Handicapping the ’08 presidential race

Tom Nardi

Paging all political junkies. Want to know who’s going to beat Hillary? Wondering when the Obama bubble will burst? Not sure who Bill Richardson is? You’re in luck! With these three jumping into the race in the last week, I thought I’d try my hand at predicting who will win and get the Democratic nod in ’08.

Hillary Clinton (Senator, N.Y.)

She has it all: an extensive fundraising network, a support team with massive campaign experience, name recognition and did I mention the money? It just seems that she lacks that “it” factor. What is it? Charisma. Clinton’s struggle is going to be defining herself in the midst of a star-studded primary. John Edwards has spent years becoming a leftist, and Barack Obama has been given centrist-stage. Where exactly does that leave Hillary? If she can turn “conniving” into “thoughtful” and “hawk” into “principled,” she will win. If not, it will be a long fight.

Chances: 5:1

Barack Obama (Senator, Ill.)

People say he is too inexperienced to be chief executive in wartime, but he will have served four years in national office by Election Day 2008 – twice as much time as Abraham Lincoln did before 1860. He also has the luxury of having opposed the Iraq War before it was cool to be anti-war – all the way from his perch in the Illinois State Senate. Obama has the attention of the nation now, but the trick will be remaining the flavor of the week for two more years and simultaneously adding actual substance to his message rather than nice rhetoric. And there is always the chance that he will decide not to run when he announces his decision on Feb. 10.

Chances: 15:2

John Edwards (Former Senator, N.C.)

Interestingly enough, this former N.C. senator and vice presidential candidate leads the Iowa polls comfortably, even against Obama and Clinton. And he has managed to parlay his co-sponsorship of the Iraq War Resolution into an anti-war stance. He campaigned in 2004 as a mill worker’s son and as the champion of the poor. Since the Kerry/Edwards debacle, he has been proving that he was serious about being a populist. The only problem is Edwards looks a lot like Obama – a relatively inexperienced Senator oozing with charisma. Pro: He’s already battled his flaws in one national campaign, so there will be no surprise skeletons. Con: He’s going to have to battle Obama for the right to battle Clinton.

Chances: 15:2

Joe Biden (Senator, Del.)

Bidden is possibly the most qualified Democrat in the race to be a wartime commander. A veteran of many campaigns both for the Senate and the presidency, Biden knows how to run for office. Unfortunately, he doesn’t know how to write speeches. The plagiarism scandal that derailed his 1988 bid will be revisited if he makes it anywhere in this primary and he has problems with speaking even using his own words. He dropped this jewel while speaking about Indians being the fastest growing immigrant group in Delaware: “You cannot go into a 7-Eleven or a Dunkin’ Donuts unless you have a slight Indian accent.” The trick will be convincing voters that political incorrectness and occasional assaults on the English language are charming. Then again, Bush did it twice.

Chances: 15:1

Bill Richardson (Governor, N.M.)

Richardson is the most interesting candidate in the race. Why? He represents the new face of the Democratic Party, hailing from the West. He is the only notable Democratic candidate from west of the Mississippi, and he doesn’t represent the traditional bi-coastal base (though he did serve in Bill Clinton’s cabinet). And governors are always popular choices for the presidency. Even without a national office, Richardson can still claim amazing foreign affairs experience after he brokered a 60-day cease fire in the Darfur region of Sudan. The trouble is, no one knows who he is or what he has done.

Chances: 18:1

Christopher Dodd (Senator, Conn.)

The Democratic senator from Connecticut is the best candidate you haven’t heard of. Why? He can speak well, he is the chair of the influential (and well-covered) Senate Banking Committee, and he doesn’t have any time for nonsense. He just jumped in the race. Straightforward enough?

Chances: 20:1

Tom Vilsack (Former Governor, Iowa)

If he can win Iowa, he can take momentum and the race (see: Kerry, John F.). He is in the lead of the tech race, though, using the Internet for social and political means, with active YouTube, Facebook and MySpace accounts. The only problem is, does anyone really want to be Tom Vilsack’s friend? He is probably the most “electable” candidate in the field, being moderately progressive and heavily non-offensive. But he isn’t very exciting (see: Kerry, John F.).

Chances: 25:1

The Rest

Those are the best candidates in the field now. But Al Gore, John Kerry, Wesley Clark or any number of people could jump in and change the race in a second. Or Dennis Kucinich, who is already in, could become wildly popular overnight. The race is twofold, with the upper-tier of Clinton, Obama and Edwards, and everyone else competing to be the dark-horse candidate.

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Tom Nardi is a junior political science major from Philadelphia, Pa. He can be reached at [email protected]