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The Democrats

The Democratic presidential race starts out as two separate elections which take place at the same time during the first Democratic primaries.

The first election is for the leadership – to be the standard bearer – of the liberal wing of the Democratic Party.

The other for the leadership of the ‘New Democrats’ or the ‘Clinton Democrats.’

Two years ago, John Kerry won the first election and John Edwards won the second. Then they slugged it out and Kerry won the nomination.

This election Hillary Clinton is leading the race to be the liberal Democratic standard bearer. She has potential competition from John Kerry and Al Gore (unless Gore’s career as a movie producer and climatic scientist turns out to be something other than a vehicle for resurrecting his political fortunes).

John Edwards’ competition last time to be the “New Democrat” standard bearer was General Wesley Clark. He faces tougher competition this time. From former Virginia Governor Mark Warner and, possibly, Indiana Senator Evan Bayh.

The Republicans

The Republicans only have one election and it’s like a swamp.

John McCain is the big alligator in the swamp, right now, because he’s been there longest. And, as the number two finisher six years ago, he’s as close as there is to a frontrunner and Republicans like frontrunners.

McCain’s problem: his stand on immigration, alone, may be enough to scuttle him.

And there are plenty of little alligators in the swamp looking for a conservative toehold. Like Mitt Romney. George Allen. And Mike Huckabee.

Rudy Giuliani is running too but his stand on gay rights may be harder for Republicans to adjust to than even McCain’s stand on immigration. And there’s Bill Frist, who looks like the Washington establishment candidate, who can probably raise a ton of money. But may go nowhere.

So, right now, the interesting thing is the scramble among the little alligators to see which one can get a leg up on the others. Mike Huckabee might be interesting to watch. Huckabee is a man with a message. He’s not just trying to figure out how to knit the pieces together and weave his way through the labyrinth of presidential politics to get the nomination; he has an agenda.

That doesn’t mean he will win. Joe Lieberman had an agenda and where did it get him? But, I suspect, of the little alligators Huckabee may be the most interesting.

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