Keeping the serious political tone of my last post, I've been wanting to write my impressions of the field for the Democratic Nomination in 2004. I'll go over each of the nominees in ascending order of how seriously I, personally, am taking their candidacy. This won't be a very in-depth study. For that, I highly recommend Slate's Ballot Box feature. Just my own feelings here.
BOB GRAHAM: Who? I mean, I follow politics and even I don't have much of a clue about this guy. I mean, I know his credentials, I just don't know what he stands for. Doesn't seem to be much to run on, though. I have heard that he really led the way on these photo-op friendly day-job campaign trips. You know, where a politician does the job of an ordinary person and gets his picture taken and all that. Governor Mitt Romney in Massachusetts did that and ran an ad which foolishly touted this as a reason to vote for him. Of course, Massachusetts did. Ugh. But, while it usually just a craven photo-op, Graham apparently had done something with it and really means for them to be educational experiences for him. So kudos for that, Bob Graham, whoever you are.
CAROL MOSELEY-BRAUN: Yeah, I think we all know she doesn't have a chance. She did well in the Senate, but not really all that well. Her partisan style seems more suited for the House than the Senate, and especially not the White House. Still, she does raise the question of who the highest elected black female Republican is.
DICK GEPHADRT: Has anyone bothered to tell him that he's not going to win? I always find it so sad when people like Gephart seem so convinced that he has a shot. Yeah, I know, he's leading in some "polls", but it doesn't take a Political Science major to see through this. He's too much a politician and too obviously ambitious. I know Labor loves him, but they don't love him enough to push him to the nomination.
DENNIS KUCINICH: In a proper year, I should have said Kucinich first, but alas he's got even more blinded aspirants behind him. In fairness, I don't think Kucinich thinks he has a chance, so that makes his campaign a bit easier to take than the preceding three hopeless candidates. Yeah, I know I'm a progressive so I should like him, but I just don't. He's uninspiring. I'd love to see a passionate and articulate promoter of the liberal cause run for the nomination. But Kucinich REALLY isn't it. His progressive credentials are very debatable, too. I'd really recommend checking out Slate's Flip/Flop feature on Kucinich, but I'm sure there are even better sites out there. But, he's just here for awareness, so I'll allow it. But he doesn't have my vote.
JOE LIEBERMAN: My former Senator and the former vice-presidential nominee. I was okay with Joe as veep, but much less so in the big chair. Gore's undercredited liberal roots softened Lieberman's conservative leanings, but I don't trust Joe on his own. Still, he's got tons of recognition as a former VP candidate and that makes him a serious contender. I'd be shocked if he wins, though.
AL SHARPTON: I'm as surprised as I'm putting Sharpton so high, too, but he deserves it. He's probably the most committed progressive voice in the campaign, though Kucinich usually gets that nod. He's also done a lot to remedy his past mistakes and it talking like a politician in the good ways. He's definitely not out to hang the Democrats out to dry. He's here to raise awareness of issues, and I think he's going to do a good job of that, and hopefully shore up support for the party among Sharpton's faithful. He's no Jesse Jackson, but he's also no longer the on-time Al Sharpton.
JOHN EDWARDS: Clinton II. Honestly, its like Clinton all over again, except more-so. He's more attractive, and even better fundraiser (I could be wrong about that, but what the heck), and seemingly more liberal. I'm kinda stunned that he hasn't stepped out as one of the front-runners. He talks a very good game, has shown great personality in his appearances on The Daily Show with Jon Stewart, and a genuine working-class background and the wherewithall to campaign to working class people. He does seem to be confidant, so I'm going to allow the he may know more than I. I think he's banking on a big win in the early South Carolina primary. I hope he's right, because there is a good chance the party will lose the Senate seat he's already given up. I still don't get that. No matter what the polls say, I do think Edwards will be just a breath away from the front-runners come primary season.
HOWARD DEAN: Dean is actually part of the downfall in my friendship with the ex-roommate I discussed a couple days back. We were casually discussing politics and I mentioned that I thought if Dean could find an issue, he could really be a credible candidate. At the time, he was beyond a long-shot. Just one of those home-field guys who foolishly thinks that they can parlay a regional advantage in an early primary into a real campaign. Of course, it never happens like that, and Dean seems to understand that. But, back then, he just looked like he was wasting his time. My roommate was aggressively dismissive of the notion and when I challenged her reasoning (that the nation hates Vermont because of Jim Jeffords) she responded by shutting down the conversation and insulting me. ANYWAY, Dean hasn't campaigned like a regional, and found his issue. I figured it was going to be health-care reform, but it turned out to be the war. He's got some appealing points, but ultimately it all falls flat. I like the idea of a Howard Dean candidacy, but I'm concerned his support is largely knee-jerk from anti-war folks and lacks real depth.
WESLEY CLARK: I've seen a lot of people say that Kerry has the most to fear from Clark, since he matches Kerry's military background and then trumps it with those four stars. I actually thin Dean is the big loser, and Dean knows it. Clark's real strength is giving the anti-war folks a better candidate to fall behind. There is a long tradition of pro-Peace generals running for office, and there is good logic behind it. After experiencing the horror of war, especially as a commander within the military system, you gain a profound appreciation for peace. Clark is a very attractive candidate because his take on foreign policy really resonates with a lot of Americans. His stance on domestic issues? Well, its considerably less developed, but he's got time. At first glance, he seems to be campaigning for the Vice Presidential slot on the ticket and is wisely letting himself get checked out by the press up-front since he's got so little political experience. He may be much more serious than that, though.
JOHN KERRY: Kerry would be the front-runner if it weren't for all the people assuming he'd be the front running and declaring him dead-on-arrival for not being so. With Clark and Dean now firmly entrenched in the front-runner role, Kerry might have the room to grow. He's got the goods policy wise. He's definitely a strong liberal. Yeah, I know, he gets slammed for having too many nuanced positions. Well, I like nuance and I'm not convinced that will be a problem with the voters. He's also got electability all over him. I know, my state's last nominee didn't go so well. But, I do recall a certain war hero/Senator holding his own back in 1960. Kerry's mix of dedication and passion could really play well. I know his passion hasn't yet come out, but it will. Just wait for the advertising to start up. Kerry can really build momentum at that stage. He's my early vote, but its still much too early to firmly decide.