(Merry Xmas, all!)
The next presidential election only takes place in November 2008, 11 months from now. Maybe you've been following every poll, every stump speech, and every attack ad for months. Or maybe you'll do yourself a favor and not tune in until January...or September.
For what it's worth, here's my super-early take on the candidates. Of course, I can--and perhaps likely will--change my views in the comings months and weeks. As it stands currently, the candidates I like right now are John McCain on the Republican side and Barack Obama on the Democratic side.
Let's break down the Republican side first, where the fact that there might be up to five candidates with double-digit percentage support makes the race interesting.
Mike Huckabee has come out of nowhere recently and might even be the G.O.P. front-runner. He's a nice guy who, refreshingly, doesn't talk like a politician, but he is too socially conservative for me. A lot is being made about his public emphasis on his faith, and there are reasonable concerns that religion could play too much of a role in his decisions, but I can't fault him if voters really dig the evangelical bit--they are entitled to do so. That said, Mike Huckabee outright denies evolution-
The views of Mitt Romney during the campaign are so markedly different than they were from his gubernatorial days, I really don't know what the guy believes. Plus, his penchant for telling little white lies to embellish his image is starting to cause real trouble for his campaign.
I had really high hopes for Rudy Guiliani when his candidacy was announced, given his administratively successful and politically moderate experience as NYC mayor. He's run far to the right during his campaign so far, and while he may revert to form during a general election, the jury's still out on him.
Fred Thompson? Hahahahaha. He was supposed to ride in on a white horse as the Second Coming of Reagan...yet I'm still amazed at how little substance he's managed to put forth since. He also has built no image, other than that his wife Jeri is smokin' hot.
Which leaves my boy Johnny Mac, who's been one of my favorite political figures for years now. For a politician, he's relatively principled. His background as a Vietnam War P.O.W. turned congressman/senator is inspiring and admirable. His straight talk and sense of humor greatly appeal to me. Despite his age, he seems quite in-touch with mainstream America and young people of my generation (TV & movie cameos, Jon Stewart appearances, etc.). Bonus points for practicality: he has a penchant for being willing to cross partisan lines. In the past few years he has opposed the Bush administration on torture, created a bipartisan group that averted a crisis over judicial nominations, and been a leading moderate voice on immigration. He has a history of trying to reform campaign finance and attacking pork spending. And he's a smart, experienced foreign policy voice who, like me, supports continued military involvement in Iraq.
On the Democratic side, the two most talked-about candidates are Hillary Clinton and Obama. Sure, John Edwards could be a spoiler if he does well in Iowa, but I'm not a huge fan. Hillary trumps Edwards on experience, Obama trumps him on likability.
I have nothing personal against Hillary at all. She's smart, seasoned, and intimately familiar with the responsibility of the White House. I think she would make a very good president. Additionally, it would be great to see a woman leading America. However, in terms of electability, there are just too many people who don't like her. When half the country says they would never vote for you, that spells trouble.
A quick break from the plausible candidates coverage: Joe Biden, despite his occasional windbag tendencies, is a senator I really like. He probably has the most foreign policy expertise out of any of our elected leaders. An ability to understand and manage international affairs is the highest priority I'm looking for in a candidate, because I think that's where the president as an individual is likely to have the most impact. (It's hard to say what domestic issues are going to spring up as the hot-button cyclical flash point, and they anyway involve Congress and the media to a heavy degree.) If Biden was from a more electorally important state than Delaware, I'd get my hopes up that he'd at least be a VP candidate, but let's not count on it.
Snap back to reality...why do I dig Barack Obama? Well there are the "he's smart, charismatic, eloquent, inspiring life story" angles that you've heard before. Plus, I really like that he's of a younger generation than the rest of the candidates. To me he represents something of a fresh start. I have no naive assumptions of him being able to "change the system", but I do think that his age and his diverse background will enable him to reach a broad segment of Americans. (That is, unless his liberal politics interfere with his ability to reach across party lines.) It would be absolutely terrific for a black man (even more so than a white woman, I think) to become president of the United States. Certainly, it would be an impressive demonstration to Americans and the world of the richness of American society that Barack Hussein Obama could be elected our leader. Bet that would throw the Muslim world for a loop, too, hehe.
....That's my thoughts, for now. (Phew!) In the mean time, here's some further reading if you're interested:
Political positions of McCain, Romney, Huckabee, Guiliani, Clinton, Obama, and Edwards. Yes, those links are to Wikipedia articles, so be sure that what you're reading has some legitimate sources. If that's too sketchy for you, check out the Washington Post's 2008 Presidential Candidates guide, with profiles, analysis, and criticism of all the contenders. You can also take a quiz to see who you might be inclined to support.