So, with Vilsack (1) already in, and Obama (2) sending signals he might be in, too, HRC (3) is beginning to go public about her 2008 ambitions, maybe sooner than she'd hoped. Evan Bayh (4) has formed an exploratory committee, John Edwards (5) probably hasn't stopped running since 2004, and other Democratic notables from Joe Biden (6) to General Wesley Clark (7) and Bill Richardson (8) are also expected to throw their hats in the ring. And of course, the Al Gore (9) shadow continues to loom over the field, and will probably heat up next year when he--among many other potentials--has his book released.
Anyway, how do we begin to assess this field? To start with, for each candidate, what is their basis for running?
John Edwards is probably the most "message" centered candidate. With an equally charismatic, but less experienced Obama possibly running, Edwards' lack of experience relative to the rest of the field might be somewhat minimized, allowing his message to gain greater traction.
Bayh, Biden, Clark and Richardson will probably emphasize competence, experience, and common sense government. Clark and Richardson will no doubt emphasize their foreign policy credentials, while Bayh will try to run more as a centrist, bipartisan equiped, former governor of a mid-western state than a sitting U.S. Senator.
But I'm a little less clear about what the rationale is for an HRC candidacy. I say that not out any hostility to Hillary, as I don't really have a horse in this race yet. But it's tough to figure what she brings to the field and why she wants to be president. She isn't particularly visionary or charismatic. Nor does she have a particular message or area of policy expertise. In fact, of all the field, she probably brings the most political baggage. Of course, she would be the first woman president and would no doubt, by sheer name recognition alone, be the strongest female contender for the U.S. presidency, ever. But I can't imagine she's running merely to be the first woman president.
I've not proven myself a sage prognosticator of election outcomes, but I still don't think Obama will ultimately run this time. I hope to be proven wrong. Yes he's considerably under-experienced. But his entry would only make the primaries more interesting and potentially more drawn out, and thus, significant. And despite his lack of time in office, he'd be considered, rightly or wrongly, among the leading contenders, a bona fide heavyweight. Furthermore, if Gore also opts for the race, it would make a most impressive field, indeed. Can you imagine the media coverage of an Edwards-Gore-Obama-Clinton field? At the same time, such a list would no doubt greatly reduce the potential for other candidates to be heard, much less compete.