What a way to run a democracy!
OK, about that democracy part... there's a small problem. Yes, we like to call this every-four-year event an "exercise in democracy," but it turns out that you -- yes, you, residents of Washington and Idaho -- won't really have much of a say. OK, you won't have any say, actually. You see, somehow, we've turned over the ability to choose our nominees to the states of Iowa and New Hampshire -- the first two states to vote. (I still don't know what makes them so special.)
So if a candidate runs the table and goes two-for-two right out the gate (and especially if they win one of the next states, like South Carolina or Nevada), the media will want to crown a winner and subsequent states will fall in line. Then we can all get back to more important things, like watching American Idol.
Yeah, it's really not fair, but so what if we're not invited to this party? We can still enjoy it while it lasts on MSNBC every night, and that's where this section comes in. With Iowa coming on fast, it's time to start paying attention, folks. Step one is to get to know these candidates -- all 17 of them. Consider the following pages as a kind of Racing Form, offering you insights as to which horses can run through mud better than the rest.
And it should be a heck of a race -- the first without an incumbent president or vice president standing for reelection since 1952. And as if at a restaurant pondering the extensive menu, polls suggest that members of neither party can seem to choose. The clear favorites of last summer -- Rudy, Hillary -- seem human again, while the underdogs -- Huckabee, anybody not named Hillary -- are catching up quickly. Yep, this one is wide open.
And it's an election that will determine more than just who becomes the next president; it will set the direction of our two major parties for the next generation. After seven years of George W. Bush, nobody is quite sure where they stand anymore. Both parties are trying, all over again, to decide what they want to be when they grow up. Who they pick as a standard bearer will cement that vision.
Despite the unfair advantage given to Iowa and New Hampshire, you may get a shot at democracy after all. It looks like there's a pretty good chance that decisions won't be made by the time we vote around here. (Washington votes on Feb. 19, while Idaho's Democrats vote on Feb. 5; sorry Idaho Republicans, you have to wait until May 27, when it's sure to be academic.)
In fact, with so many candidates and so much uncertainty over who to choose, the outcome could still be muddled up until Super Tuesday on Feb. 5, when 22 states vote, including New York and California. In fact, it could be in play until March 4, when Texas and its last big batch of votes are tallied. In a mad scrum for votes, maybe a few candidates will even come to grace us here in the Inland Northwest with their photo opportunities!
So it should be fun, educational and dramatic -- after all, if we screw this one up, we may need to actually rethink the way we exercise this thing we call democracy.
-- Ted S. McGregor Jr.
It's About the Money
& lt;span class= & quot;dropcap & quot; & I & lt;/span & t's been a very good fundraising year for Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney. The former Massachusetts governor had raised nearly $63 million as of Sept. 30, putting him well ahead of the other GOP candidates. Romney had raised more than $44 million from individual contributors -- slightly less than Rudy Giuliani in second place. Romney gets his edge from his own contributions to the campaign -- about $17.4 million.
But Romney's a piker compared to Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama. As of the same date, Clinton had collected nearly $91 million, Obama $80 million.
With fourth quarter contributions yet to be reported and all of 2008 to go, this will undoubtedly go down as the most expensive presidential campaign in U.S. history.
-- Joel Smith
In The Doghouse
Two heavyweight states, sick of second-rate status behind Iowa and New Hampshire, pushed their primaries up to get into the action. And now Michigan, which will hold its primary on Jan. 15, and Florida, which votes on Jan. 29, have been slapped by the Democratic Party for violating the apparently sacred primary schedule. The party voted earlier this month to strip all delegates from the states, and candidates have not campaigned there -- most have even had their names removed from the Michigan ballot to show their love to Iowa and New Hampshire. That's right, if you are a Democrat in Florida or Michigan, your vote will not count.
But those states will be pivotal for Republicans in the first month. Mitt Romney is hoping for a strong showing in Michigan, where he grew up and his father was governor. And Rudy Giuliani is banking that a big win in Florida will make up for a potentially slow start. The ultimate Democratic nominee can reinstate the Michigan and Florida delegates, so they will likely be at the convention despite the reprimand. But the wild card is how much the media will report on the incomplete results, even though they won't count, and whether that will factor into the all-important horse race storyline.
-- Ted S. McGregor Jr.
Hoping to Get Noticed
& lt;span class= & quot;dropcap & quot; & A & lt;/span & t last count, 22 states are squeezing into the little square that marks Feb. 5 on the 2008 election calendar. It's being called the uber-super-duper-mega-monster-Tuesday-mash presidential primary.
Or something like that.
Republicans and Democrats in Washington are thrilled -- in their stylish Left Coast way -- to be hosting apr & egrave;s uber-Tuesday events: the Democratic and Republican caucuses on Feb. 9 and the GOP primary Feb. 19. (The Republicans will split their delegates from the results of both the caucus and the primary; Democrats will only hold a caucus.)
"On the Republican side, we are positioned very, very well," says state GOP chairman Luke Esser. "I don't believe we are going to know at midnight on February 5th who the Republican nominee is. On February 19th, I think there is a great chance of getting attention and having good position to have influence on who the nominee will be."
The Washington Democrats are singing the same song.
"We definitely feel Washington gets to be an important state in the process," says Michael King, communications director for the state Democratic Party. "By being on February 9th, we are in a situation where if we walk out of February 5th and there is no nominee, we feel all eyes will turn to Washington."
Koo koo ka-choo.
Washington Democratic Party chairman Dwight Pelz, in a posting on the party Website, compares the process to the World Series and writes, "I don't think any candidate will sweep the first four games [Iowa, New Hampshire, Nevada and South Carolina] ... After Super Tuesday, I believe Clinton, Obama and Edwards will still be in the race and on the plane the next day to Seattle!"
In this bizarre election year with 17 major party candidates -- many having already campaigned for a year -- there has been ferocious brawling among the 50 states to crowd the front end of the presidential primary calendar.
"Everybody wants to be first," says the Washington GOP's Esser. "It's an unfortunate situation. I hope a lot of people will be dissatisfied and we do something that makes more sense next time around."
The state party, he says, "was able to make lemonade out of it by picking the 19th and avoiding the stampede."
Washington's Republicans have moved up by about a month but decided not to join the Super Tuesday crush, fearing its delegates would be lost in the shuffle.
Feb. 19 puts Washington as the main player on that date with Wisconsin and Hawaii. "These are states we can compete with," Esser says. "I think there is a good chance the candidates will [visit Washington] the week between the 12th and the 19th. We are set up to get attention."
Idaho Democrats get so little attention that just being squeezed in with 21 other states on Feb. 5 feels giddy and electric. Candidates such as John Edwards and Dennis Kucinich have promised to visit Famous Potato land, only to cancel at the last minute. But that's better than getting no phone calls at all, says Idaho Democratic Party spokesman Chuck Oxley, who notes that Barack Obama has opened an office in Boise.
Idaho Republican leaders could not be reached, but one GOP official in North Idaho, requesting anonymity because he was not authorized to speak about the state's May 27 primary, says, "Idaho is a foregone conclusion that it will go Republican and we won't get a visit."
Unlike the last couple decades, however, the official cited the wide-open primary. "There are strong candidates all with strong backers -- Romney, Giuliani, even Ron Paul. This could go the distance."
Even though the Idaho Republicans are nearly the last to have a primary before the GOP convention, they may still be a factor.
Hey hey hey.
DATES 'n STATES
JANUARY 3 -- Iowa
JANUARY 5 -- Wyoming (R)
JANUARY 8 -- New Hampshire
JANUARY 15 -- Michigan
JANUARY 19 -- Nevada, South Carolina (R)
JANUARY 26 -- South Carolina (D)
JANUARY 29 -- Florida
FEBRUARY 1 -- Maine (R)
SUPER TUESDAY (FEBRUARY 5) -- Alabama, Alaska, Arizona, Arkansas, California, Colorado, Connecticut, Delaware, Georgia, Idaho (D), Illinois, Kansas (D), Massachusetts, Minnesota, Missouri, New Jersey, New Mexico (D), New York, North Dakota, Oklahoma, Tennessee, Utah
FEBRUARY 9 -- Louisiana, Kansas (R), Washington
FEBRUARY 10 -- Maine (D)
FEBRUARY 12 -- DC, Maryland, Virginia
FEBRUARY 19 -- Hawaii (D), Washington (R), Wisconsin
MARCH 4 -- Ohio, Rhode Island, Texas, Vermont
MARCH 8 -- Wyoming (D)
MARCH 11 -- Mississippi
APRIL 22 -- Pennsylvania
MAY 6 -- Indiana, North Carolina
MAY 13 -- Nebraska, West Virginia
MAY 20 -- Kentucky, Oregon
MAY 27 -- Idaho (R)
JUNE 3 -- Montana, New Mexico (R), South Dakota
(SOURCE: National Association of Secretaries of State)
Meet the Candidates
Get to know the 17 Democrats and Republicans who want to move into the White House. We've listed them here, alphabetically, giving equal space to each candidate, no matter how sure a thing or long a shot they may be.
HOMETOWN New Castle County, Delaware
RESUME City council, followed by election to the U.S. Senate in 1972, at age 29. He now chairs the Foreign Relations Committee and Judiciary Subcommittee on Crime and Drugs.
STRONG SUIT Foreign policy. Biden -- who's been dealing with Iran and China and Russia since Barack Obama was just some teenager smoking weed in Hawaii -- owned the NPR Democratic debate when it came to foreign policy. In an election that will likely be dominated by the war on terror, Biden is probably the Democrat with the most experience and knowledge on the subject.
ACHILLES' HEEL Long-winded. In a 2002 survey that judged Hill dwellers on their merits as talk show guests, Electronic Media dubbed Biden "most in love with the sound of [his] own voice." Also, does being Catholic still count for minus points these days?
WHO'LL PLAY HIM IN THE MADE-FOR-TV MOVIE Former major league catcher, beer pitchman and current Milwaukee Brewers announcer Bob Uecker, in a rare serious role.
ON THE ISSUES
War on Terror Prevention, in the form of diplomacy and economic pressure, is the best approach. Biden says warring with Iran would be "a disaster" and vows to call for impeachment if Bush goes to war without congressional approval. His plan for Iraq proposes a federal government -- with individual states for Shiites, Sunnis and Kurds -- and aims to bring American troops home without leaving chaos behind.
Health Care Biden would provide universal coverage for kids, allow adults to buy in to federal employees' level coverage, and reform insurance screening practices.
The Economy "Put a stop to Bush's war on labor," he says, by protecting worker rights, retirement and health care; and create "green collar" jobs. He wants to cut deficit spending, fight Social Security privatization and repeal oil company tax breaks.
The Environment He wants to get America back to the table on global climate negotiations, use U.S. leverage to bring China and India in line, reduce greenhouse gas emissions to 80 percent below 1990 levels with a cap-and-trade system, increase fuel economy and use of renewable energy, provide debt relief to developing nations in exchange for protecting tropical rainforests.
"Values" Biden would end "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" and discrimination based on sexual orientation (by letting states decide how to recognize civil unions and marriage). He supports a ban on partial-birth and late-term abortions and wouldn't publicly fund other abortions. He supports Roe v. Wade but says "I am prepared to accept my [Catholic] church's view" that life begins at conception. Biden voted to expand stem cell research.
DID YOU KNOW? Since his wife and infant daughter died in a car crash in 1972 (shortly after he first entered the Senate), Biden has taken Amtrak to and from work -- a 110-mile trip from Washington to Wilmington. Also, he's been known to recite poetry on the Senate floor -- a tendency he picked up while trying to overcome stuttering as a child.
CELEBRITY ENDORSEMENT None yet
TELLING AD "Joe Is Right," a Daily Show-esque video splice-job of all the major Democratic candidates, one after another, giving Biden props during a debate in Nevada. Set to Randy Newman's "You've Got a Friend in Me."
-- Joel Smith
HOMETOWN Chicago and suburban Park Ridge, Ill. Now lives in Chappaqua, N.Y.
RESUME Clinton was elected junior senator from New York after leaving the White House in 2000; she handily won a second term in 2006. She showed early political bent in canvassing the South Side of Chicago at age 13 in 1960 and volunteering for Barry Goldwater in 1964 while still in high school. Her evolving views on civil rights and Vietnam War led her to leave the GOP. She's considered the most empowered First Lady in history along with Eleanor Roosevelt.
STRONG SUIT Bill. He gets her the black and Southern votes and reminds everyone that she was actively involved in running the country for eight years. She's the first First Lady to have a post-graduate degree; first First Lady to have an office in the West Wing; the most traveled First Lady, having visited 80 countries.
ACHILLES' HEEL Bill. Scandals and impeachment during his administration bring bad mojo and right-wing lightning.
WHO'LL PLAY HER IN THE MADE-FOR-TV MOVIE Meryl Streep, an actress with the chops to grab an old-boy club by the throat and ask, "Glass ceiling? What glass ceiling?"
ON THE ISSUES
War on Terror Fairly conservative, advocates peace through strength, but diplomacy is important. Prime goal in GWOT is to keep nukes/WMDs away from Iran and al-Qaeda. Supports Israel, condemns Hamas; has plan to push public education in developing countries.
Health Care Citizens to be offered the same health plans Congress gets. Tax credits to help families and small businesses participate, insurers prohibited from discriminating, people can keep coverage they are happy with and choose their own doctors. She'll pay for it by revoking Bush tax cuts to the super-wealthy.
Economy Help the middle class through tax cuts, affordable college and health care. Strengthen unions and have a trade policy that brings jobs back. She says Bush tax cuts for the rich, union-busting and trade policies have created worst income imbalance since 1929. Critics say Karl Marx could have written her platform.
DID YOU KNOW? Hillary Rodham was the first student to ever give a commencement address at Wellesley. Her speech drew a seven-minute standing O. She worked her way across Alaska that summer (1969), washing dishes at a national park and sliming salmon at a cannery in Valdez, which fired her and shut down overnight after she complained about unhealthy conditions. From 1978 until they entered the White House, she made more money than Bill.
CELEBRITY ENDORSEMENTS She has a ton, ranging from Stronk Vimmin! like Barbra Streisand, Melissa Etheridge, Candice Bergen, Erica Jong, Rosie O'Donnell, and Sensitive New Age Men such as Michael Douglas, Jerry Springer, Quincy Jones ... all the way to the unusual, such as porn virtuoso Jenna Jameson, 50 Cent and several leaders of Hamas.
TELLING AD There's a lot of good humor in her ads. Notably the spoof of The Sopranos finale, in which Bill doesn't get onion rings, and "Caucusing Is Easy," in which Bill is chasing a double-bacon cheeseburger on a treadmill and Hillary can't sing. These are hard, the ad says. But caucusing is easy.
HOMETOWN Willimantic, Conn.
RESUME Served in the Peace Corps, then the Army National Guard. Earned his undergraduate degree at Providence College, then won his law degree at the University of Louisville. Was in private practice for two years before being elected to the House of Representatives in 1974. In 1980, he was elected to the U.S. Senate, where he has served ever since, including 26 years on the Foreign Relations Committee.
STRONG SUIT Family issues: Dodd sponsored and pushed through the Family and Medical Leave Act (it took seven years) and has worked on numerous pieces of legislation related to families, from autism research funding to Head Start.
ACHILLES' HEEL He has no airs: Hillary has the air of inevitability, Obama has the air of celebrity and Edwards has the air of the everyman. Meanwhile, Dodd hasn't staked out any kind of brand. His fatal flaw may be that despite his qualifications, he is easily lost in the crowd of candidates.
WHO'LL PLAY HIM IN THE MADE-FOR-TV MOVIE Steve Martin. White hair, black eyebrows, really funny. OK, at least the first two are a match, and that'll have to be good enough.
ON THE ISSUES
War on Terror Dodd has called for the removal of all combat troops from Iraq within 10 months. He would follow that up with what he calls an "era of bold engagement" on the diplomatic front, teaming with allies to continue to prevent terrorism.
Health Care Dodd, like the rest of the Democrats, advocates a universal health care system. He wants to model the plan on the one used by federal employees, but it would include private insurance in the mix -- something both Democrats and Republicans could get behind. Again like the rest of the Democrats, he's thin on details.
Economy Dodd wants to broker better relations between unions and corporations, reinvigorate rural America (that's got to play well in Iowa) and have a do-over on the draconian bankruptcy reform (he calls it "reform") passed a few years ago.
National Service Dodd was so moved by John F. Kennedy that he enlisted in the Peace Corps. Now he wants to champion a heightened commitment to national service, even making community service a requirement to graduate from high school. He'd also dramatically expand the Peace Corps and Americorps programs.
DID YOU KNOW? Dodd's dad, Thomas, was also a Senator and served as one the United States' lead attorneys at the Nuremberg Trials, where Nazi war criminals were tried. (You can read all about it in Dodd's book, Letters From Nuremberg.) Dodd's wife Jackie is, like Mitt Romney, a Mormon. And Dodd was born one day before Rudy Giuliani.
CELEBRITY ENDORSEMENTS Paul Simon, Lorne Michaels
TELLING AD Dodd has a series of three ads that feature a couple of regular barbers -- so genuine, one even wears a bow tie. They talk a lot about the common sense of bringing Republicans and Democrats together, and conclude with "Why not Dodd?!" Then, at the end of one spot, Dodd walks in and asks, "So, how much are these haircuts?" Nice dig at John Edwards and his now-famous $400 'do.
-- Ted S. McGregor Jr.
HOMETOWN Chapel Hill, N.C.
RESUME Practiced law for 20 years in North Carolina; served one term in the U.S. Senate (1999-2005); was John Kerry's running mate in 2004
STRONG SUIT Edwards is handsome and articulate and has had four years to carve out a niche as his party's populist candidate.
ACHILLES' HEEL His background as a trial lawyer -- a vocation that's highly unpopular with many Americans. And why? Because good trial lawyers are good at making emotional pleas to juries and winning big settlements. Insurance and medical industry critics say those multi-million-dollar settlements are a big reason why health care costs -- and subsequently, insurance premiums -- have increased far faster than inflation during the last several years.
WHO'LL PLAY HIM IN THE MADE-FOR-TV MOVIE Tom Hanks
ON THE ISSUES
War on Terror Edwards is pushing a multinational approach through a new organization: the Counterterrorism and Intelligence Treaty Organization (CITO). "CITO will focus on high-level political and diplomatic engagement between a wide range of nation partners on all dimensions of the problem of terrorism," according to Edwards' Website.
Health Care Edwards promises universal health care. He would require businesses to provide insurance for their employees or help them pay for coverage. He proposes to give families and small businesses tax credits to help them buy insurance. And he would expand funding for Medicaid and children's health insurance programs administered by the states.
The Economy Edwards' populist campaign is aimed at helping low- and middle-income families. He proposes raising the minimum wage to $9.50 by 2012, tripling the Earned Income Tax Credit for adults without children and creating Work Bonds -- a new tax credit of up to $500 -- to help families save and invest money.
Standing Up to "The Man" Edwards won multi-million-dollar judgments for his clients as a trial attorney and he promises to play a similar role as president. He vows to take on predatory lenders. He also promises to merge what he calls "the two Americas." In his "Plan to Build One America," he vows to repeal Bush Administration tax cuts and close tax loopholes that he believes favor the rich.
DID YOU KNOW? Even though Edwards is portraying himself as the champion of the little guy, he is not one of them. According to sfgate.com, Edwards made $285,000 for nine university speaking engagements in 2006 -- before he declared his candidacy -- including $55,000 at Cal-Davis and $12,000 at a Gonzaga Law School lecture in Seattle.
CELEBRITY ENDORSEMENTS Singers Jackson Browne, John Mellencamp and Bonnie Raitt
TELLING AD "Rigged," a YouTube ad in which Edwards tells a crowd that voting Democrats into power isn't necessarily a good thing. "Do you really believe if we replace a crowd of corporate Republicans with a crowd of corporate Democrats that anything meaningful's going to change? This has to stop."
-- Doug Nadvornick
HOMETOWN Born in Massachusetts, lived in Alaska, now resides in Arlington, Va.
RESUME After a stint in the Army, Gravel graduated from Columbia University. In Alaska, he was elected to the state house in 1962; in 1968, he won a seat in the U.S. Senate. Gravel served until 1980, and his subsequent career as a developer and political activist ended with his filing for bankruptcy protection in 2004.
STRONG SUIT He's the underdog. Nobody expects anything, so he's under no pressure to play by the rules. So his truth-telling gives him that only-grown-up-in-the-room stature -- as when he says Congress today isn't in the business of solving problems, rather it's in the business of getting reelected.
ACHILLES' HEEL He's the underdog. And in this, the first billion-dollar campaign, being the underdog is a fatal condition -- so really it's more like an Achilles leg or torso. Still, if his only goal is to inject some different perspectives into the debate, he may be unbeatable. And that's why more and more organizations are figuring out ways to leave him off the debate stage as the campaign rolls on.
WHO'LL PLAY HIM IN THE MADE-FOR-TV MOVIE Christopher Walken. Like Gravel, Walken has that blend of creepy and funny.
ON THE ISSUES
War on Terror Gravel would pull troops out of Iraq within 120 days followed by an aggressive diplomacy campaign. And Gravel was on the record prior to the invasion saying there were no WMDs in Iraq. He says the war on terror is a fabrication, adding that we'll be as successful in fighting terrorism as we have been fighting drugs.
Health Care Gravel supports universal health care, and as only an underdog can, he plans to pay for it with a retail sales tax.
Economy Gravel's biggest economic initiative is to scrap the IRS and create a Progressive Tax, or FairTax -- a national sales tax on new goods and services. FairTax is an initiative pushed by Americans for Fair Taxation, and some Republicans have also expressed support for it.
Gay Rights Gravel, along with Dennis Kucinich, is the most outspoken supporter of GLBT rights in the race. He supports same-sex marriage and opposes the Defense of Marriage Act.
DID YOU KNOW? As a student at Columbia, Gravel drove a New York City cab to help pay his way through school. In 1956, he moved to Alaska, penniless, because he thought it would be a good place to launch a political career. And in 1971, Sen. Mike Gravel entered 4,100 pages of secret documents -- the so-called Pentagon Papers that told a starkly different story of the Vietnam War -- into the Congressional Record.
CELEBRITY ENDORSEMENTS Being from Alaska doesn't help in the hunt for celebrity endorsements. Come to think of it, is there even anyone famous from Alaska? Oh yeah, Jewel -- she'd be good.
BEST AD On YouTube's "Two Mikes," Gravel goes existential, interviewing himself about why he's running for president. "Candidates today can't tell you their favorite ice cream without a focus group," Mike tells Mike. Still, like Ron Paul, you can't help but agree with his wisdom when he tells himself, "It's time for a little healthy outrage."
-- Ted S. McGregor Jr.
HOMETOWN Cleveland, Ohio
RESUME Elected mayor of Cleveland in 1977, at 31 -- at the time, the youngest person ever to be mayor of a major American city. Currently Ohio's 10th District Representative, having first won in 1996; he's since survived five re-elections. He ran unsuccessfully for president in 2004.
STRONG SUIT The most resolute and progressive candidate: With the exception of his stance on abortion (which he changed), he has remained steadfast on most issues, including opposition to all phases of the war in Iraq. Quick-witted and likeable.
ACHILLES' HEEL His kookiness (he claims to have seen a UFO) makes his fairly practical progressive stances seem crazy.
WHO'LL PLAY HIM IN THE MADE-FOR-TV MOVIE Bob, the former Quizno's spokes-baby
ON THE ISSUES
War on Terror Has been a vocal opponent of the Iraq invasion since the beginning. Opposed the Patriot Act, which he called "destructive." In June, he said, "the global war on terror has been a pretext for aggressive war," and he has repeatedly stated that a major reason we should leave Iraq is because our presence in the region is encouraging terror.
Health Care "I'm for a national health care plan ... We're already paying for it. We spend $2.2 trillion on health spending, but $600 billion of it goes for the activities of the for-profit system each year. I'm talking about taking that money, putting it to care for people ... It would cost the same amount we're spending now, except that all the money goes into the system."
The Economy At an Iowa forum in 2004: "The solution is get out of Iraq, cut the bloated Pentagon budget by 15 percent, and stop the tax cuts that are going to the wealthy." Also: "As president, I will create a full-employment economy by sponsoring a WPA-type program, which will rebuild America's cities and rural communities, new bridges, water systems, sewer systems, new energy systems -- and put millions of people back to work."
"Values" Moved from pro-life to pro-choice in 2002, saying he'd always wanted to limit the need for abortion by giving women access to proper birth control and education, but given the lack of both of those things in much of the nation, and what he sees as Congress' steady attack on the right to choose, he began to see a pro-choice stance as the only way to guarantee rights and reproductive health for women. He believes that the right to marry is essential for the true equality of the GLBT community.
DID YOU KNOW? The top three Google searches for Kucinich are, in order: "Dennis Kucinich Wife," "Dennis Kucinich's Wife," and "Dennis Kucinich's Hot Wife." Elizabeth Kucinich -- a 6-foot-tall, 28-year-old Brit -- has a master's degree in International Conflict Analysis. Hot on so many levels.
CELEBRITY ENDORSEMENTS Sean Penn loves the guy. So does Willie Nelson.
TELLING AD A user-generated YouTube mashup of the Nov. 15 CNN Democratic debate that has Wolf Blitzer repeatedly saying that everyone will get a chance but then only directing questions to Obama, Clinton and Edwards. A not-so-subtle jab at the "corporate-controlled" media.
-- Luke Baumgarten
HOMETOWN Honolulu, New York, Chicago
RESUME Community organizer; civil rights lawyer; law school teacher; Illinois state Senator; U.S. Senator (elected 2004)
STRONG SUIT His not-so-secret weapon is Oprah Winfrey, whose support has mobilized her fans and given the Obama campaign new life at a time when it really needed it.
ACHILLES' HEEL Inexperience. No one doubts Obama has the charisma and good looks to get himself elected -- some day. But they doubt he has the experience -- especially in foreign policy -- to make the right decisions. Obama counters by saying he does have the requisite life experience to be a good president. Oh, and by the way, governors Jimmy Carter, Bill Clinton and George W. Bush didn't exactly have a lot of foreign policy either, and they were elected.
ON THE ISSUES
War on Terror Obama says, immediately after his swearing-in, he would begin withdrawing combat troops, one or two brigades a month. He would also ask Iraq's leaders to convene a conference to write a new constitution acceptable to all groups, and he would start diplomatic talks with all the countries in the region. Obama proposes to add more than 90,000 troops to the Army and Marines. And he says he'll work with other nations to find safe homes for nuclear material that could be used for weapons.
Health Care Obama says his goal is to make sure everyone has access to affordable health insurance. For those who can't access insurance through work, he would create a national health care plan similar to the health package available to federal employees. Obama would also create a "National Health Insurance Exchange," a kind of Consumer Reports-type organization that would provide information about private policies, help consumers research and pick what's best for them. Obama would also require parents to provide care for their children and encourage companies to create more options for young adults who often aren't covered now.
The Economy Obama focuses on programs that help working-class people. He proposes to expand the federal Earned Income Tax Credit, lower the income threshold for the Child Tax Credit and raise the federal minimum wage. He would also expand job training and career education programs, fund transitional job programs, improve programs for men and women leaving jails and prisons and fund business incubators in poor communities.
"Cleaning up Washington" Obama has worked during his time in the U.S. Senate on bills that aim to reduce the influence of lobbyists. Among his accomplishments: a full ban on gifts and meals from lobbyists and an end to subsidized travel on corporate jets. Obama says he wants officials to more diligently enforce congressional ethics rules.
DID YOU KNOW? Obama won a Grammy Award in 2006 -- Best Spoken Word Album for the audio-book edition of Dreams from My Father. Two former Presidents, Bill Clinton and Jimmy Carter, were also finalists.
CELEBRITY ENDORSEMENTS Oprah Winfrey
TELLING AD "Our Moment Is Now" features Obama giving an inspirational, goose bump-raising type of speech, like the one at the 2004 Democratic National Convention that put him on the national map.
-- Doug Nadvornick
HOMETOWN Born in Pasadena, Calif., was raised in Mexico City and Boston, and has lived in Santa Fe, N.M., since 1978.
RESUME Current governor of New Mexico. Fourteen years in Congress. Ambassador to the U.N. (1997-98) and Secretary of Energy (1998-2001) under Bill Clinton. Four-time Nobel Peace Prize nominee. Negotiated the release of two American workers with Saddam Hussein in 1995.
STRONG SUIT An extremely broad resume. The support of a lot of antiwar activists. Real-life experience with immigration in New Mexico. Strong environmental record. His multiculturalism could also be a plus. His mother was Mexican and he's been an active supporter of Latino and Indian rights.
ACHILLES' HEEL Richardson exudes an everyman air, but he's not terribly charismatic. And he needs work packaging his messages. At a recent debate he said, flat-out, that human rights were more important than national security. Not that they need to be balanced. Not that they rely on each other. Just that human rights were more important. Apparently he didn't inherit any of the other Bill's savoir faire.
WHO'LL PLAY HIM IN THE MADE-FOR-TV MOVIE He looks like Harry Belafonte, but Belafonte's an Edwards man. So maybe Javier Bardem, with a few extra pounds.
ON THE ISSUES
War on Terror Richardson's "one-point" plan for the Iraq war: "End it." He says he's the only major Democrat candidate proposing to pull every single soldier out of the country. Also, repair alliances. Renew America's commitment to, you know, international law. Wean the country off of foreign oil. Use "tough, patient diplomacy" to secure nukes in Pakistan and the former Soviet Union. He also aims to "modernize" the military and the Pentagon.
Health Care Cover every American, letting them buy into the same insurance offered to federal employees. Let the 55+ crowd buy into Medicare. Make prescription drugs affordable. Give vets a "Heroes Health Card" that gives them access to a list of docs in their area -- not just at the VA hospital. Promote a healthy lifestyle. Increase research on autism.
Economy Restore fiscal discipline. Invest in technology, with the establishment of 250 math, science and innovation academies nationwide. Protect the American workforce with tax credits for good-paying jobs.
Civil Rights Richardson crows he has the "strongest record of ... any achievement on civil rights issues and support for the LGBT community." He would end "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" and push for domestic partnerships and full equality for all domestic partners. Supports a woman's right to choose.
DID YOU KNOW? Cynics questioning this dual citizen's allegiance should know he's a descendant of Mayflower passengers.
CELEBRITY ENDORSEMENTS West Wing prez Martin Sheen, Lee Iacocca
TELLING ADS A series of funny spots with Richardson being interviewed for a job by a wise-ass manager. Two highlight his over-qualifications. The best finds him talking up his environmental record before the manager stops him: "But what I asked was if you were a tree, what kind of tree would you be?" Richardson just shakes his head.
-- Joel Smith
HOMETOWN Brooklyn, New York
RESUME Giuliani attended Catholic schools through undergrad at Manhattan College. He earned his law degree at New York University and became a prosecutor. Later he became U.S. Attorney for Manhattan. Giuliani became mayor of New York City in 1994 and served two terms.
STRONG SUIT Decisiveness: Prior to 9/11, Giuliani made a name for himself by focusing on petty crimes and cutting the crime rate. A lot of New Yorkers hated his methods but loved the results. After 9/11, he was celebrated -- in most quarters -- for being the kind of tough leader it took to pull New York back together.
ACHILLES' HEEL Liberal on social issues: As mayor of New York, the city codified equal treatment for same-sex partners of city employees, and Giuliani is not the kind of cultural warrior Republicans usually prefer. But if he manages to survive the primary gauntlet, it could make him stronger in the general election.
WHO'LL PLAY HIM IN THE MADE-FOR-TV MOVIE John Travolta. He already played "Bill Clinton" in Primary Colors, and Hairspray prepped him to get in drag for that famous scene from Giuliani's past.
ON THE ISSUES
War on Terror Giuliani calls it "the terrorists' war on us" and believes we have to play offense because "weakness only encourages aggression." He has also had some of the harshest rhetoric toward Iran of anyone. But when chosen as a member of the Iraq Study Group, he missed every meeting, spending that time raising money instead.
Health Care Giuliani gives the issue a nod at No. 7 of his "12 Commitments," saying "I will give Americans more control over and access to health care with affordable and portable free-market solutions." He also wants a federal solution to medical malpractice reform.
Economy Giuliani preaches a return to fiscal discipline, pointing to his balanced budget in New York. He wants more tax cuts along with cuts in spending. Like Reagan, he supports supply-side economics, and like Bush I, he has pledged not to raise taxes.
Focus on Adoption Here's a clever way to get beyond the fact that Giuliani is pro-choice -- promote adoptions and a "culture of life." He claims adoptions increased by 66 percent and abortions dropped by 16 percent in New York while he was mayor. We'll see if that's enough to convince hardcore anti-abortion values voters in the primaries.
DID YOU KNOW? There's evidence that Giuliani's father was a mafia enforcer, and he did serve time in prison. As U.S. Attorney, Giuliani put eight New York mafia bosses behind bars. Giuliani voted for George McGovern in 1972. (He officially switched to the GOP in 1981.) Giuliani loves opera.
CELEBRITY ENDORSEMENTS John O'Hurley (J. Peterman on Seinfeld), Adam Sandler, Dennis Miller and he has cornered the market on 1970s sex symbols with Bo Derek and Cheryl Ladd.
TELLING AD On "One Hour," Giuliani brings up that burning issue of ... the Iranian hostage crisis of the 1970s? He claims Reagan freed them in an hour; historians say the ad oversimplifies. (Don't they all?) It does capture Giuliani's need for an enemy -- even if they are from nearly 40 years ago.
-- Ted S. McGregor Jr.
HOMETOWN Hope, Arkansas
RESUME Lieutenant Governor of Arkansas from 1993 to 1996. Governor of Arkansas from 1996 to 2007. Southern Baptist minister.
STRONG SUIT He's the only Republican who aligns perfectly with the coveted values of voters on social issues, but he also has a real man-of-the-people populist streak that appeals to the poor.
ACHILLES' HEEL His arch-biblical literalism -- he's a young Earth creationist, believing that God created the earth only 6,000 years ago (give or take an epoch) -- isn't going to endear him to moderates of any stripe if he manages to get the Republican nomination.
WHO'LL PLAY HIM IN THE MADE-FOR-TV MOVIE The late John Spencer (West Wing) had the pursed-lipped amusement and general presidentiality down.
ON THE ISSUES
War on Terror Huckabee wants to keep troops in Iraq because he doesn't want troops to have self-esteem problems: "To take them out of it not only means we lose, but it means we totally destroy their sense of morale, and it may take a generation to get it back." He wants to attack Iran even without congressional approval. For Huckabee, the war on terror is "a theological war" -- commonly known, ahem, as a Holy War.
Health Care Huckabee advocated "isolating" AIDS carriers in 1992, treating the outbreak "as we have recently, for example, with avian flu." He wants to avoid waiting until people are catastrophically ill by focusing more on preventive medicine rather than treating chronic illness, which is where "80 percent of [health care money] goes." He hates SCHIP -- the federally-funded children's health program.
The Economy He created a budget surplus in Arkansas and plans to do the same at the federal level in two ways: "I would get rid of ... the Internal Revenue Service. Secondly, I agree we need to revamp [the Department of] Homeland Security."
Immigration Initially he favored a "pathway to citizenship" for illegals. Now he wants to erect a fence, crack down on employers who hire illegals and send existing illegals home. On the flop: "When I said a pathway, I didn't say what the pathway was. I now believe that the only thing the American people are going to accept ... is a pathway that sends people back to the starting point."
"Values" The day Roe v. Wade is repealed "would be a glorious day of human liberty and freedom." Huckabee would de-fund Planned Parenthood. He's decidedly against stem cell research. He would let gays use things like power of attorney to "visit one another at a hospital, transfer assets" etc., but doesn't want any sort of civil union.
DID YOU KNOW? After being diagnosed with adult-onset diabetes, he lost 110 pounds.
CELEBRITY ENDORSEMENT Chuck frickin' Norris
TELLING AD "Chuck Norris Approved": Utilizing the Internet fame of his best celebrity endorser, Huckabee trades props with the actor onscreen. Chuck: "Mike Huckabee is a lifelong hunter." Huck: "When Chuck Norris does a pushup, he isn't lifting himself up, he's pushing the earth down." The commercial begins with Huck saying, "My plan to secure the border? Chuck Norris."
-- Luke Baumgarten
HOMETOWN Riverside, Calif.
RESUME Son of a real estate developer. Tried college at the University of Montana 1966-67; dropped out of UC Santa Barbara to enlist in 1969. Served in Vietnam with the 173rd Airborne Rangers; missions included 24 helicopter air assaults and night recon; awarded Bronze Star and Air Medal. Went to law school at night on GI Bill, worked farm labor and construction by day, opened storefront practice in San Diego's Barrio Logan neighborhood providing free assistance to Hispanics. Defeated a six-term Democrat in 1980 to win election to Congress in the Reagan revolution. Two sons, including one who's served two tours in Iraq.
STRONG SUIT He's a divider, not a uniter. Seriously. Hunter is a fence builder: He sponsored legislation to build 854 miles of double fence from San Diego through Texas. Nine miles are built. He accuses Bush of foot-dragging; Hunter's foreign policy is also hawkish and pro-military.
ACHILLES' HEEL Besides lack of money, Hunter loses members of his own party when he sounds like John Edwards criticizing trade with China as being unfair and rigged against U.S. manufacturers and jobs.
WHO'LL PLAY HIM IN THE MADE-FOR-TV MOVIE If the late Marlon Brando can be reanimated in Superman Returns, John Wayne should get the treatment for Hunter. He even bears a resemblance.
ON THE ISSUES
War on Terror Totally for it. Has an eight-minute video on his site that is almost a Tom Clancy mini-sode ... drones, subs, missiles, satellites. Very crafty and high-tech. Hunter says we can invade Iran without congressional approval.
Health Care Opposes mandated insurance and universal coverage. Proposes help for family doctors through tax breaks and less malpractice.
The Economy Cut, cut, cut the budget; balance, balance, balance the budget - except for defense. Reform the marriage penalty and alternative minimum taxes. On trade, he claims, he'd keep more jobs in America.
Immigration Hunter is Mr. Fence Off Mexico. He secured funds from a hostile Clinton administration in 1996 to build a triple fence between San Diego and Mexico and claims it has dramatically reduced illegal immigration and crime. Critics say it has just moved those things to the end of the fence.
Environment He's against it. Hunter's voted against allowing agencies to designate critical habitat for endangered species and voted for speeding up the thinning of forests.
DID YOU KNOW? In 1988, Hunter used a sledgehammer to smash a Toshiba radio, protesting the company's sale of submarine-technology to Soviet-bloc countries. Even as he advocates fencing off Mexico, his brother John is a Water Station volunteer, bearing water to the desert so undocumented workers don't die of thirst attempting to enter the United States.
CELEBRITY ENDORSEMENT Chuck Yeager. Yeah, that's what we said: The celebrity you don't know for the candidate you don't know.
TELLING AD While he has two, the Website www.votegopher.com, which discusses candidate ads, says this: "Nothing has been posted." 'Nuff said.
-- Kevin Taylor
HOMETOWN Born in New York, lives in Maryland, ran for U.S. Senate in Illinois
RESUME Ph.D. in Government from Harvard; former Assistant Secretary of State in the Reagan Administration; president of Citizens Against Government Waste; has twice run for president (1996 and 2000) and has run for the U.S. Senate in Maryland (twice) and Illinois (lost to Barack Obama in 2004); author; former radio and TV talk show host
STRONG SUIT You know what Alan Keyes stands for. He is not a wishy-washy candidate. He thinks American society is going to hell in a handbasket and he's not afraid to tell why he thinks that.
ACHILLES' HEEL Keyes' sense of moral outrage isn't shared by enough people to make him a viable candidate. He wasn't helped by getting into the race late. He only declared his candidacy in September. Keyes fought his way into his first nationally televised debate, last week in Des Moines. Unfortunately for him, it was the last debate before the Iowa caucuses.
WHO'LL PLAY HIM IN THE MADE-FOR-TV MOVIE Yaphet Kotto
ON THE ISSUES
War on Terror Keyes proposes to destroy terrorist groups' infrastructure and deal decisively with the governments that help them. "We fight them because, by their practice of terror, they prove themselves to be people who have no regard for the fundamental tenets of decent conscience that we believe must be respected when human beings deal with one another, even in war," Keyes writes on his campaign Website.
Health Care He would put consumers more in charge of their own health care, allowing them to set up tax-deductible medical savings accounts. Re-orient the health care system toward health, not illness, emphasizing diet and exercise. Allow states and the federal government to import less-expensive drugs from Canada and Europe.
The Economy Keyes believes the income tax is unconstitutional and should be abolished, replaced by a national sales tax. He supports a constitutional balanced budget amendment.
Values, Values and more Values
"Roe v. Wade was the most obscenely illogical and shoddily written Supreme Court decision perhaps in the whole history of our country," writes Keyes. American life, he says, is moving away from its traditional emphasis on marriage and family and preserving human life at all costs. Keyes supports prayer in schools; opposes gay marriage and civil unions; opposes sex education in schools, other than programs that teach abstinence only; and believes parents who want traditional moral values taught in public schools should have more school choices.
DID YOU KNOW? What Alan Keyes has in common with Dick Cheney? Both have lesbian daughters. But, whereas Cheney has been strongly supportive of his daughter, Keyes apparently didn't take his daughter's news as well. Maya Keyes -- now 22 and a gay rights activist -- told the Washington Post in 2005 that her parents threw her out of their house, refused to pay her college tuition and stopped speaking to her. Despite that, Keyes says she loves her father and shares many of his conservative beliefs.
CELEBRITY ENDORSEMENTS None yet
TELLING AD None yet
-- Doug Nadvornick
HOMETOWN Born at Coco Solo Air Base, Panama Canal Zone. Military family eventually settled in Arlington, Va.
RESUME McCain was shot down over Hanoi while on a Naval air strike of a power plant, broke both arms and a leg crashing into a lake. He was taken prisoner by a mob of North Vietnamese who didn't expect him to live. When his captors discovered both his father and grandfather were admirals they gave him medical care and offered to release him. McCain refused, insisting POWs captured ahead of him be freed first. He spent more than five years as a prisoner, endured beatings and torture. Later, a second marriage placed him in an influential crowd in Phoenix, which helped him defeat two experienced opponents for an open congressional seat in 1982. He's represented Arizona ever since. He famously scolded an opponent trying to brand him as a carpetbagger, saying, "Look pal, the longest I've ever spent in one place was Hanoi."
STRONG SUIT He's an iconoclast who is not afraid to take unpopular stands or deliver unpopular news. His honesty and integrity allow him to ditch partisanship and reach across party lines on issues such as global warming, drilling in the Arctic, immigration. He has a staunchly conservative record but his POW experience has instilled a respect for humanity few GOP candidates match.
ACHILLES' HEEL His Website is dominated by the words, "Donate today." Despite key endorsements this week from Des Moines (Iowa) Register and Boston Globe, McCain trails badly in polling and fundraising. Being an iconoclast can be lonely.
WHO'LL PLAY HIM IN THE MADE-FOR-TV MOVIE Harrison Ford
ON THE ISSUES
War on Terror Beef up intelligence gathering and defense spending, and increase the size of the military. Stay in Iraq until the country stabilizes. Torture is ineffective, water boarding is torture.
Health Care Make it less expensive. Adjust the tax code to give refundable credits to individuals and families. Promote competition to reduce costs.
Economy He's against protectionism when it comes to trade. Would cut deficits, pork before cutting taxes.
Immigration Border security is a priority. He differs with others to say immigration is more complex than fences, it's also a human rights issue. America is built by waves of immigrants, he says. Hispanics are the latest, and they work and serve the country.
DID YOU KNOW? Don't expect the standard victory photo should he win the nomination: McCain can't raise his arms above his head as a result of beatings while a POW. Joined the "Century Club" while a midshipman at the Naval Academy with 100 demerits each year. Noted partier after graduation, driving a hot car, flying hot planes and dating an exotic dancer known as "Marie the Flame of Florida." He later concluded he "generally misused my good health and youth."
CELEBRITY ENDORSEMENTS Curt Schilling
TELLING AD "Tied Up." Razor-sharp 30 seconds notes Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton proposed $1 million for a Woodstock museum. "I'm sure it was a fine cultural and pharmaceutical event but ... I was tied up at the time," McCain says as archival footage shifts from dancing hippie to McCain as POW.
-- Kevin Taylor
HOMETOWN Born and raised in Green Tree, Penn., and now lives in Lake Jackson, Texas.
RESUME House of Representatives, Texas' 22nd district from 1976-77; again from 1979-85. Currently in House of Representatives, serving Texas' 14th district since being elected to that post in 1997. Made an unsuccessful run at the presidency as the Libertarian candidate in 1988, finishing third behind Bush and Dukakis.
STRONG SUIT Has amazing Web presence and a fanatical base, which helped him set a record for one-day online fundraising (more than $6 million on Dec. 16). He's the only Republican who hates the Iraq war, thinks it was illegal to go in, and wants us out immediately.
ACHILLES' HEEL Uh... He's a Republican who hates the Iraq war, thinks it was illegal, and wants us out immediately...
WHO'LL PLAY HIM IN THE MADE-FOR-TV MOVIE Cotton Hill, from King of the Hill
ON THE ISSUES
War on Terror "I don't believe we went to the war for the right reason. There were no weapons of mass destruction. It had nothing to do with 9/11." Would allow no more funding for Iraq and begin leaving immediately. Would only bomb Iran with congressional approval. Believes we're creating more terrorists than we're eliminating by being in the Middle East. "They come here and kill us because we occupy their lands."
Health Care Paul says socialized (national) health care won't work. Managed care doesn't work. Wants less regulation and more competition: "There's a doctor monopoly out there. We need alternative health care freely available to the people. They ought to be able to make their own choices and not [be] controlled by the FDA."
The Economy "You can't legislate economic fairness, like so many want to do. Freedom means freedom. It means the government should be very small." Wants to balance the budget: "Deficit spending should be viewed as a tax on future generations, and politicians who create deficits should be exposed as tax hikers."
"Values" "As an O.B. doctor of 30 years ... I can assure you life begins at conception. I am legally responsible for the unborn, no matter what I do, so there's a legal life there." Opposes experimentation on embryos, but doesn't think the government is constitutionally authorized to comment on stem cells. He doesn't think the government should get involved with any definition of marriage, either extolling or prohibiting homosexuals from the equation.
DID YOU KNOW? The Federal Election Commission reports that Paul has received more campaign contributions from employees of the armed services (for the second and third quarters of 2007) than any other presidential candidate. In the second quarter he pulled in 26.2 percent of military contributions, about as much as the other Republicans combined.
CELEBRITY ENDORSEMENT None, but his rabid Internet supporters have a blog post or two dedicated to potential endorsers.
MOST TELLING AD The craziest, coolest thing Paul's supporters have done is fly a blimp bearing the words "Google Ron Paul" up the East Coast. They hope to keep the blimp flying until the New Hampshire primary.
-- Luke Baumgarten
HOMETOWN Detroit (his late father, George, was the governor of Michigan); Boston
RESUME Venture capitalist and management consultant; head of the organizing committee for the 2002 Salt Lake City Winter Olympics; parlayed the Olympics gig into a bid for governor of his home state, Massachusetts. He won and served from 2003-07.
STRONG SUIT Romney's focus on "American Values" may make him the candidate with great appeal to social conservatives.
ACHILLES' HEEL His Mormon faith, which some -- including many evangelical Christians -- view with suspicion. Just as JFK faced the question in the 1960 presidential campaign -- Can a Catholic be elected president? -- Romney is facing the same question in 2007, LDS style. Earlier this month Romney tried to assure voters that he, not the Mormon Church, would not be pulling the strings if he's elected: "Let me assure you that no authorities of my church, or of any other church for that matter, will ever exert influence on presidential decisions."
WHO'LL PLAY HIM IN THE MADE-FOR-TV MOVIE Rottentomatoes.com says Jim Carrey
ON THE ISSUES
War on Terror Romney proposes to create a "special partnership force" to work with Middle Eastern nations to defeat radical Islamic militant groups. He is also convinced Iran wants to build nuclear weapons, so he proposes to toughen