|John Kenneth White , professor, politics, was interviewed for an International Herald Tribune (Paris, France) article about the 2008 presidential primary elections. See his comments in the story below.|
From: International Herald Tribune Date: Oct. 11, 2007 Author: Brian Knowlton Will it all be over by February?
This U.S. presidential nominating season is not like any before, not just because huge fields on both sides have raised more money than ever, but because of the scramble by several states to schedule primary contests earlier than ever in a bid for greater influence. There will be six contests in January, starting with the Iowa caucuses on Jan. 14 (unless Iowa moves that even earlier). Then there will be 21 contests on Feb. 5, making the summertime party conventions all the more irrelevant.
Brian Knowlton separately interviewed three political scientists about what all this means: Larry Sabato, founder of the Center for Politics at the University of Virginia; John White, a specialist in elections and the presidency at Catholic University in Washington; and Thomas Mann, senior fellow in governance studies at the Brookings Institution in Washington.
Whom does this accelerated schedule help, and how soon should the outcome become clear?
Sabato: "It's truly unpredictable because we've never had this schedule before. Maybe the schedule won't matter at all in the choice of nominees - that is, the front-runners [Senator Hillary Clinton and Rudolph Giuliani] will just run the tables. Or maybe Iowa and one or more early contests will trip the front-runners up, leading to their rapid meltdown as the contests cascade like a waterfall with no chance for recovery. That's what Obama, Edwards, Romney and the others are counting on."
White: "This helps Clinton, the candidate of national standing."
Mann: "If Clinton wins Iowa and New Hampshire, she is the certain nominee. If Obama or Edwards pulls a surprise victory in Iowa, the contest will likely be determined on Feb. 5. The Republican contest is more unsettled."
Is Senator Clinton a shoo-in? Who might stop her, and how?
Sabato: "No question, you'd put your early money on Hillary. The Clinton campaign has tried to sell everyone on her inevitability, and the polls, fund-raising and media coverage have been fully cooperating. Yet there is no such thing as inevitability in politics. If she falls, Obama is most likely to pick up the pieces, with Edwards and Richardson having some measurable shot, too."
Mann: "Obama remains a serious contender, but he needs an early victory."
If Clinton does win the nomination, could Obama be her running mate?
Mann: "Adding race to gender on the ticket would pose an unnecessary risk to the Democrats. She is likely to pick a moderate governor or former governor such as Tom Vilsack of Iowa or Evan Bayh of Indiana."
Sabato: "If Obama is a close second, Hillary might have to offer him the second spot to reunify the Democrats. Otherwise, it's unlikely. Clinton and Obama have developed a private dislike for one another. Moreover, Obama's Illinois is guaranteed to go Democratic, and Hillary has the black vote in her pocket for November 2008, thanks to Bill (once called 'the first black president') Clinton."
Which Republican has the best chance to stop the front-running Giuliani? How?
Mann: "Mitt Romney, the former Massachusetts governor, probably has the best chance of derailing Giuliani. Victories in Iowa and New Hampshire would give him a tremendous boost. Giuliani has many weaknesses as a candidate: his positions on social issues, his sketchy personal life, his controversial record as mayor of New York before and after 9/11, his volatile and Manichaean personality, and his similarities with George W. Bush. Most voters are unaware of these vulnerabilities, but that will change as the campaign intensifies."
Sabato: "Republicans are terrified of and appalled by Clinton, and they want someone who can stop her - even though they'll have to compromise on social issues like abortion. The Christian Republican activists will not accept Rudy Giuliani, and their threat to form a third party may cause other Republicans to question Rudy's electability."
What other Republicans stand a chance?
Mann: "Fred Thompson, the former Tennessee senator, remains a possibility, given the weakness of the field, but he is off to a weak start. John McCain has an outside chance of resurrecting his candidacy. Mike Huckabee lacks the financial resources to compete; he is a more likely running mate."
Sabato: "Thompson is doing well enough in the polls in many places that he cannot be counted out yet, despite his slow start and poor fund-raising. Huckabee is a long shot, having raised a pittance; he might be considered for VP. McCain is in the midst of another comeback in New Hampshire, yet it's hard to see how he rises from the dead with little money and organization - and so many enemies inside the party."
Is a third-party challenge a realistic possibility?
White: "There is a lot of room for a third party. My belief is that the two-party nominees will be selected early. If so, there may be a period of buyers' remorse that can help a third-party candidate - witness Ross Perot in 1992."
Will Iraq remain a core issue? What else?
Mann: "Iraq will remain the dominant issue even with the start of the drawdown of American combat troops and the limited options facing the next president. Americans view Iraq as a huge failure and will likely punish Republicans for it. Economic insecurity, especially as manifest in concerns about affordable access to health care, will also be key. Finally, concerns about incompetence and scandal will hurt Republicans in 2008, as they did in 2006."
Sabato: "This is guaranteed. However, the Republicans can lower it on the campaign agenda if somehow they can convince Bush to withdraw more troops than he currently plans before November 2008. He's stubborn, so it won't be easy. There's also a real chance the GOP nominee will have to break with Bush on Iraq, much as Hubert Humphrey broke with LBJ on Vietnam in October 1968. That almost elected Humphrey."
Democrats have big leads in money and polls against a seemingly down and disorganized Republican Party. Could they blow it?
Sabato: "Democrats have lots of practice snatching defeat from the jaws of victory. But the Republicans will have to thread the eye of the needle to win, and Congress is almost guaranteed now to be Democratic in both houses with larger margins."
Mann: "If Clinton is the nominee, she is likely to run a savvy and aggressive campaign. Obama is more untested, but he is a gifted and inspirational politician. I don't see the Democrats falling prey again to the mistakes of Dukakis and Kerry."
White: "Anyone could blow it. Ask Tom Dewey," the Republican whose 1948 victory over President Harry Truman was widely - and wrongly - predicted.