A third-party presidential campaign could catch fire in 2008, while the Iraq war and the Internet will leave indelible marks on the political landscape, according to leading Democratic and Republican strategists. With the midterm votes tallied, five co-founders of HOTSOUP.com, an issues-based community, look ahead to 2007 and 2008.
Joe Lockhart, press secretary for President Clinton: Next year has great potential for being a historic year in American politics – not for what will happen but for what will not happen. The message from the midterm elections was simple and straightforward: the public is fed up with the way things work in Washington. It’s not just the war in Iraq. It’s not just congressional scandals and out of control pork-barrel spending. It’s not just the Republicans that everyone’s mad at. It’s the whole thing – our entire political system. It’s my view that 2007 may be an important referendum on politics today.
If 2008 rolls around and not much has changed, the caucuses and primaries descend into their normal petty bickering and negative ads and debates, a new force will inevitably take shape. There has been much talk throughout our history of third parties. But it’s been mostly talk. Every three or four decades we have a challenge to our two-party system, a challenge that recedes as quickly as it came along.
2008 could be different. There are too many structural reasons to go into that make a third-party candidacy more legitimate in 2008. Suffice it to say; those structural differences mixed in with the mood of the country create a toxic brew for our two-party system.
Mark McKinnon, adviser to President Bush: All the 2008 presidential talk so far is about Clinton or McCain. Or Romney or Obama. Who is going to lead the prospective party tickets? It may not matter in the end.
If things keep going they way they have been, 2008 may make the voter of 1992 look like a bunch of happy campers. The time could be more than ripe for another third-party bid, especially if centrist, bipartisan candidates like McCain and Obama get bounced from their respective primaries.
All it will take is someone who understands just how hungry voters are for a third way. Someone with a lot of ambition and smarts. And someone with a whole lot of money. Wait, this sounds a lot like Mayor Mike Bloomberg in New York.
That’s right; Mike Bloomberg could be the Ross Perot of 2008. And I believe he’s not just thinking about it, but has some very talented aides cooking up plans in laboratory in the bowels of Gotham City. If he’s smart, he’ll wait to see how the primaries shake out, find the best person to lead the ticket, make himself the vice presidential candidate (which he has to do in order to fund the effort), and off they’ll go shake up the great race in 2008.
Carter Eskew, adviser to Vice President Al Gore in 2000: The war in Iraq will continue to re-shape American politics. Just as it took many years for the mistakes, deceptions of denial of Vietnam to work through the political system, so it will be with Iraq.
The options there are worse than Vietnam, really. More troops? Some may propose that out of sincere belief in its strategic efficacy; others for crass political reasons, but more troops are unlikely to secure order unless they remain indefinitely, and our military is already stretched to the breaking point. Get out? Chaos is the most likely result, and then America will come face to face with the “sin” of its Iraq policy: killing thousands of our men and women and tens of thousands of theirs for no discernible benefit.
It’s no wonder we’re in denial on Iraq: the reality is unbelievably painful. But the denial will wear off in ways that could re-shape our politics, favoring more change, newer faces, and a political watershed.
Mike Feldman, former Gore adviser: 2008 will be the first presidential campaign in a new, fast-paced, highly-charged and completely digital environment. Candidates running for president in 2008 can face the fact that they will never be completely off stage. Hand-held video, camera phones and websites that move sound and images in an instant mean that Americans will have access to every aspect of these campaigns virtually as they happen. Bloggers, citizen journalists and entrepreneurial campaign operatives will work hard to harness this newly-developed medium to their advantage. While the conventional filters for campaign communications still exist, voters will have the ability to reach around those platforms for a less polished view of the campaigns.
Chip Smith, former Gore adviser: 2008 will mark the first dramatic shift in presidential campaign spending in nearly three decades and will set the stage for the beginning of the end of the 30-second ad in modern politics. In each of the last six presidential contests, primary candidates and eventually party nominees have spent roughly 50 to 60 percent of their resources to plan, produce and place 30-second television commercials. No campaign manager could possibly justify this kind of allocation today. Look for 20 to 30 percent of a general election pool to be pulled out of TV budgets and reassigned for new media and campaign news distribution. If you believe that the public financing system for the general election might last another cycle (and you’re in the minority) that would mean $20 million to $30 million per candidate in supplemental spending for Internet campaigning and events. If you believe in the new order of general election financing (you raise it yourself) that could mean $40 million to $50 million in this bucket. Welcome to a new day.