The Beltway Beat, Part One


The Democratic Field of Contenders

Hillary Clinton
and Barack (incidentally, his middle name is Hussein) Obama, both possessing that larger-than-life rock-star quality, each announced the launching of their presidential campaigns this last week. Hillary has been the assumed Democratic nominee for 2008 since at least 10 years ago. Obama is far newer to the scene, having grabbed the spotlight during the Democratic National Convention in 2004.

Both have the potential to be phenomenally i
nteresting candidates- one, because she is polarizing, and will have to fight her way out of the corner most people have painted her into (namely, a loud, pushy, dislikable, and excessively liberal woman), and the other because he has nowhere to go but down. When I first heard Barack Obama speak (at the 2004 DNC), I was impressed. This guy was young, incredibly charismatic, seemed compassionate and well-spoken. A campaign-staffer's dream. I knew this guy was going places. At some point that night I mused to my husband that he would make a great running mate for Hillary 2008. Two years later, after his own election into the U.S. Senate, Obama has thrown his hat into the race for President. His voting record and liberal stance on the issues should be an eye-opener to the evangelicals he's currently trying to woo. While some have wondered if he is actually running for Vice President (hoping to come close enough to beating Hillary that he becomes the obvious VP choice), he is certainly an interesting figure.

John Edwards, among others, has officially announced, and has his own supporters, but having been the running mate for Kerry in 2004 will ultimately be a negative that I believe people will hold against him. ("You had your chance- we're not giving you another one"--similar to how they treated Gore in '04 after his loss in '00.)

Either way, if the Democrats select Obama
or Hillary for their nominee, it would be a first (either the first African-American or the first woman to be POTUS), which may cause fence-riders to lean that direction.

The Republican Field of Contenders

The possibilities are wide-open. There is no VP vying for the spot- no obvious ah-ha choice (think Bush1 after Reagan's 8 year run, Gore after Mr. Clinton's 8-year run). Cheney has overtly refused any chance at running and has said that if drafted, he would not run, and if elected he would not serve. Can't get any more of a "no" than that (even in politics!).

So the choices so far, as I see them, are:
Senator Sam Brownback - A U.S.
Senator from Kansas known for his sincerity and conservative positions on the issues. A Catholic since 2002, Brownback has taken a strong pro-life stance, both politically and personally (he has 5 children, 2 of whom are adopted).
Mitt Romney - One-term Governor of Massachusetts from 2002-2006, Romney's big negative is that he's the Mormon candidate in this Presidential race, which may be a drawback for many evangelicals, despite his conservative stance on the issues.
Condoleeza Rice - Current Secretary of State and former head of the National Security Agency, Dr. Rice would be an incredibly informed candidate. But surely her intelligence and poise would be tainted by the public's view of the war in Iraq? And I've not read direct quotes, but I'm fairly certain she's overtly pro-choice. When you throw in the fact that she's said she's not going to run, she seems like a non-starter, but would certainly be an interesting candidate if she did decide to run.
Rudy Giuliani - Best known for his strong leadership in New York after the 9-11 attacks,
Giuliani lacks a personal commitment to many key Republican positions (pro-life, pro-marriage, and personal morality--remember the mistress-in-the-mayor's house debacle?) that most conservative voters would require of a presidential candidate.
Senator John McCain - Dubbed "th
e Maverick" by the press in 2000 (when he ran against Dubya for the Republican nod), McCain is a veteran and former POW, which may gain support for him in this wartime climate, but many will say he's already had his shot, and his former philandering may be a sticking spot for many religious conservatives.

My favorite candidate, however, just announced the launching of his exploration committee (the same step Hillary and Obama took, which allows the candidate to start raising money) this morning, on Meet the Press. He served as Governor of Arkansas for the last 10 years and most recently, while serving as the chair of the National Governors' Association, he was ranked as one of the best Governors in America by Time magazine. A former pastor, who is both evangelically conservative, and evangelically compassionate, Mike Huckabee is not only an incredible candidate, but he is also a good man.

***In the interest of full disclosure on the front end, I should tell you that I helped his campaign in the 1998 Gubernatorial race, I served as an intern in his office during the 1999 Arkansas Legislative Session, and I served on the Student Senate and went to class with both his son and his daughter during the years I spent at Ouachita (also Gov. Huckabee's alma mater). Though I don't know him personally, in the times I've encountered him while he was Governor and through friends of mine that have worked on his staff, I believe him to be a wonderful elected official and a sincere and godly man. I'm pretty sure my parents still have the official picture of me with him that I got for serving as an intern in 1999- sometime I'll have to dig it out for you guys! :)***

Like Bill Clinton, he is one of the three longest-serving Governors in Arkansas history, he grew up in Hope,
Arkansas, he is musically inclined, a Southern Baptist, and a charismatic speaker. But there are stark differences between the two men as well, politically and personally.

As a Republican governor in what was (10 years ago, when he stepped up from his position of Lieutenant Governor to Governor) a solidly Democratic state of Arkansas, Huckabee has made health care for all children in the State of Arkansas a reality. He has focused on improving people's everyday lives, from education to better roads to health care. Through his own struggle with his weight (and an eventual diagnosis of Type 2 diabetes), he gained name recognition as an advocate of eating healthy as a means to be healthy. He has a very strong record as a social conservative, and I believe he just might upset the apple cart that is the Republican race for the nomination to the Presidency.

He has an uphill battle: namely, to raise money, and boost name recognition, but I would guess that if you too are a socially conservative evangelical who has been looking for who you could possibly support in this race (like I have been), if you get the chance to hear his ideas, you may also find yourself strongly supporting Mike Huckabee for President.

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