NOTE: IN THE INTEREST OF FULL DISCLOSURE, I HAVE MADE IT WELL KNOWN THAT I SUPPORT GOVERNOR BILL RICHARDSON OF NEW MEXICO FOR PRESIDENT IN 2008.
I just posted on the optimism that the narrow race in Ohio's deep red second district engenders.
But, there is also a threat out there. A threat embodied by this story Indiana Senator Eyes 2008 Presidential Run about Evan Bayh's White House ambitions.
Now, I have nothing at all against Senator Bayh, believing that he is doing a fine job in the Senate. Read that again, a fine job in the Senate.
In 2004, Senators Kerry, Lieberman, Graham and Edwards all ran for the White House (in fact the last two gave up their seats, which went to Republicans, for the privilege). In 2008, in addition to Bayh, Senators Kerry, Feingold, Clinton and Biden are all reported to be (or have themselves said they are) looking at running for the top job. Other Senators, including Senators Obama and Feinstein, have come up from time to time as potential candidates.
Certainly we need a Democrat in the White House, and I don't blame any of them for wondering if they can be that person, but ultimately we need to gain control of the government as a whole, and they should think very hard before pissing a good thing away in the vain hope that they will win an elimination tournament for the White House.
History has not been kind to U.S. Senators who run for the White House (from either party). One reason for this has been that in the Senate, they will have thousands of votes, and on complex bills that contain thousands of lines, and opposition researchers are sure to find 'flip-flops,' votes in which subsequent history has shown them wrong, and other evidence of what can be cast as either indecisiveness or poor decision making. Not only do they lose in their runs for the White House, but they often, by running for President, make the home folks wonder if they have become 'too Washington,' and especially in the case of those from red states, they lose in the next election. Bayh need not look any farther than his father for evidence of that-- ran and lost in the 1976 Presidential primary, then in 1980 suffered the embarrassment of losing to Dan Quayle. Other Democratic Senators from red states who were bitten by the Presidential bug and paid the price in their next Senatorial election include Frank Church and George McGovern.
Beyond this, though, it is imperative that we field STRONG candidates across the board. No matter how successful a Democrat is in winning the White House, the way Congress and the Senate dragged the Clinton administration through impeachment proceedings and other measures designed to diminish the capacity of the President to govern shows that we need to win more than the White House.
That is where teamwork comes in. We need strong candidates for every position, not just for the position of top dog. To win a majority in the Senate, we must first maintain the minority of seats that we have. In fact, 2008 presents a golden opportunity to gain control of the Senate (unlike 2006). That year, 22 of 33 seats up will be held by Republicans, including many freshmen. If we have a strong ticket from the top down, we could have a banner year.
We have the same problem here in rural Arizona. We are having trouble recruiting a candidate to run against state senator Jake Flake, despite the fact that he won only 55-45% against a 25 year old candidate in her first race and who got into the race very late. But, we have no shortage of Congressional candidates who want to run against Rick Renzi, our rent-a-congressman who bought a house in Flagstaff but who has never moved from the Virginia house he and his family have lived in for many years. I think it should be easier to beat a state senator than a U.S. Congressman, and Renzi won last time with 65% district wide, but everybody wants to run for Congress.
There is precedent for teamwork. Our Attorney General, Terry Goddard, once lost narrowly for Governor and wanted to try again in 2002. But since then A.G. Janet Napolitano wanted to run, Terry chose, for the good of the party, to run for the position she was leaving instead. He won relatively easily (being well known across the state) and she also won, and both of them have done a very good job in their current position (not just my opinion-- they both have about a 70% approval rating), so next year we will be strong in Arizona with the two of them at the top of the ticket. Terry Goddard will get his crack at running for Governor one day-- I am sure of that-- but in the meantime he exemplifies class, and above all a TEAM player.