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reed magazine logoAutumn 2007
The Race

After that, the field really falls off. Chris Dodd is an incredibly experienced senator, but he’s not really going anywhere. I’ve always liked Joe Biden; I think a lot of scholars like Joe Biden. He’s clearly a smart, experienced guy. He talks for long periods of time. I guess the joke is that he’s running for secretary of state, which I don’t think would be a bad thing, and I don’t think it’s a slight on Joe Biden.

Dennis Kucinich is a very popular candidate in Portland, certainly the darling of the anti-war left. Personally, I just think he is too liberal. He’ll always get money; he’ll always get support, because he represents a particular wing of the party. When I was young, the liberal voice was Jesse Jackson, and now it’s Dennis Kucinich, and it’s important that that wing have its voice.

Many of the leading candidates seem to have a potential Achilles’ heel—some characteristic that pundits and opponents say makes them unelectable. With Obama it’s race. With Clinton, gender. With Giuliani, personal morals, and with Romney, his Mormonism. Do you see the race that way?

I don’t. Every candidate is going to have a few warts. I think Clinton’s main problem, for reasons that I cannot quite fathom, is that there’s this deep-seated, vitriolic dislike of her. There’s a sense that there’s nothing genuine in there. Gee, what a surprise—a politician plays politics. I guess I don’t find that very surprising, but a lot of Americans are clearly turned off.

Paul Gronke at lecturn

I think Giuliani’s real Achilles’ heel in the Republican Party is his marital history. That’s going to create a lot of problems for people. They are not necessarily going to understand three wives and your two eldest children not campaigning for you.

Obama is certainly the most acceptable African American candidate I’ve seen running. The story has always been—and I think there’s a lot of merit to this—that the first successful black presidential candidate is going to run on the Republican side. He’s going to be someone like Colin Powell, because then that individual will not be able to be portrayed as too liberal on a variety of race and economic issues. Similar with a woman candidate—our expectations were that it would be someone like Elizabeth Dole.

Will it shock you if a year from now we’re talking about America’s first woman president?

Not at all. I think that right now Clinton has the inside edge for the nomination, and I think the Democrats would have to work pretty hard not to win in 2008. But I don’t think she is going to run—or govern—as a woman. Perhaps as things get heated near the end of the campaign, she will play the “woman card,” particularly if she’s running against Giuliani, as his relations with women have been somewhat checkered.

reed magazine logoAutumn 2007