With 29 months to go until November 2008, the race for the presidency has already begun. Even before the 2006 congressional elections, presidential wannabes can be found under every rock and behind every tree in any state that’ll have them.
That there’s speculation this early is part of the game, but the fundraising and barnstorming activity that's taking place at this point in the cycle is unusual. One reason, according to Chuck Rund, president of Charlton Research, is that 2008 is the first election since 1952 when there's no obvious standard bearer in either party. According to Rund, that leaves no obvious front runner this early in the game.
Tom Brokaw, in a June 18 Sunday Washington Post column made the same point. "...if we're to believe Dick Cheney and Al Gore about their intentions," there won't be "an incumbent president or a sitting or recently retired vice president...[as] a candidate — which opens the field even more."
The battle for attention has gotten so heated that the June 18th Los Angeles Times headlined a story with, "Presidential Ambitions Distract Senate," as if there was nothing important going on in the country that requires their attention. "There are so many lawmakers considering a run for president that they are practically tripping over each other. The outbreak of ambition adds an 'every man for himself' dynamic to an institution that is already struggling to build consensus on important issues such as how to combat illegal immigration and high gas prices."
"Sen. Richard J. Durbin (D-Ill.) jokes that he is one of the 'designated drivers' of the Senate because he is not running for president. 'We are driving the Senate while so many of our colleagues are intoxicated with the idea of being president,' Durbin said."
The list of Republican Senators considering the brass ring includes (in no particular order):
- Majority Leader Bill Frist (TN), who some claim is using his leadership role to further his presidential ambitions.
- John McCain (AZ), who seems to have a knack of attracting disaffected voters from both parties.
- George Allen (VA), who may be facing his toughest senatorial race this November against Democrat Jim Webb.
- Sam Brownback (KS), who is very close to religious conservatives.
- Chuck Hagel (NE), a solid conservative who has distanced himself from Bush's Iraq war policies.
Democrats are also well represented:
- Hillary Clinton (NY) — how'd she get listed first?
- Evan Bayh (IN), who presents an attractive centrist perspective and was also governor of Indiana for two terms.
- Joseph Biden, Jr. (DE) who didn't make it very far in 1988.
- Russell Feingold (WI), whose liberal positions — in particular his call for censure of President Bush because of the domestic wiretapping issues, may play well early on but could hurt him later.
- Barak Obama (IL), who, while a first-term Senator, has been barnstorming the country while receiving rave reviews.
- Chris Dodd, (CT), a liberal in his 5th term.
And one mustn't forget:
- John Kerry
- John Edwards
- Former VA Governor Mark Warner
- NY Governor George Pataki
- MA Governor Mitt Romney
- Former NYC Mayor Rudy Giuliani
Four of the Republicans converged on Iowa yesterday (Saturday), and the state's Republican chairman, Ray Hoffman, commented, "It's never been this early." Of course, they all claimed they were there to help raise money for the 2006 congressional elections.