After the last balloon has fallen, the last ballot counted and thousands of MoveOn.org volunteers trek back to their college campuses, the push to replace the newly re-elected President Bush will begin.
Democrats and Republicans alike will begin to work, literally within weeks, to lay the foundation for the presidential race in 2008. With Vice President Dick Cheney’s all-but-formal withdrawal from the race, both parties will be recruiting their new favorite candidates and priming them for the national spotlight.
The Democrats, fresh off two straight presidential losses, and recovering from major blows to their minority status in both the House and Senate, will need to stop the bleeding before it gets any worse. With no incumbent president in place in 2008, the Democrats will at least have a theoretically better shot at reclaiming the White House.
The list of potential candidates for the Democrats is long. John Kerry, who gave it his all in 2004, will most certainly retire to the Senate floor for the remainder of his political career. The same fate is likely for most of the remaining primary candidates this past year, including former Vermont Governor Howard Dean and retired Army General Wesley Clark.
After the field is cleared of the leftovers from the 2004 campaign, the choices for Democrats become clear. Former first lady and current New York Senator Hillary Clinton is probably the most likely. If and when she declares her candidacy, she will be the clear frontrunner in the primary battle. Both hard line conservatives and leftist liberals have long been predicting, and in some cases praying for her candidacy soon after her 2000 Senate victory.
After Clinton, the Democrats can still offer a few fashionable options. Among them is Illinois Senator-elect Barak Obama. Coming off a sweeping victory, the Democrats have the possibility of placing an African-American on the presidential ballot for the first time in history. Legislative inexperience aside, Obama could provide Clinton with her toughest competition.
Another popular Democrat, John Edwards could consider another run at the White House. His campaign would be the easiest to jumpstart, having built the grassroots operations over the past year and a half. While most would like a clean slate, the youthful-looking, outgoing Senator still attracts a comfortable margin of support from party loyalists.
For the Republicans, the recruitment of candidates has already begun. Unlike the Democrats, there is no clear frontrunner on the other side of the aisle. Popular Arizona Senator John McCain keeps the rumor mill turning on whether or not he will make another run in the primaries. While he lost in 2000 to Bush, his message resonated with moderately minded voters across the country.
Another popular Republican, former New York City mayor Rudy Giuliani, has been the target of political rumors. While he was campaigning for Bush in recent weeks, he made sure he stopped at New Hampshire and Iowa, the first two contests in the primary season. Another rising New York Republican, Governor George Pataki, traveled the country trying to turn out the conservative base for the president, while also laying some groundwork for a potential run.
Aside from these three prominent politicians, several other lesser known Republican dark horses might make a move for the front. Among them is current Massachusetts governor Mitt Romney. Romney rose to fame as the man who turned around the scandal-laden Salt Lake City Olympics in 2002, and defeated a popular Democratic state treasurer to claim the governorship in the most liberal of states. The newly appointed darling of the Republican Party, John Thune, who toppled Senate Minority Leader Tom Daschle in South Dakota on Tuesday, has also been circled by rumors of his potential run for higher office. His youthful look and ever increasing popularity among party Republicans could propel him to run in 2008.
Whoever ends up becoming the nominee for each party, 2008 is certain to be harsher than what most of us saw this past year. This potential slate of candidates alone will draw millions more in contributions, television ads, direct mailings and other election programs we all thought were behind us.
Brian Reimels can be reached at email@example.com.