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An Early Handicap of 2008

It is very difficult to make any interesting arguments about what will happen in 2008 this far out. It is impossible, for instance, to say (a) which candidates on either side will run, (b) which candidates will receive the nominations or (c) which candidate will win the general election.

It is easy, at this point, to get a sense of who is thinking about running and who is not. But that also makes it relatively uninteresting -- a quick peek at whom C-SPAN is covering on its "Road to the White House" will tell you everything you want to know.

There are a few valuable points that we can make with a higher degree of confidence. For instance, we can confidently identify a few who stand no chance at acquiring the nomination of either party. I tend to view the Republican primary as being fairly wide open, even for McCain and Giuliani (New Hampshire provides a nice x-factor for these two). The Democratic Party, however, is definitely not wide open, insofar as some of the known presidential aspirants/ponderers are aspiring/pondering in vain.

There are three potential candidates whom I think it is safe to say stand no chance. All three of these have shown, to varying degrees, an interest in running. These three are: Al Gore, John Kerry and John Edwards. None of these fellows will nab a nomination -- POTUS or V-POTUS.

There are two reasons I think this is the case:

1. As known losers, they have a real strategic disadvantage. First and foremost, they do not know how to win general elections. Second. primary opponents know what to expect from them. Thus, in a crowded field, it is likely that these three guys will manage to work their respective ways to the bottom of the barrel.

2. As known losers, it will be difficult for them to attract primary voters. The Democrats want to win in 2008; and so, in a crowded field, primary voters will move away from these three guys. They wanted a win in 2004 and picked Kerry because, for some reason I have still not quite fathomed, they thought he would beat Bush. They forced Kerry to pick Edwards because, again for some inscrutable reason, they thought he would help beat Bush. Democrats will not make the same mistake twice with these two (and, for that matter, neither can claim that he is electable) -- and Gore is risky for the same reason. Gore is perhaps more risky, as he now has a track record of making extreme utterances.

None of this is to imply that former candidates cannot become future candidates, as with Adlai Stevenson, or successful future candidates, as with Richard Nixon. I am not trying to postulate some general law of presidential dynamics. But, in a crowded field, the known loser is not the smart money.

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