Jewish World Review August 29, 2003 / 1 Elul, 5763

Carl P. Leubsdorf

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Will 2008 see a Clinton-Hutchison presidential contest? | Like most presidents, George W. Bush has opted for continuity in keeping Dick Cheney as his running mate. But despite his key role in the administration, Cheney probably won't have much impact on the 2004 election.

Vice presidents rarely do.

And given Cheney's age and history of heart attacks, he is unlikely to spend the next four years running for president.

Still, if Bush and Cheney win and serve a full second term, they will have laid the basis for a political rarity in 2008: the first presidential election in 56 years in which neither nominee will be an incumbent president or vice president. It hasn't happened since Vice President Alben Barkley failed to win the 1952 Democratic nomination.

As a result, unless the Democrats win next year or something happens to break up the Bush-Cheney team in a second term, both parties could face wide-open nominating battles in 2008.

On the Democratic side, next year's results could help to shape the field, though most politicians think it could be dominated by Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton. But Republicans could face a race as ill defined as this year's Democratic contest, and it could start with efforts to promote potential candidates at next year's GOP convention in New York.

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Here is a preliminary list of Republican prospects, in alphabetical order, along with some of their strengths and weaknesses:

  • Virginia Sen. George Allen: Former governor, now senator and the son of legendary football coach George Allen. A favorite of some conservatives, he needs some way to make his mark nationally.

  • Florida Gov. Jeb Bush: There is increasing talk in some GOP circles about the prospect of a dynastic succession. More policy oriented and less congenial than his brother, he might be hampered by some publicized family problems and a sense that one Bush per generation is enough.

  • Tennessee Sen. Bill Frist: Some thought the former heart surgeon was interested even before he unexpectedly became Senate majority leader. Though probably helped by the fact that he isn't a career politician, it remains to be seen if serving as the top Senate Republican will be a plus or a minus.

  • Former New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani: The most popular New York mayor in decades, he needs to sustain himself politically while out of public office. More liberal than most Republicans, he faces the fact that no New York mayor has won a higher office in recent times.

  • Texas Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison: Either as a third-term senator or as Texas' governor (should she seek and win that office in 2006), she could be the GOP's first major woman candidate. A potential counterpart to Mrs. Clinton, she could face opposition from those who think the GOP needs a change from Texas leadership.

  • Colorado Gov. Bill Owens: A potential dark horse, the Texas-born governor is a low-keyed conservative who could mobilize the growing political power of the Mountain West. Not well known.

  • Homeland Security Secretary Tom Ridge: Another potential candidate from the GOP's moderate wing, a lot will depend on the former Pennsylvania governor's job ratings as the first homeland security secretary. A Vietnam veteran and former House member, he would bring broad credentials to the race.

  • Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney: Another relative moderate from a traditionally Democratic state, he is believed to yearn for the job that eluded his father, Michigan Gov. George Romney, a generation ago. Politicians from Massachusetts generally do well in the New Hampshire primary.

Others might emerge on the political scene in the next five years and become major players. Gov. Condoleezza Rice of California? Sen. Lindsey Graham of South Carolina?

Not only does it look like the recipe for a wide-open nominating battle, but it could be the first time in memory that there hasn't been a clear early Republican favorite.

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Carl P. Leubsdorf is Washington bureau chief of the Dallas Morning News. Comment by clicking here.


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