Voter Opinions of the 2008 Presidential Field: Hagel leads
The premise of the Institute of Election Analysis is that voters secret ballots are the best, if not the only, measure of political strength. Prior voter appeal is usually a perfect predictor of future performance. As previously mentioned, John F. Kennedy ran 3rd in the 1958 Senate races before barely beating Vice-President Richard Nixon in 1960 (and at that time, no Vice-President had been elected president since 1836, 122 years earlier.)
There are four Republican Senators prominently mentioned as presidential contenders in 2008: John McCain of Arizona; Frank Thompson of Tennessee; Chuck Hagel of Nebraska; and Sam Brownback of Kansas. Hagel won reelection to the Senate in 2002 with 82.76% of the vote, the highest of any contested Republican. McCain follows with 76.73%. Then Brownback with 62.67% and Frank Thompson with 60.44%.
Among the Republican Governor candidates: Tommy Thompson of Wisconsin leads with 59.66%. Mike Huckabee of Arkansas follows with 53.01%, down from 59.77% four years earlier. When a politician is losing favor with his own core constituency, it is not a sign of strength for a national campaign. Mitt Romney, with 49.76%, also lost a race for Senate. While Romney is rich and handsome, accomplished in business, his government credentials are weak. Tommy Thompson, the three term governor of Wisconsin, was elected in 1990 with 58.15% of the vote, was reelected with 67.22% in 1994, and dropped to 59.66% in 1998. Thompson peaked in 1998. Basically, the Republican Governors are Vice-Presidential timber in an election where the people will be choosing a wartime president.
In the Democratic Senate field, Barack Obama of Illinois leads with 69.96% of the vote. He is followed by Tom Dodd of Connecticut with 65.14%. Then Hillary Clinton with 63.95%, up from 55.27% in 2000. Although Clinton's percentage increased from 2000 to 2006, the raw numbers are not good. She received 3,747,310 in 2000 to 3,008,428 in 2006. Admittedly, the turnout in the 2006 off-year election was almost one-third lower than in 2000, but Clinton's vote was almost one-fifth lower. So, the 13% marginal difference does not have presidential timber written all over it. Clinton suffers from may other problems as well: a legacy candidate in an election where Bush has discredited legacy politicians; the fact that Nancy Pelosi, as Speaker of the House, has put women in the leadership of the government, thereby undermining the glass ceiling argument. Joseph Biden of Delaware runs fourth with 58.22%, Russell Feingold of Wisconsin received 55.35% and John Edwards, the 2004 Vice-Presidential candidate and one-term North Carolina Senator got 51.15%.
In the Democratic Governor's column, there is only Bill Richardson of New Mexico, the highest Hispanic elected official in the United States. Richardson won re-election with 67.67% of the vote. He has foreign policy experience as United Nations Ambassador under Bill Clinton. If Richardson had been Kerry's Vice-Presidential nominee, Kerry would be president.
Of course, voters secret ballots do not determine everything in politics. There's still media and money. Therefore, the serious contenders in the Republican Party are McCain, Hagel, Guliani and Romney. The heavyweights in the Democratic Party are Clinton, Obama Edwards and Richardson. The preponderance of Senate candidates is a sign that foreign policy will be the determining factor in the 2008 presidential race. For this reason, among others, all House candidates for president: Ron Paul and Dennis Kucinich should be heavily discounted. No candidate in history has ever been elected president right from the House of Representatives. The House is the body to which presidents retire.
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Contact: Joshua Leinsdorf