This is my first post (hopefully of many, we'll see) on the presidential hopefuls for 2008. Admittedly, it is early in the race to be worrying about such things. But maybe not, actually, as the earliest caucus is going to be in January of '08-- earlier than it has been traditionally, and both California and some other state that I can't remember are moving their primaries to February.
Some background on the candidates.
Democratic Candidates (in order of current front-runnerage),
1) Hillary Clinton. Most known for being the wife of William Jefferson Clinton, our 42nd president. Her main political agenda is health care. Her stated ambition is to find a way to provide health coverage for those who do not have current access to health care, with a particular focus on children and other vulnerable groups.
Her political History: She attended Yale law school, which was where she met her husband. After graduation, she worked with the Children's Defense Fund and worked as part of the house comittee on the judiciary, during the watergate scandal.
She continued to make advocacy for children a large part of her political activism, serving on various boards and in various capacities. As the first lady, she helped conceptualize a plan for universal health care (known as "hilary care") and still has goals to try to come up with a system of universal health insurance that will work. She admits that it failed in the past, but attributes this to America not being ready for it yet. She believes that, as health costs have continued to skyrocket and malpractice insurance and lack of health coverage for vulnerable populations continue to inflate, America will see more clearly the need for such a plan.
Common specific criticism of Hillary includes: the failure of Hilary Care, criticism of how she handled the Monica Lewinksy affair, perception that she ought to have been less politically involved in her husband's presidency.
Generally percieved strength: She has a great deal of experience. She has specific ideas about how to bring about her goals. She has the funding to win. She may have the black vote; the Clintons are well-liked by many African American Democrats. This is a significant portion of the vote, vied for by presidential candidates.
Her stance on Iraq: She support's Bush's position to keep troops there, and supported the troup surge, though she thinks that some changes need to be made.
What I like about her: we share a lot of the same feelings about the need to make sure that children and vulnerable populations are taken care of. I love the Childrens' Defense Fund.
What I don't like about her: She really, really wants to win-- and will resort to dirty politics to get her way. Cite: the back-and-forth bit with Senator Obama about a particular funder from Hollywood.
2) Barack Obama. Most known for his promise to instate a "new kind of politics", and his squeaky-clean reputation (aside from teenage experimentation with cocaine and the smoking of an occasional cigarette.) He began his political career, after graduation from Columbia University with a BA in Political Science/International Relations, as a community planner in Urban Chicago. He then went on and got his J.D at Harvard (cum laude), he went back to chicago and continued with community organizational work, focusing on unemployment and voting registration, and he taught constitutional law at the University of Chicago . He was elected as Senator in Illinois in 2004.
Generally perceived strengths: appeals to those dissatisfied with our current government with is idea of ground-up democracy in politics and his denunciation of the political corruption of current partisan politics. Is young and attractive, an idealist. Squeaky-clean reputation other than his instance of drug use, which he has been candid about, and a minor scandal over a strip of land that he bought from a lobbyist. It is beginning to look as though he could possibly wrest the black democratic vote away from the Clintons.
Generally perceived weaknesses: his lack of experience in politics on the national scale. His squeaky-clean reputation also cuts both ways, as it may be muddied a bit as the race heats up (and, in fact, the Clinton campaign has already succeeded in drawing him into a bit of this sort of thing.)
His stance on Iraq: He was against the war from the beginning, and spoke out against it even when it was an unpopular stance to take.
What I like about him: I think he really means it about politics from the ground up. And that is incredibly refreshing when you look around at the others out there. He is limited in political experience on a national scale but this almost gives him points in my book-- let's keep our politics personal and friendly, I think. Also, he has integrity-- his stance against the war in Iraq has been strong and unequivocal, even when his views were unpopular. That's another reason I like him-- the fact that he is against the war.
What I don't like about him: He doesn't seem to have fleshed out his political agenda enough. Just last week, at a conference where candidates were expected to present a plan on health care, he apologized that he hadn't worked on one yet, using his young candidacy as an excuse. Also, he's for the removal of troops by March, 2008, and I feel that is a bit irresponsible, to our troops and to the citizens of Iraq.
3) Al Gore (not an official candidate). He's demurred in response to questions about his running, but there is a great deal of speculation. If he did run, he would be a very strong candidate-- possibly outshining Barack and Hillary. His Oscar is partially responsible for his current popularity. He has shown a much lighter face to the public, also-- showing that he has a sense of humor and a charming personality, which we did not see in the 2000 elections. He would also be a very strong candidate because the recall of his loss in 2000, even though he had the popular vote, and Bush's subsequent fall in approval, could cast a rosy light on him. About his stance on the war: In a surprising statement in 2002, he said that unilateral action against Saddam Hussein would ''severely damage'' the more urgent war on terrorism and ''weaken our ability to lead the world.'' Gore declared that the president has turned the broad reservoir of good will for America ''into a deep sense of misgiving and even hostility.'' In a pointed dig at President George W. Bush's go-it-alone cowboy rhetoric, he added, ''If you're going after Jesse James, you ought to organize the posse first.'' (from http://www.commondreams.org/views02/0925-01.htm)
What I like about him: he is a strong candidate, an experienced politician, he seems to believe in what he's doing. He has integrity, he spoke out against the war and Bush when it was unpopular and when many others were afraid to do so.
What I don't like: I'm not sure. I guess I'm seeing him in a rosy light right now.
Republican Candidates (in order of current Hype)
1) Rudy Guiliani: (not currently a candidate, but for all intents and purposes, a candidate). Most known for being "America's Mayor" in the wake of the tragedy of September 11. He is very well liked by most (The FDNY being the most notable exception), because of the widespread publicity he received as the good guy who lead New York through the tragedy. The odd thing is that he is pro-choice, and pro-gay-marriage, and so many say that, when the campaigning begins in earnest, Republicans will be turned off to him as a candidate.
His strengths: He has a real claim on Iraq, which is the issue that seems to be deciding a lot of elections right now. He is moderate, and so if he were elected in the Republican primaries, he would be vastly more likely to win against a Democratic candidate in the current political climate. He presents a fresh element in a lineup of faces that are vying for the Ronald Regan knighthood of true-blue (I mean, red) republicanism. He has been a very loyal supporter of Bush's Iraq policies, and this is attractive to the extreme right, especially.
His weaknesses: He's pro choice. And pro gay-marriage. He has a shady private life-- divorced twice (all right, one of them was an anullment), infidelity, estrangement from his kids. Unless Republicans have been extremely shaken by the current political climate, or just don't feel that any of the other candidates are any better (Mitt and his flip-flopping, McCain and his Bush Back-Stabbing) they sure ain't gonna elect him in the primaries. Though, in my opinion, this would be the smartest move republicans could make, as it is my opinion that no true-blue (all right, red, sorry) republican will stand up in our current Democratophillic climate.
Why I like him: I think that he has a good chance of winning if he makes it through the primaries, and I don't really want America to end up with a Democrat as president, house, and senate. We have learned by painful experience what this lack of party-balance in our federal government can do. Though if my arm were twisted (if , for instance, it was between McCain and a Democrat, or Gingrich and a Democrat) I would definitely vote for a Democrat.
Why I dislike him: He doesn't really seem to have fleshed out his political agenda either. He seems to be riding on the waves of september 11th. Sound familiar?
2) John McCain: Historically known as the "Maverick" republican in Congress. Not always favorable toward Bush, this makes Republicans wary of him. Possibly the most solid, traditional "republican," however-- long history of pro-life, anti-gay-marriage stance. Has run before on the Republican ticket. Has a stellar history as a member of the US airforce, was a prisoner of war in Vietnam for five and a half years. Lots and lots of cool military decorations and experience, thus rendering him perhaps the most qualified to comment on matters in Iraq, the current hot-button issue in american politics.
His stance on the war: He supports Bush's troup surge, though he has criticized the president in the past on this issue.
His strengths: Because he has run before (and won a primary), people recognize his name. He's got the money, too, which is important at this point in the race. He has a solid stance on abortion and gay rigths, two things that republicans feel very strongly about, particularly southern evangelicals, who traditionally significantly influence the republican nomination. Some will like him because he has criticized Bush, but most republicans have a hard time with this. Some have written him off entirely for this reason.
His weaknesses: His criticism of Bush, his age, his possibly failing health, also his approval of the troup surge. He was also divorced, which Republicans (particularly evangelicals) do not look favorably at.
Why I like him: I like that he has experience with war, so he really knows what it means to the soldiers who are over there fighting.
Why I don't like him: I feel almost like he has suddenly joined forces with Bush in order to win republicans' votes.
3) Mitt Romney. Unfortunately or fortunately best known as the "Mormon Candidate," as a "flip-flopper" because he has changed his stance on Abortion and Gay-Rights from a more moderate position to a more traditionally republican position. Spent one time as Senator for Massachussets, later elected as republican Governor in a largely Democratic State. During his term, he was able to help design and enstate a plan for state-mandated universal health coverage, while at the same time somehow reducing the state's 3 million dollar deficit and ending his term with a 1 million dollar surplus. Also famous for saving the scandal-plagued, financially-troubled Salt Lake 2002 olympics.
Strengths: might win the "Regan" medal. Is the most conservative as far as his own personal history and family life is concerned. Lots of experience with rave reviews, also has proven to be an excellent financial manager, values the reduction of the national debt which is a concern of a lot of Americans. Has proven his ability to work with Democrats; this will likely be necessary for the next while at least.
Weaknesses: Evangelicals (and even some non-religious people) find his Mormon faith disturbing. It has been suggested that he can be compared to Kennedy, who was the first Catholic president. But Mitt has another problem-- he was pro-choice, and pro-gay-rights for a while. Some republicans find this unforgivable, despite the fact that he has admitted to having "moderated" his views over time, learning from the follies of his youth, etcetera.
His stance on Iraq: The war has been mismanaged, but we need to keep troups in there while there is still a conceivable chance of salvaging things.
Why I like him: I think that he really believes in politics; that he really wants to affect change, and actually has a history of being able to do so even in a hostile environment. He is a brilliant businessman, i like his stance on Iraq the best. I also think that he is the best possible man for the job in our current climate: a republican who can work with democrats.
Why I don't like him: His flip flopping seems to me like he might be trying to please republicans, and leaves a funny taste in my mouth. He has a tinny way of speaking, too. He's kind of like a big, talking head. And he is not tackling this campaign the way he could-- talking up his strenghts, citing his experience. Instead, he seems to be resorting to the standard republican drivel. (sigh.)
Newt Gingrich: Not an official candidate. I don't know much about him, because everything i hear from him makes me kind of mad so I stop listening. I'm opting out of this one, unless he declares his candidacy-- then I'll do my duty and listen to what he has to say and talk about strengths and weaknesses. For now, I'll just say that he falls into the boat of a besmirched personal life-- while he was involved in the prosecution of President Clinton, he himself was having an illicit affair with one of his aids. So, integrity... not so much.
Thus ends my evaluation of the current hopefuls. Quesitons, concerns, angry remarks all welcome. If you were able to get this far. Kudos if you were.