From the many presidential prospects only one, with the right mix of experience, ability (including fundraising ability), temperament, philosophy, leadership style, and luck will emerge from the long campaign as his or her party's nominee.  It's going to be crowded for a while, however.
Republicans  |  Democrats  |  Others [Graphic: Dems | Reps]
The Evolving Field
In 2005-06, about two dozen Democratic and Republican officials candidates drew the bulk of media speculation as possible presidential candidates (there were a couple of longshot declared candidates as well).  In this pre-campaign period some prospects were quite active and others kept a lower profile. 

The 2006 mid-term elections clarified the political landscape.  By the end of January 2007 the field of Democratic and Republican candidates had largely taken shape.  With one exception, all of the "major" candidates had either formed exploratory committees or formally launched their campaigns.  At least seven individuals considered as prospects announced they would not run (Warner, Feingold, Frist, Daschle, Bayh, Keating and Kerry; Pataki, didn't make a firm announcement but faded into the private sector).  There remained several prospects who might possibly enter the race (Democrats Gore and Clark, Republican F.Thompson, Bloomberg as an Independent, and Nader), and indeed there has been at one "late entrant."  Those who are running have built their campaign teams, including staff, advisors, and consultants, both nationally and in key states, and are working to raise the millions of dollars necessary to run a national campaign.

If elected, each of these individuals would bring different experience, temperament, leadership style, and political philosophy to the Oval Office.  Each has strengths and weakness, some of which will become evident during the course of the long campaign. 

Republican Candidates-Where Were They: 1940s | 1950s | 1960s | 1970s | 1980s | 1990s | 2000s
Democratic Candidates-Where Were They: 1940s | 1950s | 1960s | 1970s | 1980s | 1990s | 2000s

An effective campaign organization highlights the positive traits and downplays or obscures the shortcomings.  Voters' challenge is to cut through all the rhetoric, staging, and negative ads and determine which of the candidates they believe is most qualified to lead the United States for the next four years.  The question of electability also enters into voters' calculations.  In 2008, after over a year on the campaign trail, two candidates will emerge as their parties' nominees. 

In recent years governors' offices seem to be the most reliable route to the White House.  Four of the past five presidents have served as governors (Bush, Clinton, Reagan and Carter).  Governors and former governors mentioned as presidential prospects included Democrats Vilsack, Richardson and Warner (decided against) and Republicans Huckabee, Pataki (decided against), Romney, T.Thompson and Gilmore.  Governors can point to their executive experience and can also present themselves as "outside the Beltway" candidates. 

Many current and former U.S. Senators are running or have weighed a run.  On the Democratic side, the list has included seven current U.S. Senators--Bayh (decided against), Biden, Clinton, Dodd, Feingold (decided against), Kerry (decided against) and Obama and three former Senators--Daschle (decided against), Edwards, and Gravel.  Six Republican Senators--Allen (decided against), Brownback, Frist (decided against), Hagel and McCain and one former Senator--F.Thompson were mentioned

Several U.S. House members are in the running: Kucinich (D-OH), Hunter (R-CA), Paul (R-TX) and Tancredo (R-CO). 

Other candidates and possible candidates bring different experience: former New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani (R), former Vice President Al Gore (D-TN), Gen. Wesley Clark (ret.) (D) and New York City Mayor Mike Bloomberg (I).

Another practical distinction to consider in reviewing the field of candidates is those who have day jobs and those who do not.  Senators and Congressmen must be mindful of key votes and of not missing too many votes (see Absent Congress - A Project of the American Conservative Student Union).  Similarly, the only active governor in the race, New Mexico Democrat Bill Richardson, had to stay fairly close at hand while the state legislature was in session (legislative session is Jan. 16-Mar. 17, 2007).

If past is a guide, candidates from the Libertarian, Green and Constitution parties will have little impact on the 2008 general election.  However, observers have posited various scenarios wherein a credible independent candidate could pose a challenge to the major party candidates.  New York City Mayor Mike Bloomberg is probably most frequently mentioned in this context.  Additionally the Unity08 campaign has attracted some attention.  The group, launched in May 2006, forsees building "a solidly-funded movement" of millions of Americans that will "take our country back from polarizing politics."  "In 2008, we'll select and elect a Unity Ticket to the White House--one Democrat, one Republican, in whatever order, or independents committed to a Unity team," the Unity08 website declares.

A candidate's qualities, experience and vision can only take him or her so far; he or she also needs a solid campaign team to highlight strengths, downplay weaknesses and spread his or her message.  For example, a Dodd campaign press release from March 2007 touting a couple of new staffers notes, "Nothing is a greater indicator of a campaign with momentum than the addition of such distinguished talent."  The Boston Globe reported in September 2007 that during the first six months of 2007 "seven presidential contenders had well over 100 salaried employees."1  Further the article noted a "dramatic increase" in spending on consultants.  One of the most noteworthy stories of the 2008 campaign on the Democratic side was the unprecedented Obama field organization, which was on the ground early and everywhere.  Meanwhile the Clinton campaign effectively ignored many caucus states. 

Democrats: Biden | Clinton | Dodd | Edwards | Gravel | Kucinich | Obama | Richardson | Vilsack
Republicans: Brownback | Gilmore | Giuliani | Huckabee | Hunter | McCain | Paul | Romney | Tancredo | T.Thompson | F.Thompson | Cox
Organization pages are based on information from the campaigns  supplemented by news accounts.  They can always be improved.  Your input is welcome.

The United States faces myriad complicated and interrelated challenges.  How do candidates reduce this big set of challenges into manageable issue areas?  One can learn much from how a candidate frames "the issues," including the areas they choose not address.
Republicans  |  Democrats    5/26/07

Endorsements by prominent officials or former officials, organizations, publications can lend credibility to a candidacy.
By Governors, Senators and Congressmen
Newspapers and Magazines

Campaign Communications
There are an almost infinite number of ways a campaign can communicate with potential voters either directly--ads (radio, TV, Internet or print), billboards, brochures, buttons, calls (from a staffer or volunteer or robo), door-to-door canvass, e-mails, flyers...--or indirectly, for example by putting on an event that is covered by news organizations.
Paid and Free Media

1. Susan Milligan.  "Candidates spending millions for advice."  Boston Globe, September 2, 2007.

Memo Corner Caution: This is a High Spin Zone
Giuliani: "4th Quarter Kickoff" - Brent Seaborn (Oct. 2, 2007) >
Huckabee: "Memorandum to Huckabee Campaigners" - Ed Rollins and Chip Saltsman (Feb. 8, 2008) >
Romney: "The Path to Victory" - Alex Gage (Jan. 9, 2008) >
Biden: "The Real 'Clear Contrast'" - Luis Navarro (Nov. 15, 2007) >
Edwards: "Path to the Nomination" - Edwards campaign (Jan. 28, 2008) >
Clinton: "The Right Choice for the Democratic Party" (May 28, 2008) PDF, letter, data
            "The Path to the Presidency" - Harold Ickes, Mark Penn (March 5, 2008) >

            "A New Day" - Mark Penn (Feb. 6, 2008) >
            "Why Hillary, Not Sen. Obama, Is the Democrat to Beat McCain" - Mark Penn (Feb. 11, 2008) >
            "The Path to the Nomination" - Mark Penn (Feb. 13, 2008) >
Obama: "State of the Race Post South Carolina" - David Plouffe (Jan. 28, 2008) >
             "Putting Tomorrow Into Perspective" - David Plouffe (Feb. 4, 2008) >
             Memo to Superdelegates - David Plouffe (May 7, 2008) >

South Carolina Presidential Brand Study - Two South Carolina firms, Chernoff Newman and MarketSearch, conducted a branding study of the presidential candidates based on telephone surveys conducted April 9 and 16, 2007.
DNC: Republican Candidates - On May 3, 2007 the DNC launched a new section of its website focused on the Republican candidates.  This is a view of the GOP candidates through mud-colored glasses.  The section looks at the ten major declared and exploratory candidates as well as possible candidate former Sen. Fred Thompson and does not have much good to say about any of them. 
RNC: DemFacts - The RNC's DemFacts area is not as focused and organized as the DNC area.  Instead, it has Research Briefings that hone in on particular remarks or actions of the candidates. 

Copyright © 2006, 2007, 2008  Eric M. Appleman/Democracy in Action