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January 2, 2007

Who's In and Who's Not

George Wenschhof

The 2008 race for President of the United States is off and running and the Democratic Party contenders are already juggling for position in the eyes of the voters.

Fresh off major victories in November that brought Democrat majorities to the House, Senate, and state houses, the voters will be looking to see who the Democratic candidates will be and what they will offer.

Americans are hungry for new approaches to governing and are tired of the polarizing partisan approach taken by the Democratic and Republican parties.

Today, Americans want solutions and not rhetoric from their leaders. They do not want the geographical location of their residence being labeled as a blue or red state, county, city or precinct.

In reality, voters' positions on the issues are varied and not easily pigeon-holed into the dogma of one political party. That is to say Americans - regardless of age, ethnicity, sex, or other group - think for themselves and do not fit into easily defined categories.

Voters desperately hunger for leaders who will bring our country together to solve the problems we face and who will stop tearing our country apart by pitting Americans against each other.

The standard tactic of negative advertising against an opponent used by political operatives has become disgusting to voters. In addition, voters are tired of the campaign fund-raising that exists with every presidential election.

The McCain-Feingold Act, although a start in finance reform, merely resulted in what became known as 527s (a tax code reference) used by the Move-On organization and the anti-John Kerry Swift-Boat group. Until meaningful reform occurs in the area of campaign finances, voters will continue to be wary and skeptical of our political process.

The challenges are many for the aspiring Democrat presidential candidates. Whether it is peace in Iraq, economic growth and stability, affordable housing, immigration issues, energy policies, gay marriage, or national security, voters are looking for successful solutions that unite us as a country.

Looking at the early line-up of Democrat candidates, former first lady and current New York senator, Hillary Clinton, is definitely receiving support and is one of the front runners. She has the formidable trio of name recognition, huge fundraising capability, and a national campaign organization.

While being an immediate front-runner Senator Clinton is also a polarizing force, who will galvanize Republican voters and moderate Democrats against her.

While Senator Clinton is hot, Illinois Sen. Barrack Obama is on fire, drawing huge crowds wherever he goes. Two weeks ago in New Hampshire, one of the early primary states, he was greeted by huge crowds. Some were referring him as akin to Robert F. Kennedy and the excitement he generated when he entered the 1968 presidential contest.

Senator Obama has only been a senator for two years and does not have national fund-raising or political organization experience. However, he may never be this "hot" again, so look to see him formally announce later this month. He will draw from the same pool of supporters as Senator Clinton, so it will be interesting to watch this battle. He will not win the Democratic Party nomination; but he will win valuable points toward his future.

These first two candidates are so hot that three other potential candidates have already officially dropped out. They are Sen. Bayh (IN), Sen. Russ Feingold (WI), and former Va. Gov. Mark Warner.

Senator Bayh was in and then out within a two week period and he was one who I thought would do well - a moderate Democrat who was also a two term governor, and he's from a mid-west state with a Republican majority. He would be an excellent choice for vice-president.

Former Vice-President Al Gore will continue to receive pressure to run, especially after the success of his movie on global warming - "An Inconvenient Truth." He and Massachusetts Senator Kerry hold the distinction of having lost extremely close elections to Republican George W. Bush in 2000 and 2004.

Senator Kerry also wants to run, but verbal blunders continue to haunt him. His latest attempt at digging out of the hole was his editorial in December 24's Washington Post where he states: "There's something much worse than being accused of "flip-flopping," refusing to flip when it's obvious that your course of action is a flop." He was referring, of course, to President Bush's Iraq policy.

Both Vice-President Gore and Senator Kerry are strong candidates with powerful organizations and the ability to raise funds; but I see former Vice-President Gore forging ahead of Senator Kerry. In fact, I predict a strong effort will be made to keep Senator Kerry out of the race.

Former North Carolina Senator John Edwards announced his candidacy in one of most devastated wards in Katrina-ravaged New Orleans.

His Two-America theme as the vice presidential candidate on the 2004 Gore ticket referred to an America divided by those with money and those without money. This is a powerful remise that still resonates.

Senator Edwards showed the ability to raise money and lift the hopes of voters. He also did and said all the right. He already has a very progressive and state-of-the-art web site up and running. He has the most to gain with a Clinton-Obama split of the Democrat voters. He will be a formidable candidate in 2008.

Senator Joe Biden, of Delaware, wants to run but has been dogged by a plagiarism claim against him many years ago. He is a regular on the Sunday TV talk shows and has considerable foreign policy experience. Although he would make a good candidate, he will not file.

Dennis Kucinich, an Ohio representative to Congress, announced his candidacy two weeks ago with his platform being basically the same as in the 2004, when he called for a withdrawal of U.S. troops from Iraq. However, as was the case in the last election, he will not have the nation-wide organization and money needed to be competitive.

Sen. Christopher Dodd, of Connecticut, will also be announcing and calling for the withdrawal of the troops from Iraq. Although his convictions, like Representative Kucinich, are admirable, he will not receive serious support from Democrat voters.

Several others who will be considering entering the race are Governors Tom Vilsack of Iowa, and Bill Richardson of New Mexico. Neither one has received much traction and faces long odds. Governor Richardson however, has strong international relations experience, which would prove beneficial in this world that we live in.

Wesley Clark, former Supreme Allied Commander Europe, is also considering entering the race after his experience in 2004. His chances are slim, so it is doubtful he will enter the race. He received support from the Clintons in 2004, so look for him to support Senator. Clinton in 2008.

These presidential hopefuls will be discussing many issues they believe are important over the 12 to 22 months. At the same time future domestic and international events will have an impact on their candidacies.

At the moment the momentum is with Senators Barrack Obama and Hillary Clinton, with former Vice-President Gore and Senator Edwards close behind. Stay tuned, stay informed and vote responsibly.

(Editor's Note! The Maryland primary for the 2008 Presidential Election is the first Tuesday in March, just 14 months from now.)

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