When compared to the current resident of 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue, the two brightest hopes for the 2008 Presidential Election appear seemingly invincible. It is often difficult to get the measure of presidential hopefuls abroad, as very little time is spent on the subject until the final months before the election.
This time around, though, the race will probably be less explosive and emotional. Potentially - you can always rely on a politician from backwater, red-kneck Mississippi or some other Southern state who will undoubtedly take offence with the strongest Democratic hopeful - Senator Hillary Clinton (D., New York) - simply because she's a woman. So, let's start with her...
With Hillary Clinton, the Democrats have a fiery, politically accomplished Senator with high approval ratings (both abroad and at home). The added benefit that she is the first strong female contender, as well as a "celebrity politician" will also bode well for her chances in the elections. As the current zeitgeist involves doing new and unconventional things, a female US President is really the next step. However, from a party stand-point, it's not all roses. She's a centrist, which means she's at odds with the insanely liberal left wing of her party (i.e. the ones who want the government to pay for everything, as well as control everything). In a time when the country is drawing further and further from the centre, spreading itself to either the left or the right, her own party feels that they should go for the supreme left to fight the supreme right style of the Republicans. In The Economist, they say she's most likely to win the nomination, but only because her opponents are relative unknowns and none of them embody all the traits needed in a leader. Perhaps a blending of two or three might make it more difficult for her.
Senator John McCain (R., Arizona), however, is a strong opponent, and the lesser known outside of the USA. So, let's spend some time on him. He was in the runnning for the 2000 election (he beat Bush in the New Hampshire primary by 18%) and, if he sticks to the same tactics of that race (pathalogical honesty, campaign finance reforms, etc.), then he could very easily win this time around. He bears some resemblance to 2004 Democratic candidate John Kerry, in that he has a very international outlook, rather than the 'traditional' isolationism of the GOP.
He is the antithesis of President George W. Bush, so that should make about 90% of the World's population happy from the start. He pledged to use the Clinton-surpluses to pay down national debt, a small tax cut for the middle classes, and bolster Social Security, which would have pleased a lot of voters who normally vote Democrat, as well as independents (who are making an increasingly large proportion of registered voters). He appealed as much to the middle classes as the rich. Let's hope he can create this image once again. Articulate, intelligent, honest, good war record, good sense of humour...*
McCain - 5, Bush - 0. He is the sort of candidate that the Republicans should accept wholeheartedly; he might be the first where underhand and dirty tricks won't be needed to win the election.
Unfortunately, he's not completely squeaky-clean, which makes him fit in rather well with a growing proportion of the Republican leadership. Campaigns financed by a well-known fraudster could hurt his chances. At the same time, his candid acceptance of the fact might hold him in good stead.
(I don't know why this would be interesting to anyone...)
* I recently saw Senator McCain on The Daily Show, and he really came across as an intelligent and very funny guy.