As the Iowa Caucuses Loom, Who Will Emerge as the Democratic Nominee?

(This article authored by Chris Ingram originally appearred on December 31, 2007 on

An inside look at the Democrats running for president.

TAMPA — With less than a week to go before the first in the nation Iowa Caucuses and the New Hampshire Primary to follow just days later, it’s a fitting time to assess the Democrat field of candidates running for president. You can read my assessment of the Republican field here. As with the GOP assessment, the candidates are listed alphabetically with their greatest claim to fame, my view of his or her strengths and weaknesses, and a short analysis.

Joseph Biden, United States Senator from Delaware

Greatest claims to fame: dropped out of 1988 Democrat Presidential race after the Dukakis campaign accused him of plagiarizing a campaign speech; has the best hair-plugs in the U.S. Senate.

Greatest strength: Biden has been in the senate for six terms which is not by itself something worth bragging about, but during much of that time he has served on the Foreign Relations Committee, and he is probably the only Democrat candidate who knows the difference between Macedonia and Madagascar.

Greatest weakness: Biden has struggled to define his candidacy with the media-driven fascination with Clinton and Obama. Unfortunately for Biden, his anemic fundraising won’t provide him the opportunity to overcome this obstacle.

Analysis: Joe Biden isn’t stupid and he knows he can’t win. No doubt he is running for Secretary of State in an Obama or Clinton administration, not President of the United States.

Hillary Rodham Clinton, United States Senator from New York

Greatest claims to fame: stood by her man when he got funky in the Oval Office with a twenty-two year old White House intern; proved New Yorkers really aren’t that bright when they elected a carpet-bagging opportunist to represent them in the U.S. Senate; known for condescending attitude, polarizing demeanor, and multiple scandals. Clinton could find a cure for cancer next week and yet that is not what she would be remembered for in the history books. Furthermore, Clinton is to U.S. politics what Leona Helmsley was to the hotel business.

Greatest strength: for whatever reason, her husband Bill is still beloved by Democrat party faithful and she’s playing up that asset as much as possible; she’s a fighter but probably too much so for her own good; has a strong network of loyalists and super fundraising so she has consistently been a top-tier candidate though less deservingly so than most of the rest of the field of Democrats.

Greatest weakness: no amount of money or advice from the best political strategists and media consultants can change the fact that Hillary Clinton’s personality is about as appealing as running one’s finger-nails over an old dusty chalk board.

Analysis: in American presidential politics, likeability trumps knowledge, competence, trustworthiness, or experience, and that is why Hillary Clinton will never be President of the United States – she just isn’t likeable.

Christopher Dodd, United States Senator from Connecticut

Greatest claims to fame: Dodd has been in Congress since 1974. I worked in politics on and off Capitol Hill for ten years and follow politics rather religiously. Yet I can’t tell you anything about Dodd other than his “special interest” is banking related issues, he goes on the Sunday talk shows a lot (though he rarely makes much of an impression) and I think he once dated Bianca Jagger and the actress who played Princess Leia in the Star Wars movies. Other than that, he’s basically about as milk-toast as you can get as a member of the U.S. Senate.

Greatest strength: someday some college professor from some third-rate school in Connecticut will write some book no one will buy about the strengths and weaknesses of Senator Chris Dodd.

Greatest weakness: see above.

Analysis: just like Biden, at this point Dodd is jockeying for an appointment in the Clinton or Obama administration. Given his background, Dodd would likely seek Treasury Secretary or a seat on the Federal Reserve.

John Edwards, former United States Senator from North Carolina

Greatest claims to fame: one-term senator; 2004 Democrat VP nominee; previously made millions as a trial lawyer who successfully sued anyone he could, thus driving up all of our insurance rates — so next time you get a rate increase from State Farm, thank John Edwards; runs around the country talking about how terrible it is to be poor – but lives in a $10 million plus house and gets $400 haircuts. Listen up kiddies, today’s Word of the Day is “hypocrite.”

Greatest strength: that $400 hairdo is unflappable; has strong organization in Iowa (but nowhere else). Edwards must finish in first or a very close second place in Iowa or he is done.

Greatest weakness: anyone who pays $400 for a haircut has questionable judgment. Do you want this guy’s hands on the nuke button?

Analysis: when he wasn’t getting $400 haircuts wherever it is you go to get a $400 haircut, Edwards has been living in Iowa for the last three years. He has strong organization there, so if his people get out to caucus for him, he could spoil or at least delay the nomination of Clinton or Obama. Oh, and for the record, I cut my hair myself with a seven dollar clipper I got at the local Wal-Mart so I guess I’m an atypical voter in that I get steamed about guys who pay four Franklins for a trim.

Mike Gravel, former United States Senator from Alaska

I don’t know much about former Sen. Gravel, but I tell you what, this ol’ guy was a hoot on the stage at the debates the way he lashed out at Clinton, Edwards, and all the other career political clowns in congress now running for president. He’s right about one thing: these people (and their Republican counterparts) are the problem. What Mike is wrong about is, he isn’t the solution. Where is Ross Perot when you need him?

Dennis Kucinich, member of Congress from Ohio

Greatest claim to fame: has a hot wife.

Greatest strength: has a hot wife.

Greatest weakness: admits to once having seen a U.F.O.

Analysis: when all that people know about you is your wife is hot and you’ve seen U.F.O.s, you don’t have much of a chance at becoming elected President of the United States — at least not yet.

Barrack Obama, United States Senator from Illinois

Greatest claim to fame: endorsed by Oprah Winfrey. Okay, yeah, I agree, it’s pathetic that a presidential front-runner’s greatest claim to fame is having been endorsed by some daytime TV talk show host. But really folks, what do you know about this guy?

Greatest strength: limited legislative record as public official for Republicans to attack; excellent speaker; easy going and friendly demeanor; wholesome looking wife and kids. While this is a subjective observation, I think most people can objectively agree that since TV became a major fixture in US politics in 1960, the candidate with the better personality, the guy whom you would most want to have a beer with, or the guy you would most likely let baby-sit your kids is the guy who won the White House. That’s why this guy is the most dangerous man to the Republicans’ sights on maintaining the White House. Also, Obama personifies the “American Dream” and that has voter appeal.

Greatest weakness: limited record as public official; has almost zero foreign policy experience. But hey, W. didn’t either! Maybe we should think about this some more…

Analysis: of the twenty typical/average Republicans I have spoken with about the presidential race in the last two weeks, eighteen out of the twenty have said something like “I could live with Obama,” or, “Obama doesn’t scare me the way most Democrats do.” If Democrat Party voters are smart enough (they aren’t) to send Hillary Clinton back to being the junior senator from New York, and nominate Obama, it’s all over for the Republicans. The goons in the GOP party headquarters in Washington have absolutely no idea what to do with anyone other than Clinton, not to mention no idea how to run a successful campaign against a nice, well-educated, attractive, non-threatening black man who uses the King’s English properly. Note to the GOP: if the Dems wake up and nominate this guy, save your campaign money until 2016 because the fat lady has sung!

Bill Richardson, governor of New Mexico

Greatest claim to fame: former member of Congress; former Ambassador to the U.N.; former Secretary of Energy; five-time nominee for the Nobel Peace Prize.

Greatest strength: has done more in any two year period of his professional political life than Hillary Clinton and Barrack Obama have done in both of their lives combined.

Greatest weakness: as a friend of mine who works at the White House said, Richardson won’t get the nomination because he’s too fat. That sounds shallow, but what other reason is there, as this guy sure looks good on paper?

Analysis: being the best-rounded candidate in a field of extremely un-well-rounded candidates isn’t much to brag about. Yet if we all got our news from NPR instead of sound bites on Fox and CNN, we’d be hearing a lot more about Bill Richardson. But the situation is what it is, and Richardson will only stay in long enough to give a meaningful endorsement to whomever he thinks the ultimate winner will be (Clinton or Obama). And mark my words, Bill Richardson will be the Democrat’s V.P. nominee.

Okay, so there you have it, my assessment of all the Democrats.

Now here are my predictions for Iowa, New Hampshire, and South Carolina:

In the Democrat race, Clinton barely wins wins Iowa, with Obama on her heels and Edwards in a close third. In more meaningful New Hampshire, Obama wins with Hillary in close second and Edwards in a distant third. In the palmetto state, Obama wins big setting the stage for his nomination with Hillary in a distant second, and Edwards in third place with just single digits. Edwards quickly withdraws and endorses Obama. The Clinton campaign sends out all its big guns to crush Obama but the strategy backfires because Hillary Clinton is a real (fill in the blank) whom even Democrats can’t stand. Obama is the clear nominee by February 5th.

In the GOP race, Romney wins but just barely beats Huckabee in Iowa. In the granite state, voters who know him better than most, say “no thanks” to Romney, and instead give John McCain another victory with Huckabee finishing second, and Romney in a close third. Down in South Carolina, Huckabee squeaks by McCain for first place, with Romney in a close third again. This thing doesn’t have a front-runner until at least Jan. 29th when Florida votes and when Giuliani may emerge. But more than likely Giuliani proves you can’t forego Iowa and New Hampshire and expect to later overcome the momentum candidates who competed in earlier states gained with decent showings. We likely won’t know who the eventual nominee is for another week when twenty-three states vote on February 5th, now known as “Tsunami Tuesday.”

Hey this is fun!

Stay tuned…

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