Electing a woman president would be a historic first. But a bigger point of pride for many voters, given the nation’s history, would be electing the first black. Admittedly this is just an impression, but after interviewing a number of voters, my hunch is that many would love to have the chance to vote for a black candidate. While many would also like to vote for a woman, the truth is that in many parts of the country Hillary is extraordinarily unpopular. I sense that a number of voters have Clinton fatigue and wish Bill and Hillary would, well, disappear.
Obama has a long way to go. But right now, he looks like the real thing.
Barack Obama. Odds for nomination: 6-5.
Strengths: Charismatic, compelling communicator who has a real chance to be America’s first black president. That brings him enormous political advantages (see above). As far as primary Dems are concerned, right on all the issues, including Iraq.
Weaknesses: Relatively new on the political scene and has never run for national office before, so he will make mistakes.
Bottom Line: It will take a superstar to derail the Hillary juggernaut. Unfortunately for her, Obama looks like he may be one.
Hillary Clinton. Odds for nomination: 7-4.
Strengths: She’s a big-name candidate, the first woman to seek the presidency who has a real chance to win, and the beneficiary of her husband’s powerful political operation, with all its fundraising prowess.
Weaknesses: She also inherits all the baggage from the Clinton era. Has always had very high negatives in polls. Has angered liberals with her stance on Iraq. So far, not the greatest candidate on the trail; seems to be “The Unhappy Warrior.”
Bottom Line: Were Obama not in the race, she’d be the odds-on favorite to win. But he is.
John Edwards. Odds for nomination: 7-1.
Strengths: In any other year, Edwards would be the front-runner. He’s run before, he’s got a compelling message, and he’s running a good campaign, focusing on the early states where he has to do well or else.
Weaknesses: The problem is that this isn’t “any other year” and he’s up against two extraordinary candidates. To survive, he’ll have to eliminate one early and that raises the real question: could he beat Hillary or Obama one-on-one? It’s unlikely. A bit too “Southern” for some Northern voters.
Bottom Line: Though no one ever focuses on this, were Edwards to gain the nomination, he’d be the Dems’ strongest candidate in a general election because he’d make them competitive in states they traditionally don’t carry. A campaign worth watching, even if it doesn’t end up victorious.
Bill Richardson. Odds for nomination: 55-1.
Strengths: A serious Hispanic candidate for the presidency with both international and executive experience. Only serious westerner in race (he’s New Mexico’s governor).
Weaknesses: Despite running as a DC outsider, on the stump he sounds like the quintessential Beltway insider. That’s not good. Internet rumors already plaguing campaign. That’s not good. Seemingly endorsed by David Brooks (the conservative New York Times columnist) in a recent column. That’s not good either.
Bottom Line: Hard to see how he gets traction in this field. Maybe Brooks can get him appointed to the Times’ editorial board.