Friday, February 09, 2007

Why They're Running

With the U.S. presidential primary season about a year away, let’s review le raison d’êtra for the candidates seeking their party’s nomination for the nation’s highest political job as well as where the campaigns stand on financing.

U.S. Sen. Hillary Clinton, (D-NY), the Democratic Party’s frontrunner, with more than $11 million in cash, according to Political Money Line, a unit of the Congressional Quarterly, is running so she can become her husband’s co-equal. It bothers her that Bill’s a former president while she’s only a senator.

She has more than twice as much money as U.S. Sen. Christopher Dodd, (CT), and has received, Political Money Line reports, nearly 27,000 individual campaign contributions. At this point in the campaign, Hillary is tough to beat. She has the organization, the money, and is owed many favors, so it’s highly unlikely that she’ll lose the primaries.

Dodd, in his fifth Senate term, is running for the nomination because he’s opposed to the Iraq War. He’s an excellent representative for Connecticut, but outside of the Nutmeg State, he’s hardly known.

Political Money Line reports that Dodd has nearly $5 million in his campaign but has received only 99 individual campaign contributions. Part of Dodd’s war chest, according to Political Money Line, comes from the money he has for his Senate campaign.

Dodd “sent a letter to the Federal Election Commission stating that he ‘is no longer a candidate in the 2010 election for the United States Senate in Connecticut,’” reports Political Money Line.

This allows Dodd to declare that his Senate campaign “has excess funds and transfer the funds to his presidential committee.” The Senate campaign, reports Political Money Line, had about $1.9 million as of the end of September 2006.

Dodd isn’t as calculating , crafty and conniving as Hillary. And his public speaking abilities pale in comparison to hers. Look for Dodd to be one of the first candidates to pull out of the primary.

John Edwards

Former U.S. Sen. John Edwards, (D-NC), is running because he wants another shot at the nomination. He was a loyal solider for his party during the last presidential campaign when he served as U.S. Sen. John Kerry’s running mate. The team failed, mostly because of Kerry, so Edwards figures the nomination is rightly his.

He’s also opposed to the Iraq War and his campaign will focus on “two Americas – one rich, one poor” like he did during the last presidential primary.

Edwards, figuring he better get a jump on the competition, has been campaigning since last summer. He comes across as a sincerely nice guy but also a bit of lightweight. It’s highly unlikely his candidacy will hold up for long against the competition.

Political Money Line reports that his Political Action Committee, One America Committee, had less than $9,000 in cash as of the end of January. There doesn’t appear to be any reporting, so far, on how much money his campaign has. This is likely due to the fact that he hasn’t officially declared his candidacy.

When Democrats go to the polls during the primary season, they’ll likely recall that Edwards was part of a losing presidential ticket in 2004 and, as a result, they’ll vote for someone else.

Joe Biden

U.S. Sen. Joe Biden, (D-DE), has been running for his party’s nomination, either overtly or covertly, since 1988. Perhaps Senator Biden should realize he’s a long shot – at best! – and give it up.

While Biden has done well with campaign contributions, about $3.6 million according to Political Money Line, it’s hard to figure out what this candidacy is all about. He’ll play up his his experience on the Senate’s foreign relations committee.

Given that background, along with his inability, so far, to wage a successful national campaign, plus his foot-in-mouth issues, Biden is more likely to become the next Secretary of State to a President Hillary Clinton than he is to become the country’s next President. Perhaps that’s what he really wants, the nation’s top diplomatic job.

Barack Obama

U.S. Sen. Barack Obama, (D-IL), is running – if he actually decides to run – to show the Democratic establishment that a good man can’t be kept down. He’s also seeks, and rightly so, to show that a black man can, indeed, be elected President.

The problem Senator Obama has is that he hasn’t been completely vetted in the same manner that his competitors have, especially Senator Clinton. If he declares that he’s candidate, he will have to survive some very harsh scrutiny, not only from the national media but also from his fellow Senate colleagues.

Obama stands out among his competitors because he’s a black man. This will make it easier for him to gain attention, which should translate into winning votes, if he decides to run. But, at this point, he doesn’t appear to be as well organized as Senator Clinton. Also, according to Political Money Line, his “Obama 2010 Inc” committee has just over $500,000.

That committee is established to help him run for reelection to the Senate in 2010. That money could also be used for any future presidential run he makes.

Evan Bayh

The true dark horse among the Democrats might be U.S. Sen. Evan Bayh, (D-IN) whose campaign is almost as well-healed as Hillary Clinton’s, with nearly $11 million in the bank, according to Political Money Line, as of December 31, 2006.

This means he’s organized, aggressive at raising money, and just might be the strongest alternative to Senator Clinton. The last part depends on whether he’s as good on the campaign trail as he has been getting his campaign financed.

The problem Bayh suffers from is that the national media isn’t paying attention to his campaign. Unless he can turn that around, he’ll go down as the most well-financed forgotten presidential candidate in recent years.

Bayh can certainly tout his experience as a two-term governor in a heavily Republican state. But other than that, there’s not much about his candidacy that’s going to get someone excited about him.

Bill Richardson

The last alternative to Senator Clinton is New Mexico Governor Bill Richardson, who served as President Clinton’s United Nation’s ambassador and was also his Energy Secretary. He’s former a presidential exploratory committee but has yet to declare his candidacy.

Among Democrats, and even Republicans, Richardson might be the politician with the most experience. He was a member of the House of Representatives for 15 years before going on to serve in the United Nations and then in President Clinton’s cabinet. As a result, he has both domestic and foreign policy experience.

His experience overseeing America’s energy issues shouldn’t be diminished. President Bush has said he’d like reduce the country’s oil consumption. Richardson could position himself as the presidential candidate who knows how to do that.

On personal issues, Richardson is also a very attractive candidate. He was born in California, an important state to win during the primary and general election. His mother was Mexican and word is that he’s fluent in Spanish.

The question about Richardson is will he generate any excitement.

Qualifications for Office

Qualifications don’t matter all that much to the electorate, during either the primary or general campaign seasons. If experience mattered, George H. W. Bush, with a background in business, diplomacy and Congress, would have taken the presidential oath on January 20, 1981.

Instead, Ronald Reagan, a former actor and former California governor, who campaigned on America’s inherit strength, became the nation’s 40th President. Successful presidential candidates, like Reagan, Bill Clinton and George W. Bush, center their campaigns primarily around their personality.

They also evoke a visceral reaction among their supports as well as their detractors. If the American electorate thinks someone’s personality is a good fit for the nation’s challenges, and they find them likeable, there’s a high probability they’ll vote for that person.

The Republican line-up

Former New York City Mayor Rudy Guiliani, the hero of 9/11, is the man to beat for the Republican presidential nomination. Like his leading counterpart for the Democrats, Hillary Clinton, Rudy, as he’s known to friends and foes, is a controversial figure, evoking a visceral response.

And that just might make him the next president.

Guiliani, if he runs, will center his campaign around the leadership he demonstrated during the tragic day of September 11, 2001, and the weeks that followed before he left office. He’ll also talk up the fact that he knows how to run the country’s largest city as well as his experience as a former prosecutor who convicted one of the mob’s top kingpins, John Gotti.

So far, the only thing Rudy has announced is that he’s former a presidential exploratory committee. Political Money Line reports that he has more than $2 million from his former Senate campaign committee.

He raised more than $170,000 during 2006’s fourth quarter, Political Money Line reports, out-earning his two rivals, Sam Brownback and John McCain, significantly.

Like all political candidates, Guiliani’s background, and positions, make him vulnerable to the more strident, perhaps even pure, among his party. He’s been married three times and his last divorce, from New York City television talk show host Donna Hanover, was very public and very acrimonious.

Rudy’s position on a number of social issues, like gay marriage and abortion, is out of line with traditional Republican thinking. Still, at this point, he’s the man to beat for the nomination.

Rudy will tell the Republican faithful that he’s a Republican where it counts – winning in Iraq and Afghanistan and taking on the terrorists. Rudy hopes that his moderate positions on social issues, including stem cell research, will make him palatable to the electorate during the presidential campaign.

John McCain

Like Guiliani, U.S. Sen. John McCain, (R-AZ), is running as a candidate more concerned about defeating terrorists, whether they’re in Iraq and elsewhere, than he is in making abortion illegal.

McCain will nod and wink to the Republican faithful that he’s a conservative of social issues and, at the same time, will work hard to win the votes of social moderates by saying, in one way or another, that defeating terrorists outweighs abortion.

McCain, like Guiliani, is divorced and has since remarried. But unlike his fellow Republicans, and more than a few Democrats, he’s the only one candidate who’s served in the military. He’ll campaign, often, has a Vietnam War hero.

Mitt Romney

Former Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney’s presidential campaign, if he formerly enters the race, will center around his religion and how it does not prevent him from enacting and or signing legislation that the Church of Latter Day Saints opposes.

He’ll want to spend more time talking up his background as a leading business executive, as a governor and as the president of the 2002 Winter Olympics, held in Salt Lake City.

The son of a three-term Michigan governor, Romney sees himself, at least in business, as a turnaround specialist, having erased a “$3 billion budget gap inherited when he took office,” says the Web site touting his presidential exploratory committee.

The big question every Republican should ask Romney is why he left the Massachusetts governorship after only one term. He would be in a far stronger position had he remained in the job because it would allow him to tell primary voters that he’s a conservative in a liberal state – and found to be very acceptable.

He’s opposed to abortion and, like many a Republican, is looking for victory in the Middle East. Other top concerns include taxes, China and international trade.

Prior to entering public life, Romney had been an executive with consulting firm Bain & Company. His Political Action Committee, says Political Money Line, reports having around $185,000 on hand as of January 31, 2007.

Sam Brownback

U.S. Sen. Sam Brownback, (R-KS), holds the Senate seat of former U.S. Sen. Robert Dole. He’s a true-blue conservative in the mold of Ronald Reagan.

Brownback is probably the most conservative Republican in the primary. He’s an evangelical Christian and is opposed to gay marriage and abortion.

At this point, his campaign, according to Political Money Line, has around $40,000.00. He’s got a long way to go to catch up with the Former Mayor of New York.

Newt Gingrich

Lurking in the background among Republicans is former U.S. Speaker of the House, Newt Gingrich. He hasn’t declared his presidency but he certainly has a robust Web site. More on Newt next time.

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