Expect Warner And Feingold To Get A Long Look In The Coming Months
Fresh faces have a distinct advantage in the 2008 race, as we are surely going to see the usual suspects on the Democratic side of the race. With Kerry, Edwards, and perhaps Wes Clark as certain to run again, and Hillary looming in the background, the base as well as the media will give the "new meat" a long look over the coming months, and that gives certain candidates a chance to make a big impression. Having said that, Joe Biden had a good appearance on Russert’s Meet the Press yesterday. He took another opportunity to look smarter than the entire Bush foreign policy team. Biden says he is just about ready to call for a withdrawal from Iraq.
Russ Feingold gets a good write-up and interview today from the Washington Post’s Chris Cillizza, who says that Feingold is an improved version of Howard Dean, in that he argues for Beltway Democrats to get their spine, challenge Bush on Iraq and terrorism, and to do it without perceived anger. Feingold says the Senate Democrats went back into a foxhole after he first called for a timetable to leave Iraq, and haven’t emerged since.
With Gore out, I think the two candidates that will prove to be the most interesting will be Feingold and Mark Warner, from different sides of the party. Salon’s Walter Shapiro noted over the weekend that both are more polished on the stump this early than the 2004 crop were at a similar time in that cycle, and both are well received.
Note how well Feingold does on the stump:
Feingold, who called himself a progressive Democrat, said Democrats will not win the fall elections if they stand back and believe Republicans will self-destruct because of scandals.
“We won’t win by default. We won’t win by just running out the clock. We’ll only win if we show we are willing to discuss tough subjects, or else we will be perceived as weak and full of fear,” he said.
He said Democrats have to show the American people they will stand for principle and act on principle if they are to be successful. “Wherever I go I hear the same thing, ‘When are you guys going to start standing up?’”
Feingold received his most enthusiastic standing ovation when he called for legislation guaranteeing universal health coverage. He received another standing ovation when he said he voted against the Iraqi war because he believed it “was a bad idea in the first place.”
“We should bring the troops home by the end of 2006 and stop repeating this mistake over and over and over again,” Feingold said. He also accused the Bush administration of infringing on the rights of the American people.
“The Constitution and the Bill of Rights did not end on 9/11. I wonder if President Bush understands that,” Feingold said.
For his part, Warner has improved noticeably over his early tentativeness in talking about Iraq:
Warner said he has a long list of what he believes the Bush administration has done wrong, but “my biggest problem with our President is not what he has done. My biggest problem with the President is what he has not done.
“He has never asked us to come together as Americans to stand up for something . . . Every American would have done anything he asked after 9/11, but the President missed the opportunity,” Warner said. The President missed other opportunities with Hurricane Katrina and the Iraqi war, Warner added.
“Look at Iraq. What makes me the most angry is Iraq wasn’t about al-Qaida, but now it is. Iran wasn’t about expansionism, but it is now,” Warner said. “The problems in Iraq affect our ability to deal with Iran, and Iran is the real deal.”
He said less than $2 billion is spent annually on research for renewable energy while the Iraqi war costs $7 billion a month. Diverting two weeks' worth of war costs would more than double the money for energy research, Warner said.
But the administration fails to understand the connections between energy policy and national security, and renewable energy and creating jobs, he said.The Concord Monitor did note that Warner’s moderate remarks, falling far short of Feingold’s meat-to-the-base approach, didn’t wow the crowd in New Hampshire over the weekend, but then again, Warner isn’t trying to keep up with Feingold in seizing the hearts and minds of the base. He is simply getting known and positioning himself as the outside-the-Beltway moderate alternative to Hillary and everyone else.