All men are genetically programmed to get a thrill out of seeing how far below the "E" their car's gas needle can go before re-fueling. We feel some small measure of victory when we pull into work in the morning with the "low fuel" light on and then drive home at the end of the day without having addressed this earnest warning. I'm starting to think the Democratic party is made up entirely of men who are operating it on the same principle.

One of my favorite websites is Not because its polls are reliable or especially accurate, but mostly because it's entertaining. Its hypotheticals are the political junkie's equivalent of sitting around a bar talking about who would win a game between the 1927 Yankees and the 2004 Red Sox.

They have a section devoted to 2008 Presidential Election preference polls conducted by various media and dedicated polling organizations. I find the sum of it to be unbearably depressing. This is best explained by way of examples. The following poll is representative of the standard Democratic Primary line of questioning:

"I know it is early, but if the Democratic primary for president were held today, which of the following would you support for the Democratic nomination for president? . . . " (Ipsos-Public Affairs poll. Dec. 17-19, 2004. Nationwide.)

  • Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton 33
  • Senator John Kerry 19
  • Senator John Edwards 15
  • Retired General Wesley Clark 11
  • Governor Bill Richardson 3
  • Senator Evan Bayh 2
  • Senator Russ Feingold 1
  • Governor Tom Vilsack 1
  • Governor Mark Warner 0
  • Other (vol.) 3
  • Unsure 9
  • That rotating sound you hear is William Jennings Bryan rolling over in his grave. Even Mondale and Dukakis are probably shitting themselves laughing. Is this it? Is this really the best of what they have to offer? An intolerable bitch who used to be First Lady and three losers from the 2004 race (followed by the usual smattering of Governors that no one knows). Great. Good luck with that.

    The only person on this list who is electable is Bill Richardson. Of the established veterans, he is the current highlight of the Democratic party. But of course he'll be outspent about a billion-to-one in the early primaries by Hillary and won't amount to anything as a candidate. For shame. Richardson is one of the Clinton acolytes who actually understands the idea of expressing a vision and projecting confidence.

    In the late 1990s, after the 1996 election fiasco and the failed impeachment witch-hunt, the Republican party set itself up for success by flushing itself of its old, stale faces – Dole, Gingrich, Kemp, etc – and handing things over to a new generation. The Democrats seem unwilling or unable to do so right now. You know a party is in really bad shape when two guys who have been in Congress for about five fuckin' minutes (Barack Obama and Harold Ford) are the best thing they have to offer. But that's reality, and they'd be smarter to deal with it rather than put off rebuilding for four more years while the Ghosts of Elections Past take one more lap around the track.

    12 thoughts on “RUNNING ON EMPTY 2008”

    • Polls be damned. Hillary will not get the nomination. Period. It just won't happen. The Democrats are stupid–very, very stupid indeed, and I should know, I'm one of 'em–but they're not *that* stupid. Hillary isn't like Gore or Kerry–both of whom were, despite their many and often agonizing flaws, *electable* candidates, especially when thrown up against Dubya. (Blame two of the most inept campaigns in modern history; Dukakis set the gold standard for that one, and even *he* could have won if he'd put in the minimal effort to hold his lead.) Hillary however cannot win. You cannot run a candidate whom so many people actively *hate*–it's why we end up with bland nonentities and mystery men running for our highest office.

      Richardson, maybe–I wouldn't mind seeing a *bit* more of Clark just to make sure, but running on a military record didn't save Kerry's ass, so maybe not. Major Paul Hackett got my attention recently; I like him, but he might be too honest to win, and it *would* be nice if he held *some* elected office before getting to the Oval Office.

      Regardless, it all depends on who the GOP throws up (pardon the entirely apropos expression) against the Dems. Apart from Hillary, most of these guys could beat Cheney, who isn't likable, and thus lacks Bush's one strength as a candidate (if you like that brand of faux-downhome bullshit.)

      If the Republicans wanted an unbeatable candidate, they'd run McCain, but they won't, because he isn't one of the Stepford squad. Miserably hard to say. The first election I ever voted in was Bush v. Dukakis, and I realized as I held my nose and voted for the little Greek, that I didn't want *either* of these guys running my country. Every election since then reminds me of that initial experience…

    • Speaking of old guard, and resurrecting the dead corpses of 1992-2000, I hear a lot of buzz about Newt running for President….heh.

      Wesley Clark. wow. Remember how desperate the democrats were to be tough on foreign polcy that they had Kerry do a boat landing and almost nominated that guy?

      Ed – What do you think about Joe Biden?

    • Mr. Dryden keeps referencing "they" when discussing who will and won't get nominated. These things aren't decided in poorly-lit rooms anymore. It doesn't matter whether or not the Democratic braintrust realizes Hillary will end up making Walter Mondale look like FDR. What matters is that Hillary will do what GW did in 2000 – she'll raise about $75 million in primary money before the other candidates hit $5 million, and she'll simply bludgeon the other candidates from the race.

      Sure, she'll lose New Hampshire and Iowa (Bill did. W lost New hampshire too.) after which the other candidates will be broke and she'll have a campaign team on the ground in 30 states.

      Hear more from Clark? Are you high? The second that man opened his mouth everything in the room died, including the plants. He is an absolute zero. He looks good on paper, period. And we saw what a load of good being a war hero did for Kerry.

      It makes absolutely no difference who the best candidate is. In primaries, the kid with the biggest bank wins (unless they're utterly insane, a la Steve Forbes). In 2000, John McCain raised $7 million in primary funds. Bush raised $48 million (which was more than either candidate spent in the _general_ election in 1996). Under those circumstances, it really wasn't relevant that Bush was clearly inferior.

      Hillary has instant name recognition without the associated stink of losing – something Kerry and Edwards will never overcome. The fact of the matter is the potential challengers are so awful that Hillary's two assets – money and name recognition – will be two more assets than any of her challengers have. Yes, Bill Richardson will hang out a shingle and do well in the podunk primaries like Iowa (where you get a chance to shake hands with every single person in the state). But when the elections come fast and furious after New Hampshire, Bill and his 10-person staff are going to be in a wee bit over their heads. Hillary will have 1000 hired guns in every state.

      You have to keep in mind that voters decide the nominations, plain and simple. History shows that voters absorb almost no relevant information about candidates and have a remarkable tendency to vote for whatever name they actually recognize. And although your comment indicates you won't agree with this, lots of people like Hillary. I don't get it either. Yes, more people hate her than like her, but the people who hate her aren't voting in Democratic primaries and therefore present no obstacle to her nomination.

      Mike – I like Joe Biden, but no more fucking senators. Just stop nominating them. They can't win, period. It also doesn't help that he's old, he's been around for 30 years, and his name recognition is virtually zero. He won't raise five cents. He's not even well-known among Democrats.

    • As far as potential candidates not on this list, we can consider:

      1. Al Gore. Yes, Al Gore. He will do very well if things (economically and in Iraq) go really, really badly over the next 2-3 years. He could run a successful "I told you so" campaign. It is disgusting that something like this is even mentionable, but that's how bad things are for the Democrats.

      2. Howard Dean. He may run again, but he'll never be taken seriously.

      3. Kwesi Mfume. At least we could take him seriously, but I think he'd get hammered in the general election. He's my dark horse (no racial pun intended) to throw his name in the race. He'd have a hard time bailing so quickly on the Senate seat he's going to win in 2006, though.

      4. Mike Easley. Any Democrat who can win a statewide race in a southern state – and win in a complete blowout – will be drafted into service. Or at least enticed to consider running. Downside = absolute zero name recognition. I bet you're looking him up on Google right now.

      On the GOP side, don't underestimate the fact that Jeb Bush is being forcibly retired from his Governor's seat by term limits in 2006. He has heathen quantities of money at his disposal. As much of an idiot as he is, you know Republican primary voters aren't excited by Moderate McCain. And who the fuck is the media kidding about Condoleezza Rice – like the GOP base is going to vote for a black woman. Yeah, we'll see how that flies in rural Alabama.

      My point is, as nauseating as this will sound, the odds of a Clinton-Jeb matchup in 2008 are very good. At which point we will all just start killing ourselves en masse.

    • Ed puts me rather forcefully in my place. Unfortunately for my ego, he's right. Politics have changed to the point where the money factor *is* pretty much the beginning and end of the issue–Steve Forbes and Ross Perot aside. (But then, who decides who *gets* the money–surely the DNC and the RNC have something to do with choosing the candidate–if only to choose who the lobbyists will have an easier time selling to their constituents?) And yes, fame counts. Familiarity tends to equal comfort in the lazy voter's mind–better the devil one knows than the devil one doesn't. And Hillary's known, all right.

      And what I hadn't really paused to consider is something else that's important: Hillary has what Gore and Kerry didn't: a genuinely carnivorous streak *and* a sociopathic willingness to use it. She has a truly Machiavellian ability to be viciously, productively mean–to play right down in the muck where Rove lurks–and yet to appear to some people as if she's 'genuine.' (Actually, I kind of like that about her, for the same reason that I liked Clinton for being bullet-proof–it drives the right people absolutely nuts.)

      But if you're right about Easley (and yes, I did have to Google him), and if–for whatever reason–Hillary *doesn't* run, then his coming out of nowhere might be a good thing. Less known isn't great, but if you start early, it means you can create the brand as you go along. Look how far Gary Hart got just by simply telling people he had "new ideas"–a memorable slogan makes you work as a candidate. (Just don't cheat on your wife and have someone take pictures.) And Southern Democrats tend to do well against incumbents–witness Carter and Clinton. And who'd heard of Bill at this time in the season when he ran–mostly, he was known for his embarassingly long intro speech at the Dukakis convention. Still, Clinton-Jeb is an eerie thought. I suppose this means in a few years we're going to be voting for Chelsea?

    • What are your thoughts on a Gore/Clinton ticket? Sure Gore has a loss under his belt, but it was a close and debatable loss. And, as you've pointed out Hillary has a very loyal base. Gore's got the brains, Hillary's got the balls, and they both have *brand name* status. I personally am a huge Gore fan, but then I don't need charisma from a president. Hillary I could take or leave.

      I can't honestly say I'm familiar with Mike Easley, but I live in Georgia, and as I'm sure you're aware, southeren democrats are not usually democrats at all in any real sense of the party's beliefs (with Carter and Clinton as glaring exceptions). They have to call themselves democrats to get the black vote here. Remember Zell at the RNC? Hee dawgy, was that ever embarrassing.

      Since we're dreaming here, what do you think it would take to get a McCain/Gore ticket? How about Clinton/McCain?

    • You know, Samantha, while I have none of the staggering tactical knowledge that Ed does, I'm going to go out on a limb and say that intelligent voters should start considering the possibility of a "bipartisan" ticket. Honestly. We always complain that we don't know what the sides stand for any longer anyhow. Maybe the first step to abandoning them, or melting them into complete insignificance and paving the way for multi-party races that don't suck, is a media blowout over a partnership in 2008, even if everyone knows it won't win.

      Also, I think we need to send Ed into exile for a few years until his FBI file is out of date, and then get him a job as a pundit on CNN so he can wreak havoc from the inside.

    • chris walken? fuck yeah. but his past will be hard to overcome. imagine a president who gained office after years of pretending to be a viscious, greedy gangster while actually being an intellegent and talented guy, instead of the other way around? never happen, tho it would be nice.

    • I think it will take about 200 years before my FBI file is adequately cleansed for a career in the mainstream media. Or any legitimate business for that matter.

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