | March 4, 2006 3:20 AM | Report abuse

Elections are typically referendum's on the incumbent's weaknesses - even if that incumbent isn't running. In 2000 Clinton's personal conduct drained enough support from Gore to make Florida possible.

This time effective management may triumph all because of continued revelations regarding Bush's incompetence (i.e. Katrina). Consequently, a governor with proven executive experience should prove more formiddable than a Washington insider. Historically, governors usually make the best presidential candidates anyway. That could mean trouble for both Hillary and John McCain - regardless of the money they raise or staffs they put together. On the Republican side that makes Huckabe look very attractive.

For the Democrats, if governors such as Warner, Richardson, or Vilsack falter, Wesley Clark may benefit because of his pedigree as NATO commander who had to make decisions under fire. I think a legislator will have a very tough time in '08 as the public continues to learn more about Bush's follies.

Posted by: Intrepid Liberal | March 4, 2006 12:21 AM | Report abuse

"Clark had a perfect opportunity during the 2004 race and -- in the eyes of many Democratic operatives -- blew it within the first 24 hours of his candidacy when he seemed to equivocate on his position on the Iraq war."

Oh yes, the Iraq war has been such an unqualified success for those who jumped into it with hardly a realistic thought regarding the aftermath. Fools rushed in. Clark was obviously an idiot for suggesting that this might be a bit complex.

Nuance and intelligence are obviously a liability in a presidential candidate. Several thousand dead Americans later, the consequences of a lack of intelligence are obvious. Unfortunately, there are those who will not learn from experience.

Posted by: Judge C. Crater | March 3, 2006 8:59 PM | Report abuse

This proves that you have no idea what you are talking about.

Posted by: FairAndBalanced? | March 3, 2006 8:08 PM | Report abuse

THS, I would prefer we not elect a President who will address national security issues in a way that will make radical Islamists and terrorists happy.

Worry less about rock-throwing, flag-burning fantics, more about your fellow citizens.

Posted by: Silent Cal | March 3, 2006 7:51 PM | Report abuse

How can you say Clark "blew it" within 24 hours of the race? He was one of the few candidates that even won a state in the primaries - Oklahoma. Geez, is the beltway so tight around your neck that you can get past your convention wisdom on who can win and why.

I would gladly point out that General Clark has traveled across this country helping Democrats at every stop. He's articulate, intelligence, and has a commanding knowledge of the issues. He's a real leader at a time when our party and our country sorely need one. Clark is my main man in 2008, and I'll work just as hard for him then as I did in 2004.

Shame on you. Get out of the beltway and experience what's going on in a non-DC environment. You might be surprised that the rank-and-file, including he blogosphere, love Wes Clark.

Posted by: Joe Jackson | March 3, 2006 7:18 PM | Report abuse

THS, if Chris needs therapy for posting in the late afternoon on a Friday, what does that say about people who post comments in response to it? :)

Posted by: LJ | March 3, 2006 6:49 PM | Report abuse

And one more thing: Chris, you may need therapy. Even among political junkies, posting a new blog item to "keep the conversation going" at 5:30 PM on Friday suggests that an intervention may be needed.

Posted by: THS | March 3, 2006 6:03 PM | Report abuse

As I write this, I am watching images of people throwing rocks and burning American flags in Peshawar and Karachi.

I would like to have, in 2008, a new president who will not be hated---and make us hated---in so many parts of the world. Which of the people we've been discussing is likely to be able to address national security issues without alienating most of the world?

Posted by: THS | March 3, 2006 5:59 PM | Report abuse

Sure Clark made some mistakes in his 04 run, but when you consider that he jumped in very late in the game and that his first run for public office was the president of the U.S. I think its easy to see why those mistakes were made. Simply put he rushed it, but the his fundimentals still remain strong. Edwards and Kerry made just as many gaffs as Clark did the only difference is they made theres earlier in the game when no one was paying attention. This time around Clark knows what to expect and has the time to do it right. I think if you keep an open mind on him you will be surprised. Where would we be if Abe Lincoln had quit after his first run???

Posted by: Brent Parrish | March 3, 2006 5:48 PM | Report abuse

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