An obviously important subject for the country at this time is our presence in Iraq. Much will have changed by the next election, but the opinions expressed by the prospective candidates are already being judged today. The candidates have begun to establish their images, and what they say now will be important as the election draws near.
Every conversation about Mitt Romney seems to bring up his Mormon background. Some conservative Christians are leery, but it would be a mistake for Republicans to discount Romney because he has been a dynamic leader for the state of Massachusetts and is socially conservative.
While it is important to consider a candidate's religious views (it says a lot about how one sees the world), we are not electing a high priest. As president, Romney's religion would not be a hindrance. However, until his public image goes beyond being the Morman candidate, other Republicans may be able to attract more voters.
John McCain is a Republican who has distanced himself from George W. Bush in the past. As unpopular as our current president is, McCain is unlikely to be nominated by the Republicans.
Those who vote in the Republican primary are more conservative than the general public and are less likely to choose this moderate candidate. McCain has endorsed some views they are likely to disagree with, such as the McCain-Feingold campaign finance reform bill, his opposition to drilling in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge and his vote against the federal marriage amendment.
McCain's views on Iraq also should be considered, as it is the topic on which he is most conservative. McCain has defended his vote for war in Iraq and agrees with Bush's decision to send more troops. According to an article in Newsweek, for many months now McCain has called for more forces to make a strong surge in an attempt to wipe out the insurgents. This rhetoric will not go over well with the American public, of whom a majority are disillusioned about the war.
Rudy Giuliani is another front-runner for the Republican Party. As mayor of New York City on September 11, 2001, he was an exemplary leader during a time of crisis. He also cut down crime and successfully dealt with economic issues during his time in office. Giuliani is popular, but he has some potentially damaging personal issues to overcome in order to gain the party's nomination. He is currently married to his third wife after two past marriages that ended in divorce. His views on same-sex civil unions and stem cell research also put him to the left of most of his party.
Hillary Clinton elicits strong emotions, both positive and negative. There are conservatives who despise her, but she is the favorite, according to recent CNN polls, to win the Democratic nomination. Hillary would make history as the first female president, and as a woman vying against many men, she would attract potential votes as a unique candidate. She may be popular among liberal Democrats, but she would have to work hard in order to be victorious in the general election.
John Edwards campaign has been in the news for his controversial hiring of Pandagon blogger Amanda Marcotte. She has disparagingly described those who have voted for Republicans as misogynistic, homophobic and racist. Edwards may be a dashing, young, attractive candidate, but he should avoid hiring people who unjustly offend possible voters.
Junior Illinois Senator Barack Obama has created a huge stir across the country as someone who rises above petty politics. His charisma and speaking skills certainly add to his appeal.
It is likely that the excitement over Obama will bring more voters to the Democratic Primary than usual. He has been involved in national politics for a shorter time than the other candidates and does not appear to be deeply entrenched in the political games of Washington, so his call for change seems more genuine. It feels good for people to support this younger candidate who builds bridges across ideologies, races and parties. However, his stirring rhetoric needs to be accompanied by specific examples.
The election is less than two years away, yet there are already many candidates campaigning to receive the nomination of their party. Though polls will change and more candidates will join the pursuit, an interesting race has begun.