Starting first with the Republican candidates, with their Pros and Cons. To be fair, the list is in alphabetical order, not in order of current polling. These are also the official candidates at the moment (12/6/07).
Rudy Giuliani (NY)
- PROS: Large public presence, well-known. Ex-Mayor of one of the biggest major cities in the world. Linked to 9/11, viewed by the GOP base as one of the big heroes that day. Has positioned himself as the 'heir' of the current Bush Administration in terms of pushing the War on Terror, as there is no one currently linked to Dubya's term of office that is running for 2008. Has started off polling in high numbers and is leading in various states.
- CONS: Thrice-divorced SOB whose family drama makes the WWE soap opera look tame by comparison. Well-known adulterer, not to mention a northeastern moderate on issues such as abortion, which is upsetting the hardcore family values base of the Republicans so much that they are seriously threatening to leave the party or even not vote for him if he gets nominated. His cronyist habits have linked him to problematic figures such as Kerik, currently facing trial for criminal misdeeds. He's built up too many political enemies in his own home state, especially among the firefighters and police, the two major groups whose 9/11 acts of heroism give them enough clout to blunt his media image. His close ties to the Bush administration means he's going to be tied to all of the failures of the Bush administration. His coziness with the major GOP media forces, such as FOX News, is alienating him among the other candidates. And newly emerging scandals about his adulterous affair with his now-wife (using the police and city government offices to serve his needs and hide his affair), and regarding faulty equipment used during 9/11 as well as other 9/11 related issues, are going to hurt.
- ODDS: Falling. He's currently not polling well. The adulterous behavior being revealed now to the media, especially all the financial shenanigans, make him look more like Bill Clinton (think State Troopers, only more expensive) than Ronald Reagan. There's also a good chance investigations into the "faulty equipment" and false billings could turn into criminal investigations, something that will scare away primary voters. As the candidate most linked to an unpopular sitting President, and as the candidate with the most scandals to worry over, Giuliani is taking serious hits.
Mike Huckabee (AR)
- PROS: Popular ex-governor of southern state, plus ordained Southern Baptist minister. Is religiously evangelical but plays to the compassionate aspects of Christianity to where it can disarm religious skeptics. His record as governor for the most part scans well. His fiscal policies, which saw him cut AND raise taxes, have upset the Grover Norquist anti-tax crowd, but he is a supporter of the Fair Tax movement. Among the GOP candidates is the most charismatic in person: folksy, witty, good oratory skills, the works. His early numbers were mild but after a few shocking straw polls where he did better than expected has brought him up to Number Three in the media's view behind Romney and Giuliani. His religious background is making him a safe choice for the Religious Right who both abhor Mitt and Rudy, which could win him some major early primaries.
- CONS: One name. Wayne Dumond. If Willie Horton destroyed the Dukakis campaign in 1988, Dumond is ten times worse. Dukakis had no direct links to Horton, who took advantage of a Dukakis-backed furlough program to commit rape and robbery. There is hefty evidence Huckabee had gotten a parole board to free Dumond, whom Clinton-haters believed was a victim of Clinton's "injustice". Dumond went on to rape and murder at least one more victim. Despite his protests, Huckabee has too many fingerprints on this case. If he becomes the GOP candidate, rape victim advocacy groups (for one) are going to hound him until the end of time on this one issue.
- ODDS: He's been a stealth candidate for awhile, but in the past few weeks with Giuliani and Romney both faltering on the religious issues Huckabee is gaining ground. Even with the anti-tax crowd upset with his record, they could well give him a pass if it means keeping a more tax-positive Dem out of office. It's not Ron Paul that's the dark horse of this primary run: it's Huckabee. The only serious obstacle he's got is the Dumond story: the more he keeps denying it the more opposition he's going to face about it.
- PROS: Ummm... Okay, okay, let's be fair. He's a long-standing Congressman from a major state who has been a consistent conservative voice in the party. He has a military service record, unlike a bunch of other losers in the party who talk the talk but don't walk the walk. He's vocally Pro-Life, vocally Anti-Illegal Immigrant, vocally Pro-Nuke Iran, all pluses among the GOP primary voting base.
- CONS: He's one of the third-tier guys, someone in the running who honestly doesn't have a snowball's chance in hell. His positions may be popular with the GOP base but it'll destroy him come general election time when everyone else (who tend to be more Pro-Choice, Pro-Immigrant Amnesty, Anti-Nuke) gets a say. And even now he's only getting 3 percent (or less) of said base. While he hasn't been directly indicted in the ongoing criminal investigation into the Wilkes bribery scandals, there are some connections there that could get more scrutiny should he win the nom.
- ODDS: Remember the part about "Snowball's chance in hell?" He's running simply on principle if anything. At best, he's got his name out there on the national stage and could position himself as a possible Vice Presidential running mate (major state, major party member, on the 'right' side of issues, etc.). With all the chances he's had he's not impressed anyone yet the way Huckabee and Paul have, and he doesn't have the political machine backing him the way Romney and Giuliani do.
John McCain (AZ)
- PROS: Positioned himself as the most seasoned, experienced leader on the board. His personal biography (prodigal son who follows his father into a military career; his refusing preferential treatment of getting out from a Viet Cong POW prison in the face of vicious torture; years of public service) is epic compared to his rivals. Still has a solid following from his 2000 campaign. The media still portrays him as a maverick even though he's toed the party line and paid his dues (AKA all that ass-kissing of Bush in 2004). Decent oratory skill. Has righted his campaign after early months of problems and missed opportunities. His anti-torture position may not win him the GOP base but it's garnering him support from the remaining moderates and paleocons horrified by the neocons' warmongering. Among the GOP candidates, despite the hostility among the far left bloggers, McCain is the one that has most appeal to moderates and Dems (AKA he plays well with others: if Jon Stewart likes him, he's not THAT evil...). The only scandal in his career (the Keating Five) was almost another lifetime ago, and it isn't even an issue anymore. His positions on Iraq, while still pro-war, show better sensibility than most of the other candidates in both parties. Early victories are possible as Giuliani and Romney could stumble.
- CONS: He was almost Reagan's age when he ran in 2000, he's 8 years older now. Health issues are unavoidable. Despite his overall popularity across the country, most in the GOP base do not view him favorably. The Religious Right don't like him, and during the 2000 campaign McCain had dissed their major leaders Falwell and Robertston. His early attempts to appease them created major stumbling blocks that alienated McCain's base, and failed to win over the Falwell/Robertson crowd. Others are not too thrilled about his legislative record (the McCain-Feingold act for one, viewed as too complex and in violation of free speech rights). While he's staunchly anti-torture, he didn't raise a finger when Bush signed away the hugely popular anti-torture law he pushed through when the Abu Ghraib scandal hit. He's ironically a candidate that could win the nation but not first win the party.
- ODDS: Still a second-tier candidate trailing Romney and Giuliani, and without the current OMG buzz of Huckabee and Paul. McCain is popular with the media, which keeps him in the public eye. He still has a chance if he can secure good numbers in the early races, especially if Rudy loses ground.
Ron Paul (TX)
- PROS: Name one other candidate running right now that is stirring up as much passion and support as Ron. Not even Obama is pulling in these numbers, and Obama actually has a chance! His political positions on taxes and spending, and on the war in Iraq, the War on Terror, and the War on Drugs put him in the Libertarian wing of the party, which is mighty PISSED right now at Bush's screw-ups. And anger is a great motivator. Among the candidates, he doesn't waffle or spin; at least, he hasn't been caught doing it yet. Among the GOP candidates he's the only one who wants military withdrawal from Iraq, which alone explains a lot of his appeal to voters (and to the military: he's the biggest GOP fundraiser with that crowd!) as Iraq is a major issue. The really impressive thing is that he's scaring the hell out of the GOP leadership, which has discreetly pinned their hopes to other candidates (cough Rudy cough Mitt). His performances at local straw polls have gotten so good that the party leadership is seemingly canceling them to prevent him from winning. A far Right blog, RedState, has banned his followers and any discussion about him: I don't think they've even done that to Hillary! He's Perot without... well actually he does have the same ears as Perot. Has anyone ever seen those two together in the same room...?
- CONS: My God, have you actually seen some of his positions?! It's not so much he's anti-war in Iraq as he's Isolationist (he favors pulling out of NATO and the UN altogether). If Paul carries through on even half of his promises regarding economics, government spending cuts, free trade, deregulation... the shock to the system that would cause could lead to massive financial upheaval across the globe. As a Keynesian by nature, I'm not a fan of Paul's Austrian School leanings. And while Paul appeals to Libertarians (as well as anti-war activists, UFO nuts, and Barry Manilow)he won't appeal to Dems, moderates, or sane people.
- ODDS: His official polling numbers put him in the third-tier category, but by God the straw polling, creative fund-raising, and Internet buzz on him puts Ron Paul up there with Elvis (or Hannah Montana). If these numbers do translate to votes come Primary time, would the GOP leadership cancel the whole thing like they canceled the San Francisco straw poll...? To be honest, however, Ron Paul won't secure the nomination: the party shadow bosses will see to it he flame out somehow...
Mitt Romney (MA)
- PROS: Can you say "Designated Winner?" Has most of the money to work with on the campaigns. GOP polling numbers put him at the top: this is basically his nomination to lose. He's a Republican from a notoriously un-Republican region of the country, who could pull those states to the GOP. Has almost no major controversies (save one) and unlike Giuliani - his major rival - Mitt has no skeletons in his closet (no scandalous affairs, no cronyism with crooked and slimy individuals, etc).
- CONS: Do you notice how Romney doesn't have too many PROS for him? Outside of the "official" numbers Romney has issues across the board. Even among Republicans, Romney's constant flip-flopping on issues makes him look opportunistic and insincere. Considering how many of the other candidates flip-flop as well, that Romney looks like the worst of the bunch... that takes some doing. He's trying to appease certain voters at certain times and bound to alienate everyone in the process. In all honesty, he may be coming from Massachusetts but there's no way he can really win that state (or any state above the Mason-Dixon line). Romney also stumbled badly when he himself told a story about a situation involving the family dog back on a road trip years earlier (my parents were horrified, both by the poor treatment of the dog and by the fact Romney was stupid enough to think his handling of it showed leadership skills). I doubt any pet lovers will forgive him. Romney's hawkish stance on Iraq rings hollow compared to his efforts to avoid Vietnam, and his sons' avoidance of serving in the military now reeks of hypocrisy. He's more plastic than a LEGO statue of Andy Warhol. And that's not even touching on his greatest, gravest controversy of all: He's Mormon. In a GOP increasingly controlled by hardcore Far Right conservative Protestant evangelicals who view Mormonism akin to Scientology, Romney has been dancing furiously to appease that voting base that his being Mormon still puts him on their side and on the side of the Baby Jesus. His religion (and Giuliani's corrupt soul) is a VERY good reason why Huckabee is gaining so much ground in the primaries.
- ODDS: Like I mentioned, he's the guy in the lead in the official polls. Officially, he's the guy the party leadership would like running come November 2008 (especially as Rudy keeps looking worse). Unofficially, he's having a very hard time of it convincing actual voters.
Tom Tancredo (CO)
- PROS: More far to the Right than Duncan Hunter. Which takes some doing.
- CONS: His stance on illegal immigration has become so vicious against Hispanics that he's a major reason the GOP is losing what could have been a viable voting bloc. For all their criminal evildoings, even Rove and Bush can count, and they've tried sensible immigration reform that could have won Hispanic voters over for generations to the GOP: Tancredo ruined it, and he's officially persona non grata among the Bushies (and on that, if there's anything the Bushies are consistent with is they never forget nor forgive). Trust me, anybody who insults Miami Cubans has GOT to have a serious death wish.
- ODDS: Like Hunter, he's got virtually no chance to win. If by a miracle Tancredo gets on the ballot, even as a Veep candidate, odds are 99 percent every registered Hispanic voter is gonna vote Democrat for the next 20 years (with 1 percent margin for what-the-hell).
Fred Thompson (TN)
- PROS: Was practically drafted into running by parts of the GOP that were less than thrilled by the lack of charisma of Romney and Rudy. Has the most exposure to the public with a long film career ala Reagan: only McCain comes close in terms of media exposure. His positions on taxes, abortion, federalism and social issues are consistent with the GOP base, and he could sell them to the public without as much hand-wringing or horror that some of the other candidates would.
- CONS: There was so much talk of getting him drafted into the GOP campaign, and since then... snoring noises. Thompson's slow-as-molasses campaign style might have worked running for the Senate in Tennessee, but it's boring the rest of the nation right now. He came on early as a Ronald Reagan but is looking more like a Sonny Bono, more of a celebrity than a genuine leader. Has yet to really WOW anyone the way Paul and Huckabee have done.
- ODDS: The current buzz now is that Thompson's more than likely going to be the presumptive choice for Veep: not as offensive to national voters as Hunter or Tancredo, or any other potential Vice President picks, and not as threatening in the leadership category to whomever ends up with the Presidential nom. His best feature is that he's not a Cheney.
I'd throw in Alan Keyes if only because Tim Meadows needs the work. ;) But outside of showing up for a debate, there hasn't been much else heard from Keyes.
And that's it for the Republican ticket. I'll cover the Democrats in a few days.