Wednesday, November 06, 2002
And for totally pointless speculation: what does '02 portend for '04?
* The existing Democratic leadership has egg all over its face. Big losers in the '04 primary race are: Daschle (goner) and Gore (everywhere he campaigned, Dems did worse). Gephardt is somewhat more likely to run now that he knows he won't be Speaker, but his chances of winning got even slimmer than they were. I think Edwards' Senate seat is going to be really vulnerable in '04; he won't want to gamble by running for President, or even VP. Particularly since he'll have no record at all to run on. Lieberman and Dodd were never terribly serious contenders (the one too conservative, the other too ridiculous), and neither are the rest of the Class of '88 retreads: Biden, Hart (!), etc. Davis just might be crazy enough to try it, but we aren't crazy enough to buy it. Who's that leave? Senator John Kerry is the last man standing.
* What about the GOP Veepstakes? No change. Odds are still on Cheney holding on, unless he croaks. If he's dropped, Bush would - as everyone knows - do well to pick Condee. If not Condee, it won't be any of the new stars of '02 - Romney, Ehrlich, Coleman, Talent, etc. - 'cause they're all too new. If it isn't Condee, it'll be some established Governor friend of Bush's. Or Ashcroft. Romney and Ehrlich are both early contenders for the '08 Veepstakes, though.
* What about the Democrat Veepstakes? Big winner is Bill Richardson - that Hispanic vote has got to come through one day! He's ambitious, malleable, apparently popular and comes from a key ethnic group. The big Democrat wins in the Midwest won't be generating heat until '08; none of them will be Veep material in '04. Edwards, as noted above, has to feel vulnerable in '04, so I'm betting he'll bow out of the Veepstakes as well. I can't think of a lot of winners for the '04 Dem Veepstakes, just losers: Shaheen, KKT, Kirk, Strickland - all these guys and gals would have been contenders if they won their races. But they lost. Sorry.
* What about '08? Jeb is of course a prime contender, and it would be a real money-saver to be able to reuse all that signage. But you know, he doesn't have to go for it yet. The guy is only 50 years old. He would do well to run for Senate and try for the White House in '12 or '16, when he'll be in his early 60s. Prime of life. I think he'll do better with a little distance from his bro, but if he runs he'll be the front-runner for sure. Anyhow, other contenders have to include Romney (though I think he's much more plausible for Veep), Condee (only if she has already been Veep, otherwise she's a Senate or Governor candidate for California), Senator Bill Frist (also more likely for Veepstakes), Ashcroft (you know he'll run, and run hard). Unfortunately, this election means Elizabeth Dole might try to run again . . . the horror, the horror. Talent's a possibility, I suppose. As for the Dems, who knows? Pryor may be gearing up by then. Bayh certainly will (he'll take a pass on '04 against the unbeatable Bush). Does this election change anything? Not really, 'cause we've got to get through '04 first, and learn the lessons of that prospective defeat.
* And who is the biggest loser of the election? Apart from those who actually lost their races, the clear answer is: John McCain. His political power is based on his ability to threaten Bush's reelection prospects. (I never actually thought he would do it, and run an Independent campaign, but he could subtly threaten to do so, and the threat made him powerful.) In the wake of such a clear victory for Bush, that threat is vastly less credible. President Bush still won't confront McCain directly; that would be stupid, and would restore some measure of the Senator's power. But he'll have to tip-toe less and less around the whole McCain problem.