2
   

Best field of presidential candidates in modern US history?

 
 
Reply Mon 25 Feb, 2008 09:19 pm
I am not familiar enough with the history of the presidential also-rans to make that distinction and am familiar enough to think its probably not true but this is certainly the strongest field of presidential candidates that I am familiar with.

I am not talking about the depth of the field and other races may have fielded deeper rosters of candidates, but rather the strength of all the likely alternatives. The next president is virtually certain to be Hillary, Obama or McCain.

And I don't remember any presidential contest where such strong politicians were in the mix. Say what you like about any of these individuals and their positions but they are all exceptional politicians.

What other contests had all-star politicians like this? I realize that history will make some of the earlier politicians seem more rosy than they were (especially founding father types) and would thusly like to consider the last century only in any examples you can give me.
  • Topic Stats
  • Top Replies
  • Link to this Topic
Type: Discussion • Score: 2 • Views: 1,110 • Replies: 18
No top replies

 
Ragman
 
  1  
Reply Mon 25 Feb, 2008 09:23 pm
Strong? Not strong in my estimation. Personally I think of them as pretty mediocre.

However, you have a point if you look at them in comparison to Geo. Dubyah Bush. If you compare to him, then they look like giants!
0 Replies
 
Robert Gentel
 
  1  
Reply Mon 25 Feb, 2008 09:25 pm
Ragman wrote:
Personally I think of them as pretty mediocre.


You probably do so on the basis of their positions though, not political talent (in which they are each not reasonably described as mediocre).
0 Replies
 
Ragman
 
  1  
Reply Mon 25 Feb, 2008 09:53 pm
Please help me out and describe what you mean by political talent. Maybe our meanings differ?

The way I see it, as a poltician Hillary (my sentaor in NY State) is not very effective legislatively. Also, she has high negatives which she, as yet, has not overcome. Can't see how you come to that conclusion with her.

Now with Bill Clinton, no matter what you feel about his record, he was a politician with political talent, though squandered.
0 Replies
 
joefromchicago
 
  1  
Reply Tue 26 Feb, 2008 08:38 am
Robert Gentel wrote:
What other contests had all-star politicians like this? I realize that history will make some of the earlier politicians seem more rosy than they were (especially founding father types) and would thusly like to consider the last century only in any examples you can give me.

First of all, the type of presidential campaigning with which we are now familiar is a fairly recent innovation in American history. The first presidential primary elections were in 1912, and the last presidential candidate to win his party's nomination without running in the primaries was Hubert Humphrey in 1968. So the first "modern" presidential election, where the candidates from both parties participated in primary or caucus contests in the majority of the states, did not occur until 1972.

Before then, it is not always easy to say who was actively campaigning for the nomination. It was common at party conventions for state delegations to vote for "favorite son" candidates on the first ballot as a means of testing that candidate's strength and as a bargaining chip in negotiations with other candidates on subsequent ballots. Ted Kennedy, for instance, received a handful of votes at both the 1968 and 1972 Democratic conventions, even though he never campaigned. Was he a candidate?

As for the 2008 elections, I think the Democrats put up a good field of candidates, especially the top three (Clinton, Edwards, Obama). The Republicans, on the other hand, had a truly terrible field from which to choose. Admittedly I might be viewing this with a jaundiced eye, but if I were a Republican I would have been absolutely mortified at the prospect of voting for any of the candidates. None of the candidates could appeal to the pro-business and religious conservative segments of the Republican constituency the way GWB or Reagan had done. Romney not only had no consistent positions, but he was regarded as a cultist by a large segment of the religious right. McCain is viewed by many as a closet liberal. Huckabee's religious fervor is anathema to the Wall Street crowd. Giuliani is anti-gun, pro-gay, and just plain nuts. For Republicans, there was a lot not to like about the Republican choices this year.

The fault for that, I think, lies squarely with Bush. The Republicans have a history of deciding their presidential nominee early on in the process, sometimes before the primaries even begin. The last time there was some doubt at about the eventual nominee at a Republican convention was in 1976, and that wasn't much of a doubt. Much of that unanimity comes from the top down, starting with the president. Reagan's support for GHW Bush in 1988, for instance, staved off any incipient revolt from below. But Bush junior practically guaranteed a contested election in 2008 when he chose Dick Cheney to be his vice president. Since Cheney never had any real chance of being Bush's successor, the field was left wide open, with no general consensus at the top. Left without direction, we can now see how badly the Republicans handled that task.

My suspicion, all along, has been that 2008 was supposed to be Jeb Bush's turn at the presidency. And, considered on his own merits, Jeb would have been a good nominee. He was a governor of Florida, a key state. He appeals to the growing Hispanic population in the nation. He is able to bridge the diverse wings of the GOP. He doesn't have a messy personal life. He has everything going for him, in fact, except for an unfortunate genetic connection with one of the most reviled presidents ever. If his older brother had the same kind of poll numbers that Reagan had at the end of his second term, Jeb might be polishing off his acceptance speech right now. Instead, he is left looking at 2012 or 2016 as his best chance to reoccupy the family's winter home in Washington, D.C.
0 Replies
 
Setanta
 
  1  
Reply Tue 26 Feb, 2008 11:54 am
Even in the 20th century, it was considered bad form for a sitting President to go out to actually campaign for himself. Although this was more a more common attitude in the 19th century, it was still being observed in the 20th century. Theodore Roosevelt was an inveterate campaigner, who loved to go out and work the crowds on the stump, so he made quite a difference in those attitudes. Nevertheless, when an incumbent ran, even as late as the 1920s, it was still considered to be more "statesman-like" for him to sit home on the front porch to chat with the boys from the press, while surrogates went out to campaign. This gradually changed over the course of the 20th century, but as Joe points out, the style of campaigning we see now is only of recent invention. Probably more than anyone else, Harry Truman changed this. He was considered dead on arrival in the 1948 election, so he went out to run a tried and true campaign method, the whistle-stop campaign. He plastered Dewey in one sense, when one considers that the press and the pundits considered Dewey a shoo-in, and Strom Thrumond and Henry Wallace bled off votes which would have traditionally gone to the Democratic candidate (he beat Dewey by about two and half million in the popular vote, and buried him in the electoral college--the other four candidates were responsible for another two and half million votes). Truman showed just how crucial the appearance of the candidate, even if a sitting President, can be to an election campaign.

Basically, i agree with Joe (if this is actually what he is saying) that there just is no reasonable basis of comparison of contemporary campaigns to historical campaigns.

As for the reference to the founding fathers, that is deceptive. Often, several candidates from the same party would run for President, and some of the early elections were closely contested, and bitter resentments arose from them, with plenty of chicanery going on in state delegations to Congress. It began early, as well, with the 1800 election.

In 1796, there were 13 candidates, all but one from the two existent parties. (And George Washington, who did not run, and who had publicly said that he would not accept any office, nevertheless got six electoral votes as Vice President!) In 1800, there were five candidates, two Democratic Republicans and three Federalists, and the election was thrown into the House of Representatives. However, that was not because there was a tie between a Democratic-Republican and a Federalist, because the three Federalist did not poll as much of the popular vote, nor as many electoral votes, as the two Democratic-Republicans combined. So the House had to choose between Thomas Jefferson and Aaron Burr, who had been, at least notionally, running mates. The Federalists hated Jefferson, and attempted to give the election to Burr (although after several ballots in the House, they failed). The election of 1804 was the first one we would recognize as a "normal" election, with the incumbent, Jefferson, running as the Democratic-Republican against Charles Cotesworth Pinckney, the Federalist. That went right out the window in 1808, when one Federalist ran against three Democratic-Republicans. The 1820 election was the most bizarre by far--only one candidate stood for election, the incumbent President, James Monroe. People in those days voted for the electors, which required them to actually know something about politics, because to vote for their favorite candidate, they had to know for whom the elector would vote--and even then couldn't be sure. John Quincy Adams, who did not run and got no popular votes, got one vote in the electoral college. Over 15% of the popular vote went to Federalist electors, who had no one to vote for, and so cast their electoral votes for the President. 1824 was more bizarre still--each of the four candidates was running on a Democratic-Republican ticket. Although Andrew Jackson won 40% of the popular vote, no candidate got enough of the electoral college to win, so it went to the House. The last place man in the election, Henry Clay, also happened to be the Speaker of the House, and he hated Jackson, so he threw his support to J. Q. Adams. When Adams appointed Clay Secretary of State, Jackson and company cried foul, and campaigned successfully against Adams on that basis in 1828.

Jackson's defeat galled him, and it was the death knell for Jefferson's Democratic-Republican Party, which already had quite a few disaffected members. Jackson scooped up these unhappy party members, and then did nationally what he had done in Tennessee, he built a party organization from the ground up, from the precinct to the state committee. In 1828, he took well over 50% of the vote, but he absolutely plastered Adams in the electoral college, which demonstrated the strength of his party organizations, as people still voted for electors, and Jackson's Democrats were organized for the election as no other party ever had been.

Actually, this is a fascinating topic just because there never really has been any kind of "normal" election to which on can point saying that this is what the founders intended.
0 Replies
 
real life
 
  1  
Reply Tue 26 Feb, 2008 12:31 pm
I don't think that a majority of Republicans consider their lineup of candidates to have been strong.

Conservative R's have been particularly unhappy, but even liberal R's have been dismayed by the ridiculous campaigns that have caused their boys to fizzle (Rudy) and nearly fizzle before being resurrected by the press so that they could crucify him in Nov (McCain)

I don't think a majority of Democrats consider their lineup of candidates to have been strong either.

D's mostly seem to think that ANY Democrat ought to be able to win this time around and that's why they are willing to risk sending either Hilly (with the highest negatives of any candidate, tremendous baggage and little experience) or BHO ( a rookie Senator who voted "Present" on the tough issues in the Illinois legislature ) to the lists.

That being said, there are SOME diehards in each party that will completely deny the faults of their respective candidates, proclaiming them 'strong', etc regardless of their performance. If we cut off the meds for this crowd, they might eventually talk sense, but don't count on it.
0 Replies
 
spendius
 
  1  
Reply Tue 26 Feb, 2008 01:14 pm
joe-

Even though I found your essay educational for which much thanks and to others too it might be, and I'm not saying it is, that this-

Quote:
Left without direction, we can now see how badly the Republicans handled that task.


ignors the possibility that the Party felt there was a certain job to do and those were the men to do it. And it wasn't a nice job and the public could distance themselves from it by hating those doing it whilst at the same time reaping the benefits it would bring.

The outflow of western technological know-how to oil rich countries run by people who don't have a Christian outlook looked to be unstoppable. So some crunch point was coming and those are better dealt with early rather than dithering and dallying like a fairy on a birfday cyake.

I'm afraid that I have such faith in our ingenuity that I assume that what comes to pass has been planned. I think cock-up theories are excuses.
0 Replies
 
sozobe
 
  1  
Reply Tue 26 Feb, 2008 01:29 pm
Interesting question.

I agree with Joe (and with his disclaimers too) that the Democratic side has been far stronger than the Republican side. McCain really seems to merely be the beneficiary of a process of elimination, rather than someone who proactively grabbed the nomination. Giuiliani messed up. Romney messed up. Thompson messed up. Paul's still around, without a hope of winning. Huckabee's still around -- and getting way higher numbers than you'd expect from someone without a hope of winning. (Of course HE is hoping, but...)

Meanwhile I think Hillary and Edwards are both very strong candidates, and that if Obama becomes the nominee it will be because he's stronger yet.
0 Replies
 
joefromchicago
 
  1  
Reply Tue 26 Feb, 2008 01:55 pm
Setanta wrote:
Basically, i agree with Joe (if this is actually what he is saying) that there just is no reasonable basis of comparison of contemporary campaigns to historical campaigns.

Pretty much. I'd say that pre-1972 campaigns can't really be compared to the present. As you note, candidates didn't really run for president in the same fashion as they do today. In the good old days, it was still possible for a party to nominate a candidate who did not even get any votes on the first ballot at the convention -- that happened with Polk in 1844, Pierce in 1852, and Garfield in 1880. That just wouldn't happen today.
0 Replies
 
Robert Gentel
 
  1  
Reply Tue 26 Feb, 2008 03:00 pm
Ragman wrote:
Please help me out and describe what you mean by political talent. Maybe our meanings differ?


I separate the politician's positions as long as they are in any way appealing to a portion of the mainstream. The positions themselves are hotly debated and lend themselves to even less objectivity in any evaluation.

Quote:
The way I see it, as a poltician Hillary (my sentaor in NY State) is not very effective legislatively. Also, she has high negatives which she, as yet, has not overcome. Can't see how you come to that conclusion with her.


As with any politician, negative views of them will abound. I conclude that she is a talented and strong politician in the wonk line of politicians.

Quote:
Now with Bill Clinton, no matter what you feel about his record, he was a politician with political talent, though squandered.


I think he was a more talented politician to be sure, and certainly more well endowed with charisma. That doesn't mean Hillary isn't a talented politician. Against almost anyone but Obama she'd be doing very well right now and I think that's a testament to Obama's own talents more so than her deficiencies.

real life wrote:
I don't think that a majority of Republicans consider their lineup of candidates to have been strong.


John McCain is a strong candidate and a strong politician. He may not resonate as well within certain conservative groups based on his positions but he has been a popular politician among centrists and independents and his political career is nothing to scoff at.

Quote:
I don't think a majority of Democrats consider their lineup of candidates to have been strong either.


Quote:
That being said, there are SOME diehards in each party that will completely deny the faults of their respective candidates, proclaiming them 'strong', etc regardless of their performance.


And I think with all of this you highlight the difficulty in a meta-evaluation of this nature when taking positions into account. Most people like a situation in which a candidate that shares their positions is the likely winner for obvious reasons.

sozobe wrote:
I agree with Joe (and with his disclaimers too) that the Democratic side has been far stronger than the Republican side.


I certainly do think that the Democratic side has a lot more to smile about this time around than do the Republicans. But they still had fairly strong candidates considering that their incumbent can't run and the vice is too creepy.

Quote:
McCain really seems to merely be the beneficiary of a process of elimination, rather than someone who proactively grabbed the nomination.


All politicians are the beneficiary of the process of elimination unless they are the eliminated. The difference is one of degree and can certainly exist but it's also not entirely arbitrary.

McCain is the beneficiary of this process for reasons that do include positive elements in him as a candidate. He has had a strong following for years with centrists and has as notable a political career as almost any presidential candidate.

Quote:
Giuiliani messed up. Romney messed up. Thompson messed up.


Good politicians mess up, it can happen to the best of them. Hillary messed up.

Now I don't want to defend these particular candidates, as all but Giuliani are not very notable but do want to note that solid politicians can fall with the best of them.

Quote:
Paul's still around, without a hope of winning.


But is the most interesting snowball (as in ..chance in hell) candidate in a while....

Quote:
Meanwhile I think Hillary and Edwards are both very strong candidates, and that if Obama becomes the nominee it will be because he's stronger yet.


I think Edwards is a good candidate to those who share his positions about as much as Giuliani is to those who share his though. Heck, I may even go so far as to say that Giuliani has thus far been a stronger politician.

joefromchicago wrote:

I'd say that pre-1972 campaigns can't really be compared to the present.


Fair enough, how would you compare post-1972 campaigns then?


I think McCain is a stronger candidate for the Republicans than Dole, Ford and possibly Nixon.

I think Obama/Hillary are stronger candidates than Gore, Edwards, Kerry, Dukakis, McGovern and Mondale with the possible (I'd go so far as to say likely) inclusion of Carter.

It's so subjective it's silly but I think this overall field is a very strong field of presidential candidates. Weaker on the Republican side this time than the Democrat's side but still better than average there.
0 Replies
 
spendius
 
  1  
Reply Tue 26 Feb, 2008 03:22 pm
Hey Bob-

You missed me out.

I feel all forlorn and rejected.

Don't you like the idea that it's a movie?

Every scrap of info is mediated through channels. It's brilliant. When Mr Obama did his "lift off" phrase I couldn't stop laughing for ages and ages.

Nobody can make movies like Yanks can. We are catching up though.
0 Replies
 
Robert Gentel
 
  1  
Reply Tue 26 Feb, 2008 07:24 pm
Given that I have no idea what you are on about I'm afraid I really don't have much to say on the matter.
0 Replies
 
nimh
 
  1  
Reply Tue 26 Feb, 2008 08:10 pm
bm
0 Replies
 
real life
 
  1  
Reply Tue 26 Feb, 2008 09:34 pm
sozobe wrote:
Interesting question.

I agree with Joe (and with his disclaimers too) that the Democratic side has been far stronger than the Republican side. McCain really seems to merely be the beneficiary of a process of elimination, rather than someone who proactively grabbed the nomination. Giuiliani messed up. Romney messed up. Thompson messed up. Paul's still around, without a hope of winning. Huckabee's still around -- and getting way higher numbers than you'd expect from someone without a hope of winning. (Of course HE is hoping, but...)

Meanwhile I think Hillary and Edwards are both very strong candidates, and that if Obama becomes the nominee it will be because he's stronger yet.


For the R's, McCain, the candidate with the strongest appeal in the center, has the nomination locked up for all intents.

For the D's, Obama, the candidate farthest to the left , is currently ahead while Clinton who ran portraying herself as a centrist (though she's not, unless you're only taking her own party into account) has lost 11 straight primaries.

This doesn't bode well for the D's because the race will likely be decided in the center.
0 Replies
 
engineer
 
  1  
Reply Wed 27 Feb, 2008 07:43 am
Robert Gentel wrote:
I think McCain is a stronger candidate for the Republicans than Dole, Ford and possibly Nixon.

I think Obama/Hillary are stronger candidates than Gore, Edwards, Kerry, Dukakis, McGovern and Mondale with the possible (I'd go so far as to say likely) inclusion of Carter.

Just on paper, I don't think that Obama or Clinton hold a candle to Gore who had more time in the Senate plus eight years as VP or Bill Clinton who was governor for 12 years. Dukakis, McGovern, Mondale, JFK and Carter also stack up favorably on paper. I think you could make an argument that charisma is important these days so Obama would move up the list, but still JFK and Bill Clinton have him beat there.

On the Republican side, McCain doesn't stand up well when compared to Nixon (who had a long and varied political career) or GH Bush (the same). He's probably even with Ford, but Ford had experience as President when he ran.

I'd say Bush senior vs WJ Clinton was the best battle of heavily qualified candidates and JFK vs Nixon was probably next.
0 Replies
 
joefromchicago
 
  1  
Reply Wed 27 Feb, 2008 07:58 am
Robert Gentel wrote:
joefromchicago wrote:

I'd say that pre-1972 campaigns can't really be compared to the present.


Fair enough, how would you compare post-1972 campaigns then?

One other point of comparison worth noting: this election is the first since 1952 where no incumbent president or vice-president is running (discounting Truman's half-hearted and abortive run in 1952). So when you talk about both parties running a strong field of candidates, you need to remember that, in most elections, one party or the other isn't really running a "field" of candidates. At most, it's a "patch" of them.

For instance, the Democrats actually had a good slate of candidates in 1972: Muskie, Humphrey, Henry "Scoop" Jackson, McGovern. George McGovern was a good candidate, he just ran a remarkably bad campaign. On the other hand, the GOP field consisted of Richard Nixon. So that throws off the balance.

In 2000, the Democrats had Gore and Bradley, while the Republicans had Bush fils and McCain. I'd call both sets of candidates solid, it's just that the primary election was effectively over after the South Carolina primary, so we never had the chance to evaluate the rivals like we can do this year. Furthermore, subsequent events color our perceptions of the candidates: Gore ran a truly lackluster and uninspiring general election campaign, and Bush turned out to be a disaster as president. As candidates for the nomination, though, they both presented the voters with good choices.
0 Replies
 
jeafl
 
  1  
Reply Sat 1 Mar, 2008 03:30 pm
Probably the strongest field of presidential candidates was the Republicans in 1980. Combined the GOP field that year included 4 U.S. senators, 3 governors, 1 cabinet secretary and 3 diplomats. Perhaps the most qualified candidate ever to seek the White House, at least in terms of variety of experience, was George H. W. Bush. By the time he sought the 1980 GOP nomination he had been a war hero, a businessman, a U.S. Representative, Envoy to Red China, ambassador to the United Nations and director of the CIA and Chairman of the Republican Party.
0 Replies
 
Robert Gentel
 
  1  
Reply Mon 3 Mar, 2008 03:21 pm
engineer wrote:

Just on paper, I don't think that Obama or Clinton hold a candle to Gore who had more time in the Senate plus eight years as VP or Bill Clinton who was governor for 12 years.


Interesting point, I put them above Gore because despite Gore's experience he doesn't impress me in pure political skill much (campaigning, motivating a constituency).

Quote:
Dukakis, McGovern, Mondale, JFK and Carter also stack up favorably on paper. I think you could make an argument that charisma is important these days so Obama would move up the list, but still JFK and Bill Clinton have him beat there.


For me it's not just charisma, despite its importance in politics, but the more general ability to connect with voters.

For example, I don't think Hillary is charismatic, but I think she does a good job at connecting with her constituency.

Another example is McCain, I don't think he's that charismatic but I think he does well at working within the political machine.

Gore is the kind of guy that to me is neither charismatic nor does he know how to use his political machine very well. His distancing himself from Clinton is something I think cost him the election and there was no good political reason to do so.

Quote:
On the Republican side, McCain doesn't stand up well when compared to Nixon (who had a long and varied political career) or GH Bush (the same). He's probably even with Ford, but Ford had experience as President when he ran.

I'd say Bush senior vs WJ Clinton was the best battle of heavily qualified candidates and JFK vs Nixon was probably next.


If experience is the main qualification, I'd tend to agree.

joefromchicago wrote:

One other point of comparison worth noting: this election is the first since 1952 where no incumbent president or vice-president is running (discounting Truman's half-hearted and abortive run in 1952). So when you talk about both parties running a strong field of candidates, you need to remember that, in most elections, one party or the other isn't really running a "field" of candidates. At most, it's a "patch" of them.


I'd go so far as to say it's very odd that the Republicans did nothing to address this. It's not like they didn't have a 4-year heads up that their VP is unelectable but they didn't create a front-runner early and didn't even seem to try.

Quote:
For instance, the Democrats actually had a good slate of candidates in 1972: Muskie, Humphrey, Henry "Scoop" Jackson, McGovern. George McGovern was a good candidate, he just ran a remarkably bad campaign.


Did he generally campaign well and flub that one? I ask because I think a candidate that can't campaign (as opposed to one who does poorly in one campaign) isn't much of a politician.

Quote:

In 2000, the Democrats had Gore and Bradley, while the Republicans had Bush fils and McCain. I'd call both sets of candidates solid, it's just that the primary election was effectively over after the South Carolina primary, so we never had the chance to evaluate the rivals like we can do this year.


I think this is another good point, the Democrats being competitive this late could be a big part of why it feels like a more robust field to me.

Quote:
Furthermore, subsequent events color our perceptions of the candidates: Gore ran a truly lackluster and uninspiring general election campaign, and Bush turned out to be a disaster as president. As candidates for the nomination, though, they both presented the voters with good choices.


Very true, but even though I think Bush 2 is a strong contender for worst president in history I think he's a very strong politician.

jeafl wrote:
Probably the strongest field of presidential candidates was the Republicans in 1980. Combined the GOP field that year included 4 U.S. senators, 3 governors, 1 cabinet secretary and 3 diplomats. Perhaps the most qualified candidate ever to seek the White House, at least in terms of variety of experience, was George H. W. Bush. By the time he sought the 1980 GOP nomination he had been a war hero, a businessman, a U.S. Representative, Envoy to Red China, ambassador to the United Nations and director of the CIA and Chairman of the Republican Party.


Hmm, sometimes I forget how strong Bush 1 was as a candidate. What is your take on the Democrat's candidates that election?
0 Replies
 
 

Related Topics

HAPPY ANNIVERSARY, EVERYONE! - Discussion by OmSigDAVID
WIND AND WATER - Discussion by Setanta
Who ordered the construction of the Berlin Wall? - Discussion by Walter Hinteler
True version of Vlad Dracula, 15'th century - Discussion by gungasnake
ONE SMALL STEP . . . - Discussion by Setanta
History of Gun Control - Discussion by gungasnake
Where did our notion of a 'scholar' come from? - Discussion by TuringEquivalent
 
  1. Forums
  2. » Best field of presidential candidates in modern US history?
Copyright © 2020 MadLab, LLC :: Terms of Service :: Privacy Policy :: Page generated in 0.03 seconds on 08/12/2020 at 08:13:13