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Democratic Presidential Candidates – Help me Make up my Mind!

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Looking at the nearly dozen Democrats who have either declared or seemed as if they might declare a run for the Presidency has me in a quandary. There are things about each of them that I like, and there are things that I do not like. Like any situation that involves making a choice between people for an elected office, there is no such thing as someone who is perfect. My choice will be based on a combination of positions on issues, leadership ability, experience and elect-ability. If I could speak directly to the candidates and give them a hint as to what it would take to bring me into their camp, here is what I would say to a few of them:

Senator Hillary Clinton
Hillary, you get great marks from me on leadership ability and experience. Many people want to follow and support you. Those kinds of things do not just happen, they happen because of innate leadership ability. By inauguration day, you will also have had eight years of experience in the senate, eight years of experience in the East Wing of the White House, and 16 years of persistent attention by Republicans doing everything to tear you down and despite the latter you are still here.

I would like to see a few things from you on issues and elect-ability. Starting with the issues, when your husband pushed for and got NAFTA passed, many of us agreed with him and thought free trade was the way to go. I was one of those people who thought free trade was good and would balance out in the end. I thought it would open up new markets to American made products even as the influx of foreign goods might cause some loss of manufacturing jobs and may even cause a few bankruptcies in the sector. What has happened is very little of the former and a lot of the latter. I regret my personally supporting free trade and I think it has been shown to be a mistake from an American perspective. I would like to see you commission a serious study of the effects of NAFTA and other free trade initiatives on American manufacturing and labor. Perhaps a study like this already exists, I do not know. Either way, I would like to see you carefully examining the data from such a study and adjusting your positions accordingly. I would also like to see you come out strong on fixing what is behind the shrinking middle class and its deteriorating share of American wealth.

I also have some concerns regarding elect-ability with you. Most polls seem to have your negative vote in the mid 40's, for argument's sake, let's say 44%. I would like to see that in any Democratic candidate for President underneath 40%. As hard as it is to affect one's negative vote, I would like to see your campaign work to change at least 5% of the negative voters' opinions of you.

Senator Barack Obama
Senator Obama, you get great marks from me on Leadership and also elect-ability which might seem surprising to some given that you would be the first African American nominee from a major party for President. You have a very low negative vote, in fact it might be the lowest among all Democratic candidates. It is in the mid to upper 30%'s meaning as things are now you have a good chance of getting a significant amount of the American people to support you. You have so much natural leadership ability and charisma that people feel drawn to you. Your speeches and appearances are standing room only events that people talk about for weeks, months and sometimes for years afterwards.

What I would like to see from you is a defining reason for running for President and a set of values and issue positions that you support that are driven from that. I would also like to see you address very early the knock that you do not have enough experience to be President.

Former Senator John Edwards
Senator Edwards, you get strong marks on leadership and on issues. You have defined yourself in this race as the champion of the American Middle Class and groups like the SEIU have taken notice. Your leadership ability is part of what led you from growing up in a home of humble middle class beginnings to the highly successful lawyer and statesman that you are. You are the only of the candidates polling in the top three who is not a current office holder and this is not an easy feat. It is a testament to people's willingness and desire to follow you that you are doing so well in this race.

Elect-ability is a mixed bag in your case. It is clear that a lot of people like you, but the loss of the 2004 campaign has hurt you in your negative vote. You need to address the doubters as to why the 2004 defeat in the number two spot doesn't matter now in 2008. There are also lingering doubts from 2004 as to whether you have enough experience to be President. You have to find a way to show us all that you do.

Congressman Dennis Kucinich
Dennis, you have a terrific amount of experience. You are on your fifth term in the House of Representatives and spent time as Mayor of Cleveland and an Ohio State Senator before that. There is virtually no issue or situation that you are unprepared to address. You are the heart and soul of the progressive Democratic caucus and as such, progressives who identify themselves as Democrats look to you as their natural leader.

Your positions on the issues is a toss-up. You are the obvious progressive favorite and I have no doubt that the progressives in the party are among the most energetic and hardest working campaigners in the party. At the same time, there is a question about acceptance of these values throughout the party as a whole and definitely among the greater electorate. To address both elect-ability and the potential vulnerabilities you face on the issues, you and your campaign need to convince everyone that the progressive values and positions are the right ones for the country. You need the best in business and academia to analyze your positions and their effects on the economy and everything else and prove that they will work. Then you and your campaign need to get those results out there.

Governor Bill Richardson, Governor Tom Vilsack, Senator Joe Biden, General Wesley Clark
All of you are great candidates. Like Congressman Kucinich, you are currently way behind the top three in the polls. The four of you might want to team up with Congressman Kucinich to have a series of early debates on the issues just between yourselves in order to draw more attention and hopefully support to your candidacies. The Democratic Party needs as many good candidates in the race to choose from as possible so that we can be sure to select the best choice as our nominee.

I encourage people to write to the candidates to tell them what they can do to secure or maintain their support. Their candidacies are only as good as the people behind them. I would also love to hear from any of the above mentioned campaigns if they care to respond.
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A political blogger for the International Business Times, Steve Leser is a hot national political pundit. He has appeared on MSNBC's Coundown with Keith Olbermann, Comedy Central's Daily Show with Jon Stewart and Russia Today's (RT) Crosstalk with (more...)
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