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.
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