Just for the fun of it, I decided to put together a list of the Democratic candidates who’d have the best chance to beat a GOP nominee in 2008. This list is based purely on electability, not on the likelihood the candidate will take the nomination.
1) Mark Warner: Warner is easily the best candidate the Dems have to offer. The former Virginia governor has a reputation as a moderate and he “speaks Southern.” He would likely take Virginia against any GOP candidate other than George Allen and he could easily bring 3-4 other Southern States into the Democratic column. It’s no coincidence that the last two Democratic Presidents have been Southern governors and Warner would have an excellent chance to be the third.
2) Bill Richardson: Richardson is the governor of New Mexico, is viewed as a moderate, and has some charisma. Although he was the Ambassador to the United Nations and the Secretary of Energy in the Clinton Administration, he managed to make it out with some valuable experience and without the sort of crushing baggage that Hillary is saddled with.
3) Evan Bayh: Bayh is a moderate Senator from Indiana who’s so wildly popular there that he would be able to turn that very red state — and its 11 electoral votes — blue. Bayh is a former chairman of the Democratic Leadership conference and has a reputation for being fiscally conservative. Put it all together and you have a candidate who could compete in the South and give the GOP a hard time.
4) Hillary Clinton: Hillary is a smart politician, with high name recognition, a virtually unlimited supply of money, would be guaranteed to get incredibly fawning press coverage (Did you know Hillary would be the first woman President?), and has a reputation for trying to present herself as a centrist. On the other hand, she’s also a liberal, from a liberal state, with a liberal voting record; she has enormous baggage, high negatives, isn’t particularly charismatic, will increase Republican turnout, and she will have a lot of difficulty winning any states in the South, particularly since she abandoned Arkansas for New York.
5) Al Gore: Gore is a Southerner who doesn’t “speak Southern,” which explains how he lost every Southern State in 2000, including his home state of Tennessee. These days, Gore seems to have only two methods of communicating: fire-breathing demagoguery or wonky politician speak. Although Gore has tremendous name recognition, plenty of money, and would have lots of left-wing support, it’s hard to see how he would be in a better position to win in 2008 than he was in 2000, when he was a sitting veep, riding what people thought was a solid economy, and facing a lightly regarded opponent. The fact that so many Americans probably said, “Thank God, Gore didn’t win,” right after 9/11 probably doesn’t help either.
6) Barack Obama: Obama hasn’t said he’s running and probably won’t get in the race, but since there’s a growing amount of chatter about his candidacy, it seemed appropriate to toss his name into the mix. Obama is charismatic, perceived as a moderate, and is treated like a rock star in the Democratic Party. There would be enormous enthusiasm on the left if he were the candidate. On the other hand, “(i)n House races, white Democrats are 38 percentage points less likely to vote Democratic if their candidate is black.” You have to think that would apply to a run at the presidency as well and it would probably be enough to keep Obama from getting elected.
7) Wesley Clark: It’s tempting to dismiss Clark since he proved to be such a raw amateur during the 2004 campaign, but he does have some pluses in his favor. He’s had four years to smooth the rough edges off his political persona, he’s a former general, he’s from Arkansas, there is some netroots enthusiasm for his candidacy, and he’s an “outsider” without a voting record, which would probably work to his benefit.
8) John Kerry: The liberal Democratic version of Bob Dole. Despite how close the race was in 2004, Kerry ran an unimpressive campaign, didn’t generate a lot of enthusiasm on the left (The enthusiasm was anti-Bush, not pro-Kerry), and was successfully tagged as a liberal who can’t even make up his mind about what he’s having for breakfast in the morning. After his last run, he really hasn’t shown that he deserves another shot at it.
9) John Edwards: Here we have another Southerner who can’t “speak Southern.” Although Edwards is a nice looking guy with a full head of luxurious hair, he’s out of the limelight now and was exposed as a lightweight in the 2004 campaign who added very little to the ticket. Even if you have some charisma, if you have nothing to say, does it really matter?
10) Russ Feingold: There is enormous enthusiasm for Mr. Feingold among the netroots crowd, but Feingold is another Walter Mondale who would scare a lot of Americans with his bodacious liberalism and he would end up getting routed.