Inside the Capitol

Tuesday, November 23, 2004

2008 Presidential Possibilities

SANTA FE Gov. Bill Richardson is mentioned occasionally by the talking heads in post-election interviews. But he has much competition in the jockeying for position in the 2008 presidential sweepstakes.
Numerous Democratic governors are getting in line. And some of them delivered their marginal states to Sen. Kerry. Speaking of John Kerry, neither he nor Sen. John Edwards is going away. Kerry will still be in the Senate and making noise. Edwards won’t, so he has to find a position that will keep him in the news.
And former Gov. Howard Dean still wants into the game. After months of seeing Kerry agree with the president on issues and being able only to say he would have done it better, many Democrats longed for the fiery Dean, who didn’t agree with the president on much of anything.
Gov. Dean is being mentioned for chairman of the Democratic National Committee, but DNC leaders say they only want someone who will stay out of the 2008 presidential race. That rules out nearly everyone at this point, including Gov. Richardson, who is mentioned fairly often. Campaigning for the post might be the best way for Big Bill to prove he really wants to remain here as governor.
Florida Gov. Jeb Bush is having the same trouble with reporters. His refrain sounds exactly like Richardson’s as he tries to convince the media that he likes his current job. Gov. Bush’s situation is even more tenuous than Richardson’s, because there aren’t very many Republicans being prominently mentioned for president yet.
That will come, as 2008 draws nearer. And since Vice President Dick Cheney says he isn’t up to a presidential run, there will be plenty of Republicans eventually jumping into the race. Right now, however, Jeb Bush and Sen. John McCain are about the only high-profile possibilities.
Either McCain or Gen. Colin Powell probably could have had the Democratic presidential nomination either this year or in 2000. Democrats are desperate enough that they will accept nearly anyone, based solely on winability. Both Powell and McCain are far too moderate for the conservative Republican groups that turn out the votes in both primary elections.
McCain has had an interesting transformation in our neighboring Arizona. Four years ago, Arizona conservatives circulated recall petitions against McCain for daring to oppose George Bush in the GOP presidential primary and for disagreeing with Bush on tax cuts. McCain couldn’t have won a race against anyone at that point.
But after 9/11, when McCain praised the president’s handling of the situation, Arizona conservatives backed off. And when McCain strongly supported the president for his war on terror and his war on Iraq, McCain held onto his Senate seat by the biggest margin ever.
But that doesn’t mean his party will reward him with a presidential nomination in 2008. He still scares them.
Gov. Richardson has been visibly irritated about President Bush’s claim of a mandate after winning by only three percentage points. Richardson notes that he won by almost 10 points and Republicans said that certainly was not a mandate.
New Mexicans can be proud of having a good turnout this year. Many poll workers around the state reported having lines at their locations for the first time, despite the high early voting numbers.
Part of the reason for the lines, however, was lack of familiarity with touch screen voting machines. The old mechanical machines were supplied with a plywood mockup so election clerks could show people how to use them before they went in the booth.
Another problem is the constitutional amendments and bond issues at the bottom of the ballot. Voters make up their minds quickly about the candidates but slow down to read the amendments and bonds. Newspapers carry that information, and often make recommendations on the editorial page. This column always discusses them too. But it’s still a bottleneck every year.


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