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December 04, 2006
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 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.
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.
Out 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.