By BILL STRAUB
Scripps Howard News Service
June 05, 2005
The 2008 presidential campaign promises to be the most wide-open contest in more than half a century. With President Bush prohibited from seeking a third term under the Constitution, and Vice President Dick Cheney insisting he won't run, the next election could become the first since 1952 that doesn't involve an incumbent from the executive branch.
That's one reason more than 20 contenders, Democrats and Republicans alike, already are jockeying for position, some making pilgrimages to Iowa and New Hampshire and others piecing together the initial hints of a campaign organization.
The list ranges from the well-known - Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton, D-N.Y., and Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz. - to the obscure - Tennessee Gov. Phil Bredesen, a Democrat, and Minnesota Gov. Tim Pawlenty, a Republican.
It doesn't even include three prominent Republicans - Cheney, Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice or the president's brother, Florida Gov. Jeb Bush - who maintain they are not interested in the job. No one would be surprised if one, or all, changed their mind. The same can be said for Democratic Party Chairman Howard Dean.
While plenty of hopefuls boast Washington experience, voters over the years have expressed a preference for governors. Four out of the last five presidents have been plucked from the statehouse ranks. No sitting member of the Senate has catapulted into the Oval Office since John F. Kennedy in 1960.
The two most recent Democratic presidents - Jimmy Carter and Bill Clinton - were governors of Southern states. In fact, four of the last five presidents hailed from states of the old Confederacy.
Here's a look at five Democrats and five Republicans considered prime contenders for the title of world's most powerful person, with a list of others looking at the job.
Sen. George Allen
The Virginia lawmaker offers Washington experience and an executive background, having served as governor of a significant Southern state. His late father, George, was head coach of the Washington Redskins and the old Los Angeles Rams.
Strengths - Popular with the party's conservative base, plays well with the NASCAR constituency. From the South.
Weaknesses - Non-descript Senate record, foes site instances of insensitivity to blacks.
Sen. Bill Frist
The Senate Republican leader from Tennessee, a successful businessman and physician, has been cultivating religious conservatives.
Strengths - High-profile position, successful business career with ties to a significant constituency within the party.
Weaknesses - Has, at times, seemed to be over his head as GOP leader. Stumbled rounding up support for key votes.
The former New York mayor rose to prominence as a result of his handling of the 9/11 crisis in his terrorism-scarred city.
Strengths - Tough and cool under pressure. Moderates will be hunting for a candidate in a party dominated by conservatives.
Weaknesses - Too liberal on social issues for a large segment of the party. Personal issues.
Sen. John McCain
The nation's most renowned POW, he remains an eminent figure five years after falling to Bush in the 2000 presidential primary.
Strengths - Leads the GOP's moderate wing. Ability to pick off independent voters. Heroic backstory and reputation for straight talk.
Weaknesses - Abhorred by social conservatives, a significant portion of the party's base. He'll be 72 by Election Day. Maverick reputation makes him appear disloyal to Bush.
Gov. Mitt Romney
The Massachusetts leader originally gained attention for successfully organizing the Winter Olympics in Salt Lake City in 2002. He is the son of former Michigan Gov. George Romney, who sought the Republican presidential nomination in 1968.
Strengths - Established he could win in the bluest of blue states. Reputation for taking over troubled businesses and setting them on the right path, a testament to his management skills.
Weaknesses - Not particularly popular back home; could lose if he runs for re-election in 2006.
Others on the list: Mississippi Gov. Haley Barbour; Sen. Sam Brownback of Kansas; former House Speaker Newt Gingrich of Georgia; Sen. Chuck Hagel of Nebraska; Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee; New York Gov. George Pataki; Minnesota Gov. Tim Pawlenty.
Sen. Evan Bayh
A two-term lawmaker from solidly red Indiana, Bayh also served 10 years as governor even though he has yet to reach his 50th birthday. His father, Birch Bayh, was a three-term Hoosier senator.
Strengths - The darling of moderate-conservative Democrats can reach across party lines and pick up independents.
Weaknesses - Not popular with some Democratic constituencies. Vote to ban partial-birth abortions placed him at odds with feminist organizations.
Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton
Looking to return to the residence she occupied for eight years as first lady, the lawmaker from New York is the only woman who appears to be gearing up for the long campaign.
Strengths - Extremely popular with the Democratic rank and file, particularly among women; offers a moderate voting record but popular with liberals.
Weaknesses - Extremely divisive outside the party, raising questions about her ability to attract independent and moderate Republican voters in the general election.
The former North Carolina senator ran a surprisingly strong campaign for the Democratic presidential nomination in 2004 and turned out to be the party's choice for vice president.
Strengths - Hails from the right part of the country, nice rags-to-riches story. Photogenic.
Weaknesses - Viewed in some quarters as something of a lightweight. Didn't attract as much support in the South as hoped.
Sen. John Kerry
The Massachusetts lawmaker, the party's 2004 presidential choice, lost by less than three points to an incumbent.
Strengths - Certainly has been around the block and won't have to introduce himself to Democratic primary voters.
Weaknesses - Some Democrats believe he ran a weak campaign in 2004. Can you say "Massachusetts liberal"?
Gov. Mark Warner
Limited to one four-year term as governor of Virginia, Warner has maintained his popularity despite running a solidly Republican state.
Strengths - Probably as close as Democrats come to having a NASCAR-dad candidate, a moderate-conservative who worked well with opposition Republicans.
Weaknesses - Limited experience and no background dealing with international affairs.
Others on the list: Sen. Joseph Biden of Delaware; Tennessee Gov. Phil Bredesen; retired Gen. Wesley Clark of Arkansas; Sen. Russ Feingold of Wisconsin; Pennsylvania Gov. Ed Rendell; New Mexico Gov. Bill Richardson; Montana Gov. Brian Schweitzer; Iowa Gov. Tom Vilsack.