The Iowa caucuses are done and results have confirmed that the nomination races are just about as wide open as they have ever been. This being the case, it seems like now would be a good time to consider how some interested observers who will not be voting in the remaining primaries would like the races to turn out.
If I were a Republican party strategist my choices for the Democratic nominee would be:
(1) John Edwards
(2) Hillary Clinton
(3) Barack Obama
Edwards is running to the left of the Democratic party, which puts him well to the left of the average general election voter. He also made his millions suing doctors, which would be a gift for Republican speech writers in an election where health care is shaping up to be a big issue.
Hillary of course would carry all the accumulated baggage from the Clinton administration. Republican campaigners would relish the opportunity to dust off all those old files and nothing would fire up the Republican base more than the prospect of a second Clinton presidency.
By contrast, Obama has a short political record, which makes inexperience the only real angle Republicans can attack. In addition, his likable personality and the historic nature of his candidacy could potentially generate enormous crossover appeal.
If I were a Democratic party strategist my choices for the Republican nominee would be:
(1) Rudi Giuliani
(2) Fred Thompson
(3) Mike Huckabee
(4) Mitt Romney
(5) John McCain
Giuliani has an erratic and abrasive personality, is widely disliked by socially conservative Republicans, who might well stay home rather than vote for him, and has a cupboard chock full of skeletons. If there is any Republican candidate more or less guaranteed to melt down it’s Rudi Giuliani.
Thompson is a notoriously lazy actor with an unimpressive political track record. He has loser written all over him (of course there is good chance he won’t be in the race much longer).
Huckabee is beloved by evangelical christians, but doesn’t really impress anyone else. However there is some danger for Democrats in a Huckabee candidacy. He does have a very likable personality and espouses populist positions that could generate some crossover appeal.
Romney is another candidate strongly disliked by parts of the Republican base. However he has deserved reputation for competence, was a Republican governor in a Democratic state, which indicates considerable ability to appeal to independents and moderate Democrats, and he has a bucket load of cash.
McCain would be a real threat in the general election. He was a vocal critic of the Bush administration, so it is difficult to hold him responsible for it’s mistakes. Generally speaking McCain has genuine crossover appeal, a reputation for taking principled stands and a done everything resume. There is also the military record to contend with. In addition, while he might not be trusted by social conservatives, they don’t despise him in they way they do pro-choice Giuliani. The only real knock on him as a general election candidate is that he’s about 2,000 years old.