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December 04, 2006

And they're off!

The Race For 2008.

The race is definitely on. Like it or not, the starting gun has been fired on the race for the most visible elected post in the world. The Democrats have broken first, with Iowa Governor, Tom Vilsack, in danger of jumping before the gun was fired.

The Democrats

Barack ObamaThe election for George Bush’s successor takes place on November 4th 2008. A full two years early, 55-year old Vilsack sought to breathe some of the pre-mayhem oxygen by going on a five-state tour outlining his vision for America. It’s a risky strategy, but given his low profile – and, it seems, his lowly chances of winning the Democrat nomination – it’s the best way to get ahead.

While his move didn’t force the rest of the field, comments by another contender are making waves in the Democrat race. Barack Obama, held up as the anti-Bush by his supporters, suggested last month he “might” think about running. Such is his credibility, it’s forced more established names like Hillary Clinton and John Edwards to rethink when they might officially throw their hats into the ring.

Senator Evan Bayh is another hopeful. He reacted to the Obama threat by announcing an “exploratory committee” this weekend. It doesn’t sound like much, but for the serious contenders, it’s their way of proving that they’re serious.

Looking forward, it looks like there will be two themes in the Democrat primaries. One is Iraq. Obama opposed it, while others didn’t. The other is Bill. Not being married to Bill Clinton is – bizarrely – going to be a major asset in 2007-8.

The Republicans

On the other side of the ring, the Republicans are playing much more quietly. They seem to be quite happy watching the Democrats argue and aren’t worried about getting involved yet.

Rudy GiulianiOut in front are Rudy Giuliani and John McCain, but behind them are a number of people few Americans have heard of. That’s not to say it’s a sure thing that these two will make it. Both have ‘interesting’ pasts, with Giuliani fairly unpopular before two aeroplanes hit skycrapers in his city. And McCain is a political butterfly, appealing to some Democrats, but not necessarily to everyone in his own party. They’ll sit things out for a while, but it’ll be interesting to see the incumbent party start the race for 2008 as the underdog.

Perhaps the results of the midterms have made the Democrats think this is their big chance, causing them to rush out of the blocks.

What remains to be seen is whether the American public have the appetite for two years of wrangling, and whether it will damage either party to spend too many months naval-gazing.

November 19, 2006

Planning their own funeral?

Barack ObamaHaving picked up both houses of Congress, the Democrats are pondering how far they should go in creating a new law against corruption. On the one hand it’s a clever idea – a piece of legislation that Bush won’t be able to veto. But they’re also starting to appreciate that if they screw things up, they’ll get beaten over the head with the very legislation they called for.

Initial proposals, which included a ban on politicians accepting gifts from lobbyists – you mean that’s alright at the moment?! – are being debated vociferously by Democrats after their victory in the Midterms. Barack Obama, the Illinois senator who is tipped for great things, believes the strong mandate from the public means they should go even further in making U.S. politics less corrupt. But others have rejected the idea of an independent watchdog, arguing politicians – and especially nice, clean Democrat ones – can regulate themselves.

It’s a touching proposal, but ultimately nonsense. Those who oppose such measures may as well be holding up their hands and saying “Don’t do this or my hands will get burnt!” For those whose hands are a little close to the fire, there must be plenty of nervousness that in creating tough legislation to stop sleaze, they’ll end up building their own highway between Capitol Hill and a jail cell.

November 07, 2006

Tonight's midterms mean danger for Democrats

DemocratsThe United States goes to the polls today to elect a new House of Representatives and one-third of the Senate. It’s a make-or-break moment for both parties, but could yield greater dangers for the Democrats.

They’re expected to take the House of Representatives, and have an outside chance of grabbing the Senate too. But such high expectations mean that anything less will be seen as a victory for George Bush’s party. And the potential pitfalls don’t end late tonight.

If the Democrats gain the House, they’ll surely use their position – which as Adam Brookes points out isn’t that powerful – to initiate inquries into everything that took place over the last 6 years under George Bush. So we’ll see inquiries into Iraq, Afghanistan, global warming and anything else Bush has cocked up (a potentially long list).

But they risk being so righteous that they make themselves unelectable. Come 2008, with a Presidential election and a real chance to take the Senate – and the Democrats might have squandered their chances by appearing universally negative and leaving little time to invent ideas of their own.

They won’t win an election by posturing and screaming at the Republicans. They need ideas – on Iraq, Afghanistan, and of course global warming – and they need to start thinking on their feet.

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