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Acting Presidential

By Kevin Robinson in News on Jan 31, 2007 2:50PM

2007_1_bean.jpgHere we are, less than two years away from the next contest for the White House. This time next year, hopefuls, shoo-ins, and also-rans will be in a mad dash around the country, having pancakes in New Hampshire, talking milk prices and manufacturing in Iowa, and hoping to make it to Super Tuesday. On the Democratic side of the coin, more than a few people have already thrown their hats into the ring, and some big names are flirting with making a run. Some have been coy, others explicit, and one potential candidate seems to be riding a wave of popular demand.

The list of candidates running for the Democratic nomination seems to be growing larger every week. Among the officially announced are Iowa Governor Tom Vilsack, Connecticut Senator Chris Dodd, Former Alaska Senator Mike Gravel, Cleveland, Ohio, Congressman Dennis Kucinich, and former North Carolina Senator John Edwards, who seems to have never stopped running since 2004. Delaware Senator Joe Biden has announced he is running, but hasn't filed the requisite paperwork yet. Potential candidates include New Mexico Governor Bill Richardson, New York Senator and former first lady Hillary Clinton, and of course, Illinois Senator Barack Obama.

At this point, most of the folks that have officially announced they are running haven't been in the media spotlight, with the three "unofficials" garnering the most attention for their positions, experience (or lack thereof) or the historical significance of their potential candidacy. And that isn't necessarily a bad thing, as not all of those candidates expect to get far in the primaries. Sometimes candidates run for office to bring a particular issue to the debate, to build a coalition around that issue and prove that people think it's important. When the time is right, that candidate will take his money, his backers, and his support, and hook up with a front-runner to make sure that their issue or issues stay in the public eye throughout the campaign.

Perhaps the most significant development on the Democratic side this season is that the three biggest names in the race so far are all ethnic or social minorities. Richardson is Latino, Hillary is a woman, and Obama is becoming a metaphor for racial healing in a divided nation. Bill Richardson, besides having at least some appeal to the growing Latino vote in the US and being able to speak to issues such as immigration reform and border control, also has a wealth of experience in foreign affairs and diplomacy, a strength as the Democratic majority in Congress searches for a diplomatic solution to the ills of the Middle East.

2007_1_hill.gifRaised in Park Ridge, occasional local girl Hillary Clinton is an early frontrunner in this race, out-polling Obama in most surveys, and even taking the odds with online book makers (although no doubt having trouble sleeping at night thinking about challenging him). Both admired and vilified, she is expected to be a formidable candidate, with years of experience and fundraising abilities that could take her far. With nearly two terms in the Senate and her husband's political career behind her, she may have trouble shaking some perceptions of her as cold and calculating. Her positions on Iraq and universal healthcare are shaping up as defining issues, not just for her, but for the election in general.

The other local, Barack Obama, is certainly a favorite in these parts of the country. Although speculation still abounds as to whether or not he will actually run, all bets seem to be on him throwing his hat into the ring. An early opponent of the war in Iraq, he has pegged the few national positions he has to what is coming out of the new Congress. He recently said that he wants universal healthcare for all Americans by the end of the next presidency (without saying who that president would be...). He also announced that he is introducing legislation to redeploy US troops, with a gradual withdrawal from Iraq.

We like Barack best, no doubt about it. But we also like John Edwards and think that he would make an excellent addition to any ticket in '08. We'll be watching to see what the voters (and the candidates) have to say in the months ahead.