Showing posts with label chuck hagel. Show all posts
Showing posts with label chuck hagel. Show all posts

8/21/2008

Obama Veepstakes: Predictions

The major political buzz this week has centered around Obama's vice presidential selection. One of the main parlor games among pundits and the Washington crowd every four years is to guess the nominee and convey that they have more wisdom than the next guy in terms of identifying and disqualifying possible picks.

This wait is almost over now as Obama has announced that he has made his selection. This selection will be revealed either Friday or Saturday by text message. So in true political fashion, The 7-10 will join in the fun by offering my own take on the Obama veepstakes and why some of the more popular names being circulated won't pan out.

1. Obama has made great pains to avoid stepping on his own message by hitting John McCain below the belt. Even though his supporters may want him to go nuclear against his Republican rivals, Obama's message of "new politics" and "change" are preventing him from doing so. As I recently argued, he can't tarnish that message. Likewise, he is running as an outsider who represents fresh ideas. That's another message. Thus, even though there are some strong picks he could make who are currently serving in Washington, Obama's commitment to not diluting his brand may prevent him from taking them on board.

This eliminates Joe Biden, Evan Bayh, and any other active congressman or senator. Biden and Bayh in particular have received a lot of buzz and would be strong choices (especially Biden). But if Obama doesn't want to go against his message, he may have to grudgingly pass over both of them.

2. One of the responsibilities of the vice president is to cast the tie breaking vote in the Senate. Even though the Democrats are still poised to gain several seats, there are several influential senators who do not vote the party line, such as Senators Jim Webb of Virginia, Mary Landrieu of Louisiana, and Ben Nelson of Nebraska. So on some votes, Democrats' possible 55-seat majority could really be a mere 51-seat majority. Thus, it makes little sense for Obama to have his vice president, who doubles as the president of the Senate, be a Republican.

This eliminates Chuck Hagel, Richard Lugar, and any other Republican whose name has surfaced as the bottom half of a unity ticket. Interestingly, Obama could actually make the Senate math more favorable for Democrats by tapping a few Republican senators to serve in his cabinet if he wins the election. These senators would then be replaced by their states' governors. If the Republican senator hails from a state with a Democratic governor, that could be a way for the Democrats to pilfer a few seats while allowing Obama to appear bipartisan at the same time.

3. Obama cannot risk looking weak or bullied. He's already having to deal with the image that he is not a strong and decisive leader, especially when compared to the Navy veteran and former POW John McCain. Any gesture that is perceived as acquiescence or caving in to a particular interest group would likely only exacerbate the image of him as weak. Of course, politicians have to respond to voters and retool their messages every day, but his selection of a vice president should be his decision, and his only.

This eliminates Hillary Clinton. She also contradicts his message, which he is loathe to do. Many people say it's up to Barack Obama to heal the party by accommodating Hillary Clinton. But if Hillary Clinton wishes to advance her chances of being President someday, it's incumbent on her to do her part to ensure that her supporters rally behind Obama. All eyes will be on her at next week's convention, so she will have as much responsibility for achieving unity as Obama does.

4. Obama needs someone who knows how to campaign and work a crowd. This person has to be someone who knows how to throw a punch, how to connect with audiences, and how to campaign without overshadowing the presidential nominee himself. Running mates have two main responsibilities: 1) to do no harm to the nominee, and 2) to serve as an attack dog.

This eliminates Bill Richardson and Kathleen Sebelius. Bill Richardson tried to run as the grownup in the room after the Iowa caucuses, but lost badly. Richardson may help deliver a contingency and some Southwestern states, but he is not an energizing figure and is not particularly aggressive on the campaign trail. As for Kathleen Sebelius, she certainly can't be pegged as a Washington insider. However, she may be a little too cool (read noncombative) on the campaign trail and have a hard time putting on the brass knuckles.

This leaves former senators, current and former governors, and former cabinet officials. The gubernatorial ranks seem to be the most fertile grounds from which Obama can choose his running mate. They're not insiders, they have records of accomplishment, they don't threaten the balance of power in the Senate, and they have served in an executive capacity. Of all possible picks, governors probably do the least harm and the most good at the same time.

The 7-10's bold prediction: Virginia Governor Tim Kaine

(But don't be surprised if news breaks that Pennsylvania Governor Ed Rendell was asked first.)

What are your predictions?

6/04/2008

The Obama Veepstakes: Defusing the Hillarybomb

By now, everyone knows that Barack Obama will be the Democratic Party's presidential nominee. His victory in the Montana primary pushed him over the top, so he now has a majority of delegates.

Obama gave a powerful speech about his victory last night addressing what lies ahead and even lauded Hillary Clinton's candidacy and her impact on the race. However, Clinton essentially stepped on his victory speech and stole a bit of the limelight by adding her name to Obama's shortlist and defiantly congratulating him on the race he has run, but not on the race he has won or the race that has just ended. Such a carefully crafted sentence is politically loaded and will ensure that until Obama chooses his vice president, this story will linger in the media. Notice how there are two competing storylines coming out of last night: "Who will Obama tap for vice president?" and "What does Clinton want?" Needless to say, Obama's camp is not amused.

Could Clinton's supporters be overstating their importance? Are traditional Democrats really going to vote for McCain even though they have such disagreements with McCain over the war in Iraq, the economy, abortion rights, and the environment? Are these Democrats really going to place their contempt for Obama over their economic well-being just to spite him?

Here are Obama's options:

1. Wait. Waiting will give Clinton's supporters a bit of time to get over their defeat. Over time, their emotions will cool down a bit and they will rally behind Obama because he will be their party's representative in November. Primary fights are brutal, but time should heal those wounds.

Also, waiting gives Clinton more time and more opportunities to disqualify herself from veep consideration. Obama probably does not want to have to deal with the Clintons (yes, the plural form) anymore, and almost certainly doesn't want to put her on his ticket because she contradicts so much of his message. (Read "Don't Expect an Obama-Clinton Ticket" for more information.) But if he's going to pass over her, he needs to find a reason that will come across as acceptable to the majority of her supporters. They want him to show her some respect. But any new Clinton gaffes, scandals, or attempts to minimize his victory or cast doubt on his electibility should be met with an all expenses paid trip off of his shortlist.

There is also a strategic advantage to waiting. McCain has not chosen his running mate yet, so Obama could afford to wait a bit. If McCain chooses his running mate first, then Obama could react to that selection with a more careful selection of his own. Choosing Clinton first would cede this opportunity to McCain. And if Obama chooses a running mate first, that would give the Republicans more time to conduct opposition research and attempt to define that candidate before he can do it on his own. Waiting would force a staredown with McCain.

2. Choose a woman not named Hillary. This is a double-edged sword. Kansas Governor Kathleen Sebelius seems to be the most attractive female pick right now. As I argued in my first post about Obama's veepstakes, her geography alone will prevent her from being pegged as a liberal because "Kansas liberal" just doesn't resonate. As a woman, she could help Obama tap into the same base that turned out for Clinton. And because she comes from an agricultural state, she could help Obama make inroads with the other group of voters he has struggled with as of late--rural voters. This could be a boon to him in southern Ohio, central Pennsylvania, and North Carolina.

Obviously, the problem with this option is that a lot of women may say that if Obama is going to choose a woman for his vice president, she should be Hillary Clinton. So choosing a female not named Hillary could be seen as the ultimate insult to Hillary Clinton and her supporters. Again, Clinton said she wants her voters "to be respected." This could place both Obama and Sebelius in a tough situation.

Another potential female pick would be Senator Claire McCaskill of Missouri. She has been a vocal supporter of the presumptive nominee and could help deliver a state that Republicans cannot afford to lose. However, this selection seems a bit less likely because Missouri has a Republican governor and not just any Democrat could win a Senate seat in this fairly conservative state. This is also the argument against selecting Senator Jim Webb of Virginia.

3. Choose a Clinton surrogate. Pennsylvania Governor Ed Rendell and Indiana Senator Evan Bayh were loyal Clinton supporters. Tapping one of them could be seen as an overture of respect because it would show that Obama is trying to bring the two camps together. Both of these picks should have Clinton's seal of approval. Rendell is a popular governor that would take Pennsylvania out of play and Bayh is the most popular politician in Indiana, a state that Obama could challenge with him on the ticket. Both politicians can appeal to rural working-class voters in Ohio and Michigan as well.

The disadvantage here is the same disadvantage Obama would face by choosing a female other than Clinton. Why take a resident of Hillaryland when you can take Hillary herself? Also, would choosing a male make it more difficult for the Obama ticket to reclaim Clinton's female voters?

4. Choose a Republican. This would be a bold selection that John McCain would have a difficult time parrying. Nebraska Senator Chuck Hagel would immediately bring military and foreign policy heft to Obama's ticket. And it would be proof positive that Obama is serious about "change" because Democrats don't select Republicans to be on their presidential tickets. Another advantage here is that the news about Obama reaching across the aisle to select a Republican would trump the news about Obama snubbing Clinton.

An unintended third advantage here would be that it would force John McCain to prove his bipartisan credentials as well. The best way he could do that would be to select Connecticut Senator Joe Lieberman as his running mate. If McCain chose a Republican (Romney, Crist, Pawlenty, etc.), Obama could point to Hagel and say that he really does want to bring the nation together while McCain represented the old way of doing things. This would make it harder for McCain and his Republican running mate to start attacking "Democrats" and "liberals" because it plays into Obama's message of politics not being about "us vs. them." Also, McCain would have a harder time picking off Clinton's rural White voters if Hagel were on the ticket because 1) Hagel's a Republican, 2) Hagel's not a liberal, and 3) Hagel is pro-life, a popular position among rural voters.

5. Reject Clinton publicly, politely, and firmly. This is a risky move that would show voters that Obama is in control of the party now. After all, the idea of a failed candidate forcing his hand does not make Obama look presidential. Obama already has enough problems with his thin resume and the perception that he is weak, especially on terrorism. The Republicans would have a field day with this. "If he can't stand up to the Clintons, how could he stand up to Ahmadinejad?"

If Obama follows this path, he would have the liberty to conduct his veep search any way he wishes and without the "what does Clinton want?" storylines bogging him down. Clinton would then have to decide what she wants her legacy to be. She will have no choice but to support Obama regardless of her relationship to him because she does not want to be known as helping contribute to his defeat at the polls in November. If she wants to run for president again in 2012 (or 2016), she can't give anybody the idea that she did not work her heart out for her party's nominee in 2008. This option would remove Clinton's leverage, which would obviously enrage her supporters, many of whom still want her to take her fight for the nomination to the party convention in Denver.

Obama has several options available to him at present. He has the stage to himself now, but only if he takes it. Yes, Clinton is still a political force to be reckoned with, but regardless of "what Clinton wants," she must appreciate the reality of her current political situation.

Hillary Clinton may command the loyalty of millions of voters who may or may not be receptive to Obama, but she is in no position whatsoever to make any demands of Obama or to force his hand. He won the race, so he calls the shots. It is clearly his Democratic Party now, not hers. Hubris is what caused Clinton to lose the nomination in the first place. And if she overplays her hand in defiance, hubris may ultimately be what causes her to lose a spot on the November ticket as well.

4/27/2008

Obama's Veepstakes

Barack Obama lost last week's Pennsylvania primary by 10 points. Since then, Clinton and the media have been buzzing about the notion that Obama may actually be a weaker general election candidate than the former First Lady. This was the source of a good debate over at Not Very Bright, one of the more popular South Carolina bloggers. NVB correctly argued that even though Obama lost Pennsylvania, the fact remains that Clinton did not amass enough pledged delegates to make a difference. I disagreed and said that pledged delegates don't really matter because superdelegates' main responsibility is to nominate someone who can win in November, and not to simply echo the winner of the pledged delegate race. (Normally, these two ideas coincide, but this year might be different.)

However, this post will not address the electability of both candidates. Instead, I will just pretend that this race is over and that Barack Obama will be the nominee. Thus, the focus switches from how he can finally put Clinton away to whom he will tap as his running mate, which leads me to this post.

First, Obama's running mate must satisfy several preconditions:

1. This candidate cannot be a knuckle dragging partisan. Such a candidate would cancel out his message of unity.

2. This candidate must not be an Iraq defender. It would be ideal for Obama to tap someone who had similar "judgment" regarding the war, but politicians who have since come out against it probably aren't disqualified. This "judgment" is one of the cornerstones of his campaign, so he cannot choose a running mate who contradicts this.

3. This candidate should be able to appeal to Whites and rural voters. Obama is still smarting from his ill-conceived remarks about rural voters "clinging" to guns and religion. Blacks, liberal Whites, and urban voters were already in Obama's corner. More moderate and rural Whites were slowly warming up to him. They may have been willing to give him the benefit of the doubt earlier, but taking Bittergate in conjunction with Michelle Obama's "proud" remarks and Jeremiah Wright might be too much for them to overlook. And there also remains a silent subset of the electorate that is simply uncomfortable voting for someone of color, as the Bradley effect suggests.

4. This candidate should be able to compensate for Obama's perceived weaknesses regarding experience and national defense. Tapping a Senate freshman or a one-term governor would not do much to quell the concerns about Obama not being ready for primetime.

5. This candidate should help heal the rift that has opened up between the Obama and Clinton camps. The acrimony between them is creating real divisions that risk sending Democrats to John McCain in November or keeping Democrats at home. This is not to say that Obama needs to ask Clinton to be his veep, but he does need to extend an olive branch somehow to her supporters, lest he risk having to spend precious weeks trying to win them back the hard way.

So let's address some of the more common names generating VP buzz:

John Edwards will not be on the bottom half of an Obama ticket. To start, Edwards already ran for VP and would probably loathe to do it a second time around. Secondly, Edwards was unable to deliver North Carolina for John Kerry in 2004, so his electoral heft is weak. And finally, Edwards has yet to endorse Obama--a point not lost on the Obama campaign. Maybe Obama would tap Edwards to be Attorney General, Secretary of Labor, or a poverty czar, but Vice President is probably out of the question.

A lot of people have been buzzing about Senator Jim Webb of Virginia. A former Republican with a strong military background, Webb would certainly enhance Obama's ticket by providing credibility on foreign affairs, national defense, and the ability to appeal to rural voters and gun owners. The problem with Webb, however, is that he is a perfect fit for Virginia as its junior senator. Should he be tapped for Vice President, his Senate seat would be lost. Yes, the governor of Virginia is a Democrat who would appoint a Democrat to replace Webb, but the most attractive candidate (former Governor Mark Warner) is already running for retiring Senator John Warner's seat. With the prospect of the Democrats making it to a filibuster-proof 60 Senate seats, Webb would probably be better off representing the people of Virginia.

General Wesley Clark would be an attractive option in that he would help bridge the gap between the Obama and Clinton camps. As a former NATO commander and four-star general, Clark would instantly give Obama's ticket the ability to go toe-to-toe with or even outdo John McCain when it comes to military affairs. It's hard to tell a retired four-star general that he is weak on defense. Clark would also probably deliver Arkansas and give McCain a run for his money in Virginia. Clark ran unsuccessfully for the White House in 2004 and only won the primary in Oklahoma before being forced to quit. Since then, he has improved his political skills and is probably a better campaigner now. This would be a smart pick for Obama.

New Mexico Governor Bill Richardson turned out to be one of the biggest busts of this year's presidential cycle. He had the ultimate resume, but turned out to be a disappointing candidate in the debates and struggled to connect with voters. However, now that the race for #1 is more or less settled, perhaps he can relax a bit more knowing that he simply has to run against John McCain instead of Hillary Clinton, Barack Obama, John Edwards, and Joe Biden at the same time. Richardson would be a tremendous help to Obama because he could help deliver the Latino vote and make New Mexico and Colorado more competitive. And the fact that Richardson drew the Clintons' ire (and was even called Judas) by endorsing Obama displayed a level of courage and loyalty that John Edwards has failed to do thus far. The National Rifle Association loves Richardson and he cannot be pegged as a tax-and-spend Democrat. But would a "black-brown" ticket be too much "change" for the nation to handle at once?

Kansas Governor Kathleen Sebelius endorsed Obama and is highly popular in her state. She would be able to appeal to red state voters as well as female Clinton voters. If Obama wishes to heal the rift between his camp and Clinton's, she might be an attractive way to do so. White women form the base of Clinton's support and many of them are sticking with her because of the historical nature of her candidacy and the perception that her rivals and the media have been unfair to her because of it. But are they loyal to Clinton because she's a Clinton, or are they loyal to Clinton because she's a woman? If it's the latter, then Governor Sebelius may be able to help. If it's the former, Clinton's female supporters will either have to grudgingly accept Obama or simply stay home. Kansas is an overwhelmingly Republican state. Even with Sebelius on the ticket, it might be too much to ask of her to deliver it in a presidential election year.

Arizona Governor Janet Napolitano also endorsed Obama early and is popular in her state. However, she was unable to deliver Arizona for Obama in the primary. And the fact that favorite son John McCain hails from Arizona, she probably couldn't deliver the state for him in November either. If Rudy Giuliani, Mitt Romney, or Mike Huckabee were the Republican nominee, maybe Napolitano would be a more attractive option. But John McCain eliminates her because of his popularity in her state.

New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg appears unlikely. He has lots of money, but probably does not add much to an Obama ticket. His greatest assets are his personal wealth and the fact that he's an independent. That ties in nicely with Obama's message of unity. But what state could Bloomberg deliver? Obama should be able to win New York, Connecticut, and New Jersey without him. Thus, it's hard to see the argument for Bloomberg over other options.

Retiring Senator Chuck Hagel of Nebraska would be a fascinating choice for veep. Like Wesley Clark, Hagel gives Obama some much needed heft in terms of military and foreign affairs expertise. And as a Republican, he would definitely lend credibility to Obama's message of unity. A Hagel pick would show voters that Obama doesn't just talk about bipartisanship, but actually practices it. Hagel was considered part of the Unity '08 movement and was rumored to be considering a third-party ticket with Bloomberg. Surely he'd be receptive to running with Obama because they both have an interest in getting politicians of all stripes to work together. Having a split ticket like this would make it really hard for Republicans to paint Obama as an ultra liberal because ultra liberals don't select center-right Republicans as their running mates. And should John McCain choose independent Senator Joe Lieberman as his running mate, a Hagel nod would offset it as far as "bipartisanship" is concerned. Hagel is well respected both in Nebraska and the Senate and would help Obama connect with rural Whites and Republicans who have soured on Iraq.

Former Vice President Al Gore could be an attractive option for Obama, although it's not certain whether Gore would be up for campaigning for anything other than the top job. Climate change and the environment are very important to him and he could have a greater impact on this from the White House than he could as a private citizen. Gore would please the Democratic base, but his appeal among Republicans would be limited. Independents who voted for Bush and regret having done so may be willing to give Gore a chance. The biggest problem with a Gore pick, however, is that he contradicts Obama's message of looking to the future. If Hillary Clinton is part of the past, wouldn't Al Gore be part of the past as well? It seems more likely that Gore would be an emergency consensus nominee (presidential, not vice presidential) in the event that chaos erupts at the party convention this summer and the superdelegates are deadlocked over Obama and Clinton. Gore's probably the most respected party elder who has yet to jump in the current food fight, but look for him to play some role in the process sometime in the future.

Hillary Clinton will not be on the bottom half of an Obama ticket. That was true when I first wrote about this in February and it's still true now. The fact is, she needs him far more than he needs her. If Clinton somehow became the nominee, she'd be obligated to tap him for veep or risk tearing the Democratic Party in half. Obama does not have this obligation to Clinton, however, even though it would be in his and the party's best interest to make some conciliatory gesture to her camp. This is what makes Wesley Clark the most obvious pick at present.

3/12/2007

Potpourri

I have been busy lately, so I haven't had much time to update The 7-10 or do much of anything else. But here are a few links to keep you and your mind busy until the smoke clears and I have more time to spend scouring the web for news to feed your political mind:

Is this man responsible for the nonsensical mess that is supposed to be our primary season? Speaking of which, it looks like New York wants to join in the frontloading fun as well. Lovely. Good luck to the second tier candidates who wish to compete in the expensive New York City market.

Looks like Newsweek agrees with me regarding how voters tend to look for a president who represents the opposite of what the previous one did. Is an "Urban Cowboy" (Giuliani) a little too similar to the "Tough Talking Texan" we have in the White House right now?

It's amazing how losing an election can send you from self-aggrandization to self-repudiation in a few short months.

As of last week, Mitt Romney and Hillary Clinton were leading the endorsement race among congressional members. I'm not sure what this means outside the Beltway, although it might lend itself to organizational support at the state and local levels.

Does this response from the Conservative Political Action Conference go far enough in repudiating Ann Coulter's recent inflammatory remarks? And does Mitt Romney wish that this landmine happened before the advent of YouTube? (More on this later.)

Could Chuck Hagel be the best hope Republicans have for retaining the White House in 2008 even if he splits a ticket with a Democrat? Or is telling fellow senators to go sell shoes a bit too close to the truth for the establishment to handle?

Regarding Bush's foreign policy prowess in comparison to that of other presidents, 1104 scholars can't all be wrong. Also, at what point do record low poll numbers cease to have any significance regarding the current president?

I recently heard a quote attributed to former Reagan speechwriter Peggy Noonan: "When it comes to the presidency, people don't elect resumes. People elect men." That might not be an exact quote, but the spirit of it helps explain why George W. Bush was able to prevail over Al Gore and John Kerry, both of whom had superior resumes. Noonan's words seem to be validated by the 2008 campaign which has Clinton, Obama, and Edwards ahead of veteran politicians Richardson, Dodd, and Biden. Similarly, Romney and Giuliani are giving McCain a run for his money while veteran Duncan Hunter is stuck at the back of the pack. Why does character trump policy?

How likely is it that voters are suffering from a bit of buyer's remorse after last year's elections put Democrats at the helm of Congress? Not likely, at least after this little article in Congressional Quarterly.

Have Democrats found a new strategy for dealing with Fox News? Did Obama and Edwards start something big?

2/14/2007

The 2008 Republicans

I posted my thoughts on the Democrats in the 2008 field so it's only fair that I post my thoughts on the Republicans as well.

Compared to the Democrats, the Republican field seems to be devoid of a candidate that truly inspires the base. There are several well-known and respected figures in the race, but there is no one truly captivating. This is probably because the three perceived frontrunners are generally moderate or maverick Republicans, rather than hardcore conservatives. Thus, the race for the GOP nomination is wide open, and I do mean wide open. There simply is no heir-apparent.

Here are the candidates listed in alphabetical order:

Sam Brownback: The Kansas senator is one candidate that should keep social and religious conservatives happy. However, the Jerry Falwell-Tony Perkins wing of the Republican Party is increasingly disliked by the larger electorate, thus making Brownback a better pick as a vice presidential nominee. Brownback is not as divisive as Falwell and Perkins, but I think the electorate is a bit burned out by the Republican Congress’s overreaching on gay marriage and abortion restrictions, thus restricting his appeal to voters in the general election. Brownback is Romney's greatest enemy because they are both competing for the same socially-conservative voters. However, Brownback has the benefit of authenticity, as he has a long paper trail of votes that establish him as having never wavered on the issues that social conservatives hold dear, like abortion.

Rudy Giuliani: Giuliani is the Obama of the GOP in terms of his ability to draw and wow large crowds. The former New York mayor obtained hero status in the days after September 11 for his leadership. It is my belief, however, that this halo effect will wear off as the primaries draw closer. For one, Giuliani has no other government experience, and absolutely no foreign policy experience. Comparing Manhattan with Mosul and Brooklyn to Basra is not going to fly. Secondly, are GOP primary voters really going to grin and bear it regarding social issues they hold so dear? Taken separately, affirmative action, abortion, gay marriage, and gun control are all litmus test issues that would doom any serious Republican candidate. However, Rudy is on the wrong side of all four issues as far as primary voters are concerned. Are these voters really going to turn the other cheek, especially after all the headway they've gained on these issues during the Bush presidency?

Newt Gingrich: The Al Gore on the GOP side, Gingrich takes the role as the GOP's elder statesman. He reminds conservatives of the good ol' days when they assumed power in 1995 after a long stint in the wilderness and accomplished many goals. His rhetorical skills are sharp and his conservative credentials are indisputable. He also has the advantage of being untainted by the congressional excesses that took place during the past few years under Republican leadership. If Gingrich were to enter the race, a lot of second-tier candidates would bail because there would be no oxygen left for them. Mitt Romney would also be severely crippled because Gingrich is a genuine conservative, whereas Romney seems to come across like a recent convert and is viewed with suspicion. Gingrich can afford to wait to enter the race just like Gore because there is no generally agreed upon conservative standard bearer.

Chuck Hagel: Hagel in '08 is a bit like Lieberman in '06 in that his war views are isolating him from the party he's a member of. (Consider Dick Cheney's recent remarks about it being difficult to not violate Reagan's 11th Commandment of not speaking ill of a fellow Republican.) Seeing that John McCain's crossover appeal is evaporating because of his support for the troop surge in Iraq, there is a bit of daylight for Hagel to exploit. He has a similar biography regarding military service and a bit of a maverick streak in him that broadens his electoral appeal. He speaks to conservatives who think the war is going poorly, like Brownback does, although the jury is still out on how many Republican voters actually agree with them. There might not be enough room in the Republican Party for someone like Hagel because his Iraq War views don't jive with the neoconservative wing of the party. If he does run in 2008, look for him to run as an independent or as part of a bipartisan ticket. Could a Hagel-Lieberman ticket be in the works?

Mike Huckabee: This is the lone Southerner in the race with gubernatorial experience. His life story is compelling and he received generally favorable reviews from his tenure as Arkansas' chief executive. Social conservatives should find Huckabee acceptable, but fiscal conservatives probably view him with more skepticism thanks to the tax increase that occurred on his watch. Having said that, Huckabee could be a formidable nominee and he has a real chance to fill the void that exists among the frontrunners in the event that one of them stumbles.

Duncan Hunter: Philosophically, this guy seems to be the candidate most in line with the base on immigration, terrorism, taxes, and social issues. His biggest problem is that nobody knows who he is. He's a congressman from California, but there are 52 other politicians who fit that description. If he were able to increase his name recognition and fundraising ability, he could easily win over the base and cruise to the nomination. Having said that, he remains a longshot and has about as much chance of winning the nomination as Joe Lieberman does of becoming the Democrats' nominee.

John McCain: John McCain is the Hillary Clinton of the GOP. He represents the establishment wing of the party. He has an amazing life story and a lengthy resume of government experience. However, he seems to have been approaching the campaign with a bit of inevitability and does not seem aggressive enough regarding explaining to voters why they should vote for him. It is clear that he will no longer be able to rely on the independent vote because of his close association with George W. Bush/Iraq. And of course, liberals are not going to support him ever again because of his endorsement of the surge. This leaves conservatives. However, fiscal conservatives are none too pleased with his campaign finance reform efforts. Social conservatives are equally displeased with his equivocations regarding same-sex marriage. Exactly what is his base? It seems that McCain is higher on the food chain than Romney, but voters aren't quite yet sold on him.

Mitt Romney: What started off as a promising candidate with lots of natural talent and a strong ability to handle a room and work a crowd, Romney now looks more like a falling star. He has really put himself into a box because of how he has tried to position himself—as a conservative. Unfortunately, a conservative Republican in Massachusetts probably qualifies as a liberal Republican in Georgia. In the era of YouTube, people just aren't buying it. And on top of that, charges of being "another Massachussetts flip-flopper" are beginning to stick and create a negative caricature of him. Can Romney really survive until Iowa? Romney needs to figure out how to deftly handle these charges and pronto because if his campaign continues to flag as it has for the past few weeks, his donors may recommit to someone else and his coffers will run dry. As a nominee, Romney could be quite formidable, as he took the lead in establishing mandatory health care coverage while he was governor. He also did not come across as being too far to the left or right while he was in Massachusetts, but that was before he began courting the conservative wing of the Republican Party. Romney is in trouble.

Copyright 2007-2008 by Anthony Palmer. This material may not be republished or redistributed in any manner without the expressed written permission of the author, nor may this material be cited elsewhere without proper attribution. All rights reserved. The 7-10 is syndicated by Newstex.