Political Outlook 2008
So, we enter the 2008 election year with an appetite for change as strong as it has been since it was in the summer of 1992 leading up to the election of Bill Clinton. It is significantly stronger than it was in the summer of 2000 or the fall of 1998. The GOP clearly is weighed down by an unpopular president and an unpopular war. Ironically, at the same time, the Democratic-controlled Congress rates lower in job approval than the president.
The construction industry, and America, is probably best served by divided government, with all the power vested in neither political party.
Now, let’s take a look at the upcoming political races, always bearing in mind that much can change in the months ahead that could reshape the political landscape.
If you didn’t already know it, we have entered what promises to be the longest general election campaign in the history of presidential politics. The presidential contenders of both parties have concentrated an unprecedented amount of time in Iowa and New Hampshire, which kick off the primary calendar with the two major party nominations possibly decided by the tremendous number of caucuses and primaries being held on Feb. 5.
New York Sen. Hillary Clinton has led the Democrat presidential pack for most of the fall, with Sen. Barak Obama (D-Ill.) and former Sen. John Edwards (D-S.C.) trailing by as much as 20 points at times. Those who suggest, however, that her nomination is a fait accomplis need only consider her negatives, which are higher than any other Democratic presidential candidate. More than one-third of the public has strongly negative views of her, more than 10 points higher than any of the other Democratic contenders. This has led her opponents to attack her as being the least electible. Although she cites her seven years as a senator and her eight years as first lady as experience that well qualifies her to be president, she must also contend with the legacy left by her husband.
Sen. Obama thrilled supporters early on and seemed like the embodiment of the change for which so many appear to be looking. By fall, however, his momentum slowed to a near stop, and he was once again contending with opponents’ charges that he is too inexperienced to serve as president.
Former Sen. John Edwards was running third most of the year, tarnished by reports of $400 haircuts and mansions when poverty has been his cause célèbre. Sens. Joe Biden (D-Del.) and Chris Dodd (D-Conn.) are viewed as effective senators, but barely register with the public. New Mexico Gov. Bill Richardson looks to have all the right credentials — minority status (he is Latino), governor, House member, cabinet secretary, United Nations representative — but his experience doesn’t seem to have made a difference. His muted criticisms of Clinton in some of the candidate debates have given rise to talk that he might be angling for the vice presidential nod if he is unsuccessful in his bid for the top spot on the ticket.
This year’s Republican race is notable for being wide open. Former New York City Mayor Rudolph Giuliani maintains a lead over his main rivals, but he has yet to gain momentum among key primary voting groups or to distinguish himself as the best candidate for the Republican Party. Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.), after stumbling badly during the summer, seems to be reinvigorated. The Republican race is also notable because the national poll leader does not lead in either of the first two states to hold contests. That lead goes to former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney. Romney has raised more money and spent more money to get noticed than the other candidates, but Republican voters still seem to have reservations about his previous liberal positions on social issues making him vulnerable to the “flip-flop” charge. Plus, his Mormon religion gives some would-be voters pause.
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