Via Kos, we get the list below of would-be Democratic Presidential candidates — those serious enough to have formed a PAC or some sort of committee to serve as a proto-campaign. To which I have taken the liberty of adding my totally subjective grades and random comments. My grades are an arbitrary amalgam of my agreement with policy positions, my utterly subjective assessment of the person’s character (in those cases where I have views), slightly modified by my view as to electability — which usually I don’t weigh heavily long before the primaries; electability gets made in substantial part by how you run for the nomination.
Of course, these grades are just for the earliest grading period. Plenty of time remains to rack up class participation and extra credit points! (Not to mention, lots of tests ahead in future marking periods.)
Bayh C. It could have been much, much higher but for last week’s vote on the modified Graham amendment [added: by which I mean the "Bingaman Amendment"; by voting against it,] Bayh voted in favor of removing meaningful access to courts for Guantanamo detainees. Not a profile in courage. While this is fresh in memory, I can’t go above a C, and even that…
Clark A-. On the whole, I like him on the issues. He ran a lousy ground campaign last time, with lots of amateur campaigning mistakes. But has shown a very impressive ability to learn from his mistakes, and is doing almost everything right this time around. (I was especially impressed by this account of Clark campaigning in the South.) And Clark is in a better position than most of the candidates on the Iraq issue. As one of the outside-the-beltway candidates has as good a chance as anyone to become the “ABC” (Anyone But Clinton) candidate.
H. Clinton C+. I like her, mostly, as a Senator. I don’t like her as a Presidential candidate, both because she polarizes unhelpfully and because I just have my doubts about her.
I do know many people who love the Hillary machine, love the idea of a woman President, love the size of the money pile being piled up, or love the idea of getting Bill Clinton near the Oval Office. It may be unfair, but I still remember Senator Clinton as the person who trusted Ira Magaziner in the health care debacle. This tends to show the sort of poor judgment of people that we can’t afford in a President (although, to be fair, Ira bamboozled a lot of smart people…). Sen. Clinton remains a supporter of the Iraq war, and has generally decided to present a hawkish persona. She gets points for running a smart campaign in NY state and for being a good constituency Senator. She loses points for hanging with all the same tired Democratic establishment figures and for not supporting Howard Dean but instead trying to find someone, anyone, to prevent him from becoming the head of the Democratic Party; not only was Dean perfect for the job, but it meant that he wouldn’t be running for President, which I think was on balance a good thing.
Likely to be one of the leading candidates in the primaries, barring some weird cratering. Right now that seems unfortunate. (Perhaps something will come along to change my mind?)
Edwards A-. Edwards ran a great campaign in the primaries, and has been through the cauldron of a general election. I’ve never met him, but everyone I know who has was between impressed and awed. And his wife sounds even better. He ran a good campaign in 2004, he says most of the right things (I could stand a bit more free trade). Two minuses: paucity of government experience, and currently out of the loop. One big recent plus: this op-ed. Tactically, Edwards faces a problem of being squeezed on all sides: by Kerry, holding some of the old gang; by Clark and Warner, trying for the ABC crown; and by Feingold on the left (although that might help keep Edwards from being defined as ‘too’ left wing).
Feingold B+. Seems like basically a good guy, but less electable than some others. Remains to be seen if his style will play nationally. (I also have some small policy differences…) If he doesn’t catch fire, he might be a good veep for an outside-the-beltway conservative.
Kerry D. He didn’t run such a great campaign in 2004 — was too cautious — although that might not be such a bad thing in a President. Ok, the grade is unfair, given that he should be President now,
having gotten more votes than the other guy, [Swift Boat, mumble, mumble] but the fact is that the country is tired of him and I’m tired of all those droning emails he keeps sending me.
Richardson (currently staffing up for his 2006 reelection). Incomplete. Right now seems like veep material at most.
Vilsack C+. Who? (Just kidding. I think.) As Governor of Iowa can claim both outside-the-beltway status and also the pole position in the caucuses. Or maybe we can just concede them to him and get on to more serious primary contests? Vilsack is the Chair of the DLC, which I used to think was a great credential, but nowadays view with much greater suspicion given that organization’s fairly lousy track record in the Bush years.
Warner B-. Warner obviously got a boost from the recent Democratic win in Virginia. Currently the hardest to grade because as governor, AFAIK, he has not had to take meaty positions on most national issues; the ones I’ve read are mostly platitudinous. Another strong contender, perhaps, for the ABC title if he defines himself better. A natural veep for lots of candidates.