A very interesting agenda at the Council of Manufacturing Associations meeting these last few days. Charlie Cook, a guy with great insight, political common sense and a near-encyclopedic mind provided some pithy commentary after dinner on Friday. He talked a bit about
the special election just held in Ohio-2 to replace Rob Portman, recently named to be US Trade Representative. The race proved unexpectedly close for the eventual Republican winner in a heavily-Republican district. Other pundits have pointed out that the Democrats wanted to beat the President’s candidate worse than the Republicans wanted to defeat the Democrat. However, Cook’s view was that this race was probably 75% about Ohio politics but that the other 25% was about national politics and is a warning to national Republicans in a way that early or out-of-cycle races can serve as a harbinger for the later elections.
As for the politics of 2008, on the Democrat side, he described it like the NCAA brackets, with Hillary Clinton in a bye (he spelled it so as not to confuse it with “Bayh”) and folks like Indiana Sen. Evan Bayh, Virginia Governor Mark Warner and others slugging it out in the other bracket for the right to challenge Hillary. He noted a recent poll of Democrats that showed Sen. Clinton the favorite of some 35%, with Bayh and Warner in at single digits. However, he pointed out that Sen. Clinton has a virtual 100% name recognition among Democrats, and she is well-known, so the 35% number, in his view, wasn’t necessarily good news for her Presidential ambitions. He guessed that Democratic voters’ biggest fear is electability, i.e., whether she can win a general election.
On the Republican side, he talked about Sen. John McCain and noted a recent National Journal poll that actually showed another Virginian, Sen. George Allen, ahead of McCain after a complex weighting of the results. He also mentioned Sen. Chuck Hagel of Nebraska as a potential contender.
Incredibly, the election of 2008 is the first time since 1928 without an incumbent President or Vice President running for President. it throws the field wide-open, in his view, and will make for some interesting times. Clearly, the election of 2008 is well under way.
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