A locus for eccentrics (hopefully)

Thursday, August 09, 2007

The Seven Dwarfs

I don't have an apartment related fiasco to share. I mean, the power went out in my lilly white neighborhood for about twenty minutes last weekend, and sure, there was panicking on my part, but it was brief and muted. Within a relatively short period of time, order was restored. I also have a hedgehog that has seen fit to park in front of my porch and stand guard. What's worse is that this hedgehog is morbidly obese. There is nothing worse than a fat hedgehog engaged in a game of chicken with you to see who will give first. As of now, I am standing my ground.

Anyway, it is way too early to say anything definitive (which is why this is probably the first post here to broach the subject), but I can't hold out any longer, despite the insanity of the saturated media coverage. I know by giving in and talking about it, I am only serving to feed the beast and perpetuate this ridiculously early prognosticating, but I can't help it. August is a slow fucking news month.

It is becoming clearer and clearer that one of the following seven individuals will be the next leader of the free world. Each has a few chinks in their armor. Each a few skeletons in the closet. And not a single person is running anything close to an inspired early campaign (and given the box that you are forced into when running for President, it is hardly surprising--in this YouTube age, your every move, every word is broken down and distributed and analyzed to death). Despite all being nominally qualified for the job, not a single one is setting the world on fire. I fear this particular clusterfuck to the White House (tm The Daily Show) will be the longest, most drawn out, most expensive and emotionally exhausting in modern history.

So, every few months, I resolve to to a Power Ranking of all seven individuals. The spot each one earns at any given moment will be based on a multitude of factors--poll numbers, money raised, fewest campaign screwups, discipline and coherence of message, ect. Of course, these spots only reflect a snapshot in time, and I always reserve the right to change my mind. Ultimately, what each ranking represents in my mind is if the election were held today, who ultimately has the best chance of being President. At this point in time, I am dismissing the Bidens and Brownback, ie the Second Tier candidates who haven't done anything at this point to shake up perceptions. This list is strictly for the Big Time. After the Iowa Straw poll this weekend and into the Fall as new finds are raised and the caucusing in Iowa and NH begin anew, things will come into better focus. But for now......

1. Mitt Romney-- Candidacy slowly catching fire; most money raised amongst GOP contenders. Done an impressive job wooing social conservatives and is most adept at walking that fine line between praising Bush and distancing himself from the President's shitty and disastrous policies.
He makes a ton of ridiculous gaffes, but has charisma. Loved in the business community. Proved he can govern in a politically divided atmosphere (got universal health care done in Massachussetts). He is the one candidate who has surged from relatively unknown cultlike religious freak to bona fide contender. Only in America.

2. Rudolph Giuliani-- Huge hurdles to overcome in GOP Primary season, particularly among social conservatives, but he has kept pace in the money chase, and national poll numbers are unbelievably strong. His moderate social policies combined with tough talk on terror and record of relative success in NYC (even though he basically ran a feckless police state) should help him a ton in the general election--he is a consensus candidate; I just don't believe the GOP will give him their seal of approval.

3. Fred Thompson-- Huge hype surrounds him, but his stealth campaign to be the white knight riding in to save his party from turmoil seems to have hit a few snags. He keeps delaying his announcement, and his fund raising numbers are sort of anemic. Still, his socially conservative policies and military tough talk make the grassroots' hearts go pitter-pat.
They see him as Reagan Redux, which is a bit overblown, but is the only non-Obama candiate who marginally excites people. At this point, he is poised to win big in southern states, and that might start a stampede.

4. Hillary Clinton-- Tough, disciplined campaigner who will cut your balls off in order to win. She has tons of money and the support of the Democratic Party establishment, which propelled John Kerry to the nomination over Howard Dean in 2004. She has the old Clintonistas backing her, and whatever strand of big business that supports the Democratic Party is solidly backing her. She is the toughest, most organized, most single minded son of a bitch running. National poll numbers are strong as hell and no major gaffes so far, but watch out for the state polls, where Edwards and Obama have made things interesting. As great a campaigner as she is, I don't think I am the only one who senses a fundamental lack of passion or the ability to stir same in people. Her success is bloodless, emotionless. She stands for nothing except the promulgation of herself, and as competent an administrator as she would be, I think that lack of innate passion will hurt her. She has so far been technically correct, almost flawless. But their is some type of emotional/charismatic chip missing. Watching her campaign is like watching Matt Baumgart play the piano. Efficient, but bloodless. I think this may catch up to her at some point, but most likely in the general election.

5. Barack Obama--He hasn't necessarily done anything wrong; fund raising numbers are huge as hell, keeping pace with Clinton. Policy positions are well articulated, particularly for a national political neophyte. His poll numbers are solid and he stands to take advantage of any Clinton slip up. Many, however, (including myself?) speculate that perhaps his support is a mile wide and an inch deep, a la Howard Dean. Most of the people contributing money to his campaign are 19 year old college students...will they be organized and disciplined enough to turn out the vote for him during the Iowa Caucases or the New Hampshire Primary? Plus, I can't shake the feeling that his otherworldly oratorical gifts that have brought so many disaffected people into the political sphere are getting severely neutered by the bruising straitjacket that is Presidential campaigning. He can't orate and make your heart soar anymore because he has to project a sort of understated, pragmatic sobriety that these campaigns require. He is still very much in the game, but to beat the establishment candidate, to beat the Democratic infrastructure, I don't think he can play her game. She is too good.

6. John McCain-- Right now, a fucking disaster. One time consensus candidate of a majority of Americans has seen his credibility battered over his insane support of the Bush foreign policy doctrine and his pandering to religious bigots. He has fired top campaign staff and he is hemorraging money. But don't count him out. I can totally see him using this opportunity with his back against the wall to go back to his Straight Talk shtick and pound Giuliani, Thompson and Romney for their ties to lobbyists and their status quo symbolism. If casualties start to slow down in Iraq (I'm not holding my breath) and Petraeus, Bush and The Surge end up looking like a good idea, McCain will be the beneficiary. He is still too well regarded to go down without a fight. Right now, he sucks. But he, more than anyone else in contention right now, has the ability to get back into the game with one swing.

7. John Edwards-- Adopted the Dick Gephardt fiery populist platform. Focused on unions, poverty, health care. Did this because he realized that the only way to remain viable in a Democratic field that contains rock stars Clinton and Obama is to assume the mantle of the champion of the lower class. So far, he is still polling decently, and I've seen figures where he actually leads in Iowa. Fund raising is mediocre, but this is nonsuprising because the other two suck up all the political oxygen. If he pulls out a 2nd place finish in Iowa or even a victory (not a stretch given his numbers and his populist appeal), he leapfrogs Obama as the #1 alternative to a Clinton Democratic coronation. He is still the best natural campaigner of all the Democrats. The downside? No one featuring a platform like him has ever won over the party faithful.

This is where I see all 7 viable contenders as Mid August approaches...what do you think?


Blogger neill said...

I think you're too high on Fred Thompson -- he got a lot of dap when his team first floated the whole "he's not running now, but he will be" balloon, and then started going downhill immediately afterwards. I'm reminded of Ross Perot dropping out in 1996 and then coming back 4 weeks later.

I would also rate McCain much lower, like 10th. He's totally dead in the water; I wouldn't rate him as any more "viable" than Joe Biden or Bill Richardson (speaking of which -- is he the most disappointing candidate this time around in terms of how badly he's fallen short of his earlier potential?)

1:04 PM

Blogger Omar said...

You bring up good points about Thompson, but the reason I'm still sold on his viability is his combination of socially conservative platforms and hawkish yet pragmatic view on foreign policy. I also feel like he has fewer potential skeletons in the closet than Romney (creepy Mormon vibe) or Giuliani (creepy cross dressing vibe), which will help him with primary voters. Plus, as you would undoubtedly agree with, there is a certain X-factor that goes along with being the man who portrayed Jack McCoy's boss for five years. It gives you a certain...panache.

I have to say, I am thoroughly impressed with my own abilities to regurgitate months-old mainstream media talking points in such an efficient and methodical manner.

What I'm confused about is why you thought Bill Richardson was so viable in the first place--was it his potential crossover appeal to hispanics? His experience as both a Governor and a cabinet secretary? His resume is pretty sterling, but I have never found him to be altogether that impressive as a potential candidate.

1:24 PM

Blogger neill said...

Well, it's not really that I ever thought Richardson is viable; I'm thinking here about the gap between what a candidate should be capable of given their resume and what they actually accomplish.

So, while Rudy Giuliani's pandering and 9/11 exploitation are regrettable, they're not surprising. On the other hand, I would have expected a former UN Ambassador and successful governor to be able to put together a coherent sentence or two over the past six months, but Richardson hasn't. Every appearance in front of a camera by him is absolutely cringeworthy.

2:39 PM

Blogger steve said...

For once I'm not particularly embarrassed of our (dems) primary candidates, to be honest.

1:13 AM

Blogger Omar said...

Really? Not even about their collective lack of governing experience? Hillary Clinton's vulnerabilities when exposed to the GOP machine? I think if she is nominated, they will kick her ass. No way can I see her winning a general election. I feel like she and Giuliani have the opposite problem. She will have a much easier time getting the nomination than actually securing an electoral college victory next fall. Giuliani has an upward path to the GOP nomination, but once secured, he could win in a landslide.

I don't think this particular Democratic class is that much better than the one in 2004, simply because each of the three main viables (Clinton, Obama, Edwards) has no more than one full term in the Senate to claim as their only federal government experience.

On the other hand, Kerry and Gephardt were oozing with experience, and they weren't that spectacular. These three definitely have potential to bring people who wouldn't ordinarily vote into the picture, but I just think each of them is ripe to be picked apart by the RNC and their hit men once the nomination is secured. I just don't think any of them can withstand the pounding.

1:56 AM

Blogger neill said...

I think that W -- not to mention Clinton, or Reagan -- have proved pretty conclusively that experience is either irrelevant or damaging.

5:41 PM

Blogger steve said...

No one gives a shit about experience. Experience *is* damaging, as Neill said. That's why all those presidents were governors or generals--positions that have the perception of experience but no actual federal level record to attack or discuss. We saw how well trying to bring someone's state level experience as governor into the fray is--completely useless for everyone they've tried it against.

That's why I find this thing about Barack needing more "seasoning" in the Senate laughable--yeah, what he really needs is more opportunities for the GOP to nail his ass on a fully logrolled vote trade vote that is part and parcel of the US Senate. This is his best chance for a presidential nomination. Once he's been in the senate for more than one term it's virtually impossible for him to win a presidential campaign because at some point, he traded his vote to get something he wanted way more. Bam. Flip flopper.

7:49 PM

Blogger Omar said...

I see what you're saying, but I think that, for some reason, because the RNC is so much more effective at assailing the opposition than their democratic counterparts, I think the lack of experience issue will be used rather effectively against someone like Obama. I can totally see the GOP talking points on him, painting him as young, green and inexperienced in the face of an increasingly complex and fragmented foreign policy landscape. Never mind that the premise is bullshit, as you have pointed out, and that Bush's foreign policy experience when he came into office was even less than Obama's now. Its just that they would be able to do something like that pretty effectively. And you know the fucking soccer moms in Ohio would totally buy into that shit, because no one has excelled at framing the issues at play in the public mind over the past few years better than the Republicans. I feel like they control the dialogue, just as they did in '04 when the defining issue was security, or even in 2000 when one of the keys propelling them to victory was the idea of "Compassionate Conservatism." They're just better at framing the issues in play. On the other hand, you are right that they can hang Obama's senate votes around his neck if he stays in that club too long. I suppose he's damned if he does and damned if he doesn't in this particular climate. Damn, this was rambling. I apologize.

8:51 PM

Blogger Guy Tarkington said...

I don't have a comment on the candidates, but I do want to say great fuckin post. Tight, pithy writing. Why are you not working for Esquire Mag?

3:08 PM

Blogger Omar said...

Is Guy Tarkington taking a shot at my post? If so, then I challenge you to step outside, where we can settle this like men. If not, then thank you for the compliment.

As for the suggestion about Esquire, I am all for working there. The publication reeks of the kind of self importance that I have come to not only cherish, but depend on.

9:27 PM

Blogger Guy Tarkington said...

No, man, Guy Tarkington isn't taking a shot. I seriously liked it a lot. It was like reading something in a magazine like Esquire.


10:56 PM

Anonymous Anonymous said...

"Tight pithy writing"

Its nice to finally find a blog that isn't self congratulatory.

1:37 PM


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