Politics reminds me of auto sales. Partly, it's for the obvious reason that, well, a lot of politics is sales and marketing, and sales and marketing have many similarities across domains. Sell a car, sell a political platform, sell yourself to the voters... they have a lot in common. Partly, too, it's this: car models for the next year used to come out late in the year, but that keeps moving back. I remember when they started coming out in October, and then September. Then July. This year, I think I started seeing ads for the 2007 models in May, certainly by June.
Our presidential elections are like that, and we've been announcing the 2008 models for a few months now, with John Edwards putting himself on the market today, as we're about to turn the calendar over to 2007. So, as with new car models, we have the new 2008 Democrat Deluxe.
The interesting thing here is that the most interesting models are just teasers so far. Barak Obama and Hillary Clinton are dancing around the question, making sure that everyone knows they're there without actually telling anyone that they are. Despite that, or maybe because of it, they're getting all the attention. Do you, dear reader, even know who else has declared?
Today we have the addition of John Edwards, former junior senator from North Carolina, former vice-presidential candidate as part of John Kerry's campaign to lose the presidential election (at which he came surprisingly close to failing, despite a strong effort), former attorney, former... well, that's the summary: former. What does Mr Edwards bring to us now? His name's been out of the news for two years. Does he have a chance? He has nearly two years now to convince us that he has something for us. He can market himself as an outsider now, someone with experience who is nevertheless not part of the problem. We'll see.
The others who've put their names in so far are, for the record, the aforementioned senator John Kerry of Massachusetts, Delaware senator Joseph Biden, Connectitut senator Chris Dodd, New Mexico governor Bill Richardson, and Iowa governor Tom Vilsack.
Also interesting are those who have actually bothered to announce that they won't be running. Former Virginia governor Mark Warner, who kicked off his maybe-campaign with a visit to the Yearly Kos blogger convention some while ago. Senator Russell Feingold of Wisconsin, ideological heir of William Proxmeier. And Indiana Senator Evan Bayh. We know their names, yes, but, really, if they had just faded out and not declared anything, would we be scouring the primary ballots for their names, a year-ish from now? I wonder what the political strategy is of declaring a non-candidacy.
But back to who is on the list....
If you've read much that I've said about women and minorities here, you know that I favour installing more as movers, shakers, leaders. So Senators Clinton and Obama get points for that in my tally. Of course, that's not sufficient, and in the end I'm skeptical of both. Senator Clinton has good experience, having been, in a sense, assitant governor and assistant president, and having, by the 2008 election, eight years' experience in the US Senate. She supported the Iraq war, but so did most of the Democrats in the Senate, and I can forgive them for having been hoodwinked by the Prevaricator in Chief and his minions. The real problem is that I don't think she can pull people together and be a unifying force.
Senator Obama can, but I think 2008 is not his time. He's too new — he'll have only four years in the Senate by 2008 — and has no executive experience. I think he could be publicly prepared for 2012, but there's the tough bit: that works only if a Republican wins in 2008. If a Democrat wins (&deity willing), Mr Obama would have to wait untili 2016, which might be too long. So in the end, 2008 might be his best shot.
Senator Kerry is just a non-starter. He waged a horridly useless campaign in 2004, unable to fend off any of the crap his opponent dumped on him. All he really had to do was show people that reconsidering your decisions in the light of new information was a good thing, demonstrating wisdom, character, and leadership. And he failed, ever labelled the flip-flopper. Forget Senator Kerry; he'll wander off the track right out of the starting gate.
The other senators have things going for them, particularly Mr Dodd. In the end, though, it's Governor Richardson who appeals to me the most, and who seems to have the best shot. He's a progressive governor, who's done right by New Mexico. He's liberal in the right ways while still appealing to the middle-of-the-road Democrats. For those who followed it, he did the right thing during the Katrina disaster, sending his National Guard troops to Louisiana (check your map; they're not right next door).
And he's a governor — he has executive experience, and presides over a state with a robust economy. If we look back over the last, say, 60 years, we can see that the only elected president who came from the Senate was John Kennedy. The rest were all governors or former vice-presidents (or, in Eisenhower's case, a five-star general, which is also an executive position).
That doesn't mean that a senator can't win, of course — we could have another Kennedy — but it shows where our collective preference lies in choosing the CEO of the country. And Mr Carter and Mr Clinton were essentially unknown nationally until their campaigns got into full swing, and they quickly moved to the top. Governor Richardson, too, has the competence, the presence, and the leadership to do that, along with more name recognition to start with than either of Carter or Clinton.
It's early yet, but Bill Richardson's my early pick.
With the leather interior and a CD changer.