Daily Kos
Political analysis and other daily rants on the state of the nation

Monday | November 18, 2002

Cattle Call 2004: Ranking the contenders

Allright. Here's a new feature on Kos: a weekly look at where the various Democratic Party presidential aspirants stand. While I am compiling this list, it's not a reflection of my personal preferences in that race. It's far too early for me to be picking favorites. I am basing these rankings on everything from media reports to participants on the Daily Kos comment sections. These updates will be made every Monday evening, with several preceeding Open Threads dedicated to discussing how the week's rankings should look. Eventually, these rankings will find a home on the right-hand column.

1. Al Gore

Pros: Received more votes than Bush. Criticisms of Bush plan were dead-on.

Cons: Hostile media. Hostile party apparatus. Reputation as liar.

Gore had a great week of coverage. from his appearance on 20/20, to his Washington Post Magazine cover story, Gore received a string of positive coverage the likes he probably has never seen before. Sure, Fox "analysts" tried to rain on his parade ("he's angry", "he's venting", blah blah blah), but in short, this was a great week. And the kicker? Gore is doing allright in the polls.

In poll after poll, the results are similar: Bush polls in the mid-50's, while Gore is at 40 percent. Those numbers are suspiciously similar to numbers early in the 2000 campaign. Given the supposed invincibility of Bush, and his supposed popularity, those numbers should be far more lopsided toward Bush. Given the money and the structural support, Gore could easily mount a credible race.

2. John Kerry
Pros: Distinguished war hero. Distinguished peace movement hero. Wife is worth a fortune. New England liberal.

Cons: Stiff. Crazy hair. Senator. New England liberal.

Kerry has become a media darling, kind of the Bradley of 2004. He's extremely intelligent and pursues the sort of liberal policies certain to excite the party faithful. He's also untouchable on foreign policy matters (though I said the same about Max Cleland), and has been one of the few voices from the Democratic side of the aisle criticizing Bush's war efforts directly. The fact that he's a New England liberal should prove helpful during the primaries, but it remains to be seen if it will prove a negative amongst moderates. (Republicans are so enamored with Bush that it's irrelevant what they think. They won't abandon the president.)

3. John Edwards
Pros: Young. Telegenic. Handsome. Good looking. Charismatic. Rove and Co. fear him most.

Cons: Young. Inexperienced. Too overtly ambitious. Could not win his own state of North Carolina. Trial attorney.

I had John Edwards closer to the top of this list a few weeks ago, and he might've stayed there had he helped Erskine Bowles over Liddy Dole. But, Bowles lost, and so did Edwards.

The earlier buzz on Edwards celebrated his youth and Clintonesque charisma. Given that the current president was elected because of *personality*, not substance, Edwards seem like a good antidote. However, current coverage (spurred no doubt by Rove's media people) is that he's nothing more than a "pretty face" and is woefully inexperienced. Pundits argue he should run for reelection before turning his sights on the White House (where he could very well lose and take him out of the WH hunt).

4. Howard Dean
Pros: Well-liked. Pro-gun. Same-sex unions. Fawning press. Governor.

Cons: New England Democrat. Polls in his own state show him trailing Bush. Pro-gun. Same-sex unions. Lack of money. No name recognition.

As the only governor in the race, Dean already has a small advantage. JFK was the last president to hail from the Senate. I wrote that Kerry was the Bradley of 2004, but perhaps Dean is a better analogy. Like Bradley, no one thinks Dean has a chance. But like Bradley, everyone seems to like what Dean has to say.

Dean hasn't minced words on the campaign trail, gleefully ripping his fangs into Bush's presidency. Everywhere he goes he seems to get people excited, but he is woefully underfunded and without big money he won't be able to break through the better-known Gore, or the better-funded Kerry. His pro-gun stance could play well in the conservative South, but only if voters get past the same-sex issue and regional bigotry.

5. Tom Daschle
Pros: Thoughtful. Well-liked. Got Jeffords to switch. Single-handedly delivered SD to the Dems. Highest profile Democrat in the country.

Cons: Lost the Senate. Lives in small state. Does he have the killer instinct?

I didn't think Daschle was going to run before the recent elections, and I definitely don't think he'll run now. He's one of this past election's biggest losers, and considered "damaged goods". Of course, no one has long-term memory in politics (except in Gore's case), so if he successfully parries the GOP agenda in the Senate he could emerge a hero.

6. Richard Gephardt
Pros: Labor loves him. Hails from important swing state. Er ... I think that's it...

Cons: Lost the House. Again. Prostrated himself before Bush to support his useless war on Iraq.

I thought the whooping he took two weeks ago would drive him from the presidential hunt, but recent statements seem to indicate otherwise. It doesn't look like he's going to stand down!

More so than Daschle, Gephardt (with his boasts of a 30-seat Dem pickup) is "damaged goods". His failure time and again to deliver the House to the Dems has left bitter feelings. Had he not resigned his leadership post, it would've been stripped from him. One shouldn't underestimate the power of his support amongst labor, but I can't see it amounting to much when he is so personally unpopular.

7. Joseph Lieberman
Pros: His VP candidacy was undoubtedly a boost to Gore's efforts. Has strong support amongst Jews and conservative Cuban-Americans voters. Hails from swing state.

Cons: In bed with the accounting industry. Tiresome moralizing belongs in the GOP. Chickenhawk.

Whether he runs or not, his candidacy is not going anywhere. His views are WAY to the right of Democratic Party primary voters (who trend lefty), and his dramatic advantages amongst Jewish voters are negligible outside a small handful of state like New York and Florida. And, perhaps most importantly of all, Lieberman is a posterchild of corporate malfeasance, sucking in donations from the big accounting firms and killing accounting reforms that may have helped stop the Enron mess (among others).

8. Al Sharpton
Pros: None.

Cons: Where do I start?

Other than helping polarize Democratic primary voters, and to sow the seeds of resentment (a la McKinney in Georgia), there is nothing positive about a Sharpton candidacy. Now if Jesse Jackson Jr. wants to carry the banner for African Amercans and their concerns (which could use a good airing during the primary process), I would feel much better about that.

Update: I meant to add this section earlier but forgot.

Names to watch: Joseph Biden, Wesley Clark, Christopher Dodd, Russ Feingold, Dianne Feinstein, John McCain, and Tom Vilsack.

Posted November 18, 2002 05:35 PM | Comments (263)


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