With a mere 21 months to go until the 2008 presidential election, the race is already heating up and the field ever-widening. The free-for-all atmosphere surrounding the competition is a phenomenon not seen in a long while as, for the first time in nearly 80 years, no sitting president or vice president is contending for the top prize.
Not since the days leading up to the 2004 contest has such an array of politicos lined up at the starting gate, their colors and sometimes their principles fluttering in the breeze. It seems that every day sees a new hat in the ring, tossed from the far corners of the land, to the extent that you can't tell the players without a scorecard. So here in no particular order, are the contenders, pretenders, and the rest of the Democratic field.
There is no shortage of possible candidates, some familiar and some new. Returning entries include old reliables like racial card-shark Al Sharpton, whose quadrennial shakedown of the DNC will result in the raucous convention rant he will doubtless deliver in Denver '08. From the military wing of the party ranks come steely-eyed Wesley Clark and John F. Kerry, both of whom, you may have heard, served in Vietnam.
Thankfully returning also is Rep. Dennis Kucinich of Ohio, without whom the whole process in '04 would have been a crashing bore. With considerable pluck and an even more resolute vision for a totally socialist America, he still manages to charm with statements like, "I hold in my heart that rebellious spirit of youth that demands change."
Not to be outdone in the rhetoric department is 1988 contender, Delaware Senator Joe Biden, who warns, "The next Republican that tells me I'm not religious, I'm going to shove my rosary beads down their throat." Rounding out the returnees is millionaire populist and reformed trial-lawyer John Edwards, who seeks to lead the two Americas only he is able to perceive.
New to the White House stakes race is the latest northeastern liberal to declare; my own senior senator, Christopher Dodd. Eminently unelectable outside the Nutmeg State, this left-wing bastion's candidacy might actually benefit the nation, as he has declared that he will not defend his seat in 2010, possibly opening the door for popular Rockefeller Republicans, Governor Jodi Rell or Rep. Christopher Shays, to replace him.
Other newcomers include the party's moderates; governors Tom Vilsack of Iowa and Bill Richardson of New Mexico, either of whom would be excellent running-mate material. Given his Hispanic heritage, Richardson would be extremely appealing, especially to counter a certain front-runner of mixed racial parentage. His Clintonista background wouldn't hurt either.
The two early media favorites are of course, well known by now and have already formed the obligatory "exploratory committees." The first would be "he who dare not speak his middle name," and the other, who has also had name-related problems over the years; just when did Sir Edmund Hillary scale Mount Everest?
Hillary Rodham Clinton had been the morning-line choice from almost the first moment she appeared on the national scene. From the outset of her co-presidency, she was quickly dubbed "the smartest woman in America" and media acclamation for her snowballed into avalanche proportions. After she won election in New York and was appointed to the Senate Armed Services Committee, her nomination to follow her husband to the Oval Office was seen almost as a birthright; the rapture of the liberal chorus ringing in her ears.
But in recent days, her stock has plummeted. Her perceived support for the War on Terror -- tremulous though it may be -- has made way for a new savior. Illinois Senator Barack Obama is now the darling of leftists everywhere, including bagman George Soros. And why not? He's so eloquent, so refreshing, so handsome, so debonair, so manly, so multi-cultural! How is a perpetually pants-suited, middle-aged woman to compete with the bare-chested machismo of the divine Barack? The race, at this stage, is apparently his to lose.
So will the breathless adoration presently heaped on Obama see him through the long horserace to the White House? Maybe. But I'll offer him a friendly bit of advice: if he faces Hillary in the stretch run, he'd better be a mudder.
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