Dispatches > The Buzz

Flashtraffic: Election 2004

With Al Gore out, and Hillary Clinton saying she won't run, where will Democrats look?

Issue: "Lord of the box office," Jan. 11, 2003

With Al Gore out, and Hillary Clinton saying she won't run, where will Democrats look?

Sen. Tom Daschle: At 55, he has long, strong credentials with liberal activists and a national fundraising base. As a former Air Force intelligence officer, he also has national security credentials any Democrat will need to credibly challenge President Bush. Big question: If he just lost control of the Senate, how can Democrats trust him to regain the White House?

Rep. Dick Gephardt: Like Sen. Daschle, he's a long-time party leader with strong liberal support. Unlike him, Rep. Gephardt, 61, has run for president before and may have a better sense of what he's facing. Big question: Will he be seen as a flip-flopper on major issues as he was in 1988?

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Sen. Joe Lieberman: Watch this Connecticut senator potentially emerge as the Democrats' savviest and most effective presidential candidate. As Mr. Gore's running mate in 2000, Sen. Lieberman, 60, has already demonstrated his credentials to party loyalists. He's also got a huge fundraising base among the Gore network and wealthy Jewish business leaders. Sen. Lieberman also has intriguing appeal among conservative Democrats and independents. He supported the Gulf War against Iraq in 1991 and is now a leading hawk against Saddam Hussein. He was a strong early supporter of the GOP's welfare reform plan in the mid-1990s. He was also one of the first Senate Democrats to criticize President Clinton over the Monica Lewinsky affair. In 1995, he teamed up with Bill Bennett to criticize Hollywood and the music industry over violent films, TV shows, video games, and gangster rap lyrics. Big question: Since he tossed his cultural conservatism at a Hollywood fundraiser in 2000 and earned the wrath of Mr. Bennett, how will he get it back?

Sen. John Kerry: Another rich Massachusetts war veteran with the initials JFK wants to be president. John Forbes Kerry, 58, and his wife, Teresa Heinz (of the Heinz Ketchup fortune), are worth an estimated $600 million. Big question: What will Sen. Kerry's message actually be? Higher taxes, higher spending, opposition to missile defense, and support of a radical pro-abortion and pro-gay rights agenda are issues he's championed in the past. Bigger question: Can he shake the image of having been lieutenant governor for one of the biggest losers in recent political history, Michael Dukakis?

Sen. John Edwards: This 49-year-old trial lawyer turned Southern senator is now eagerly preparing to run. Al Gore considered asking the North Carolina freshman to be his running mate but decided against it because of Sen. Edwards's inexperience. Big question (as posed by The New York Times over the holidays): "Will Americans really want a candidate who was so disengaged from government that he voted in only seven of the 13 elections before his own race [and] who has so little regard for his own political history that he cannot recall whom he supported for the nomination in 1992? ('My guess would be Kerrey,' Mr. Edwards said of former Senator Bob Kerrey. 'But I don't remember.')"

Joel C. Rosenberg
Joel C. Rosenberg

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