The Note: The 2008 Invisible Primary Ratings


Sen. John McCain (R-AZ) and Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton (D-NY) sit atop their respective fields for the 2008 presidential nominations, according to the debut installment of the ABC News 2008 Invisible Primary Ratings.

Let us move briefly to get the vital history out of the way: 1) No Senator has been elected President of these United States since John F. Kennedy in 1960.

2) 2008 will mark the first presidential election since 1928 in which neither the sitting president nor vice president is running for the job -- creating a wide open contest.

Well, at least wide open enough for a candidate to position himself as the alternative-of-choice to one of the frontrunners.

The Invisible Primary refers to the jockeying for supremacy in the contests to be positioned to be the major party presidential nominees between now and start of the actual caucus and primary voting. Historically, winning the Invisible Primary does not guarantee a candidate a party nomination, but it sure helps.

In our inaugural Invisible Primary Ratings of the 2004 cycle (published in the first quarter of 2002), Sen. John Kerry was ranked first and Sen. John Edwards second with 3.05 and 3.2 scores, respectively. Those two men, of course, went on to be the last two Democrats standing in the race for their party's presidential nomination before Kerry selected Edwards as his running mate.

This time, the Warner media boomlet, the Huckabee travel schedule, the Romney/Boston Globe relationship, the Kerry e-mail list, the Giuliani mystery, the Allen biography, the Feingold maverick-dom, the Biden "straight talk," the reemergence of Newt, the Frist frustration, and much more have all been taken into account.

And/but the money potential, national political experience, and name identification status make Sen. McCain and Sen. Clinton the 800-pound elephant and donkey in the room impossible to ignore.

Here are the top-line numbers, followed by the explanations and the breakdown. Remember: These ratings measure the chances of winning party nominations, not of winning the White House.

ABC VOTE 2008: INVISIBLE PRIMARY RATINGS: (The closer the rating is to 1.0, the better chance of securing the nomination.)

Invisible Primary Ratings
Potential Candidates
John McCain 1.42
George Allen 3.58
Mitt Romney 4.05
Rudy Giuliani 4.63
Mike Huckabee 5.53
Newt Gingrich 6.11
Bill Frist 6.16
George Pataki 7.00
Chuck Hagel 7.89
Sam Brownback 8.26
Tom Tancredo 10.58

Invisible Primary Ratings
Potential Candidates
Hillary Clinton 1.74
John Edwards 2.89
Mark Warner 4.00
John Kerry 5.68
Tom Vilsack 5.95
Evan Bayh 5.95
Bill Richardson 6.58
Joe Biden 6.68
Wesley Clark 7.47
Tom Daschle 7.63
Russ Feingold 8.42

The ratings reflect a sense of who has "juice" -- a demonstrated ability to elicit favorable attention from critical sectors of the political world, including activists, major fundraisers, and member of the news media who are paying minute daily attention to what has become the earliest and most intense presidential campaign ever at this stage.

With Sens. McCain and Clinton likely to hold onto their frontrunner slots for the foreseeable future, the Invisible Primary largely becomes about the other would-be candidates maneuvering to be viewed as the alternative to them, and about consolidating their positions so that if or when either pace setter falters, or decides not to run, the others can be ready to step into the vacuum.

And the possibility that either or both of the frontrunners ultimately decide not to make the race is real.

Despite the omnipresent reminder about how no sitting president or vice president is running for the first time since 1928, it is important to note that McCain, Clinton, Kerry, and Edwards have all been through at least one presidential campaign in a central manner.

All the other hopefuls will be having their first real exposure to what is quadrennially a very tough and unforgiving process.

We have scrutinized the candidates in 19 different categories, so stop whatever it is you are doing right now and go look at the entire first installment of our 2008 Invisible Primary Ratings here: LINK

Thursday schedule:

Remember, though, there are about three years left to the current Administration. As for the man who President Bush "41" refers to as "THE President," he will kick off his day with a 10:00 am ET meeting on immigration reform in the Roosevelt Room. At 10:45 am ET, President Bush is expected to authorize the extension of "Nondiscriminatory Treatment to the Products of Ukraine." Later this evening, President and Mrs. Bush host a social dinner in honor of Ben Franklin's 300th birthday.

Gov. Mitt Romney (R-MA) holds a 2:15 pm ET press availability at Logan Airport before traveling to Vatican City to attend Archbishop Sean O'Malley's elevation to cardinal.

This evening, Rudy Giuliani (R-NY) headlines a fundraiser for Tom Kean, Jr.'s (R-NJ) campaign for the US Senate. (We wonder if those traffic congested Garden State highways will prevent Tom Kean from appearing side by side with "America's Mayor.")

Sen. Clinton (D-NY) -- in conjunction with Stony Brook University -- is hosting "'Equity Pay for Women,' a seminar regarding gender equity salary issues for young women entering the workforce" in Stony Brook, NY at 10:45 am ET. Later today, Sen. Clinton delivers the keynote address at the Long Island Board of Realtors in Melville, NY at 1:00 pm ET.

Americans United hosts an "experts briefing" conference call on the Medicare prescription drug benefit at 10:00 am ET. Last week, Americans United launched its "Campaign to Fix the Bush Part D Disaster."

We look forward to hearing Guy Molyneux's take on those Pew Research Center numbers released yesterday. LINK

Vice President Cheney delivers remarks at a fundraiser for Sen. Jon Kyl's (R-AZ) reelection campaign at 8:05 pm ET in Tucson, AZ.

RNC Chairman Ken Mehlman is in Madison, Green Bay, and Spooner, WI today raising money and meeting with activists.


Looking specifically at Sen. Feingold, Sen. Kerry, Dr./Sen./Leader Frist, the "subtle" Sen. Bayh, and Sen. McCain, Time's Perry Bacon Notes that "the place dubbed the World's Great Deliberative Body" resembles of late "a political laboratory where potential candidates trot out different ideas that may have little chance of becoming law, but will help them with their parties' bases leading up to the 2008 primaries." LINK

The New York Times editorializes on how fundraising is already "trumping innovative ideas" in the nascent 2008 presidential race -- which, the Times says, takes politics "back toward the Watergate era." LINK

2008: Republicans:

Rudy Giuliani's upcoming May 1 fundraiser for gubernatorial candidate Jim Nussle (R-IA), his first visit to Iowa since 2004, "shows a heightened interest in making a decision about running for president," writes Thomas Beaumont of the Des Moines Register -- or so Iowa GOP activists say. LINK

The New York Post and New York Daily News on the former mayor's Hawkeye State return, with Sunny as sunny as ever: LINK and LINK

The AP reports that Governor Romney is "irking" pro-choice Bay Staters by "declining to issue a proclamation recognizing a landmark 1972 Supreme Court decision legalizing birth control for unmarried people -- the first time in 10 years a Massachusetts governor has taken a pass on the proclamation." LINK

Republican National Committeeman Tom Rath (a/k/a the Granite State's cross between Tony Soprano and Tom Korologos) sees nothing but support from Republican '08ers for keeping the present primary system intact, according to John DiStaso of the Union Leader. LINK

Note to Maureen Dowd: We wanted to make sure you are all set to cover this event. Let us know if you need help with travel arrangements. LINK

Knight-Ridder writes up Rep. Tom Tancredo's (R-CO) calling Sen. Sam Brownback (R-KS) "as left as they come" on the issue of immigration. LINK

2008: Democrats:

The New York tabloids have a field day with Sen. Hillary Clinton's immigration speech yesterday, in which she said the House/Frist immigration bills are "certainly not in keeping with my understanding of the Scriptures" and "would literally criminalize the Good Samaritan - and probably even Jesus himself."

The headline on the New York Daily News: "Hil has a holy cow over immigrant bill." LINK

The headline on the New York Post: "GOP would have booted Jesus: Hill." LINK

The New York Times story, complete in the metro editions with a giant B3 photo, points out that Clinton's speech may have been more politically shrewd than it looked to some: "Mrs. Clinton had been criticized by some immigrant activists for saying little about the issue until March 8, and then speaking at an Irish-only rally, rather than at a forum more representative of immigrants. But yesterday all seemed forgiven." LINK

Columnist Richard Cohen writes of the "Marie Antoinette-ish treatment of Hillary Clinton" that has made Clinton into a figure far larger than life. LINK

"Just as Marie came to personify all that was wrong with the aristocracy, so Hillary has come to personify all that is wrong with Bill, the Democrats, liberals, working women, independent women and women of a certain kind - which is any kind you don't happen to like."

As was the case in Oregon and Florida, Sen. Clinton is again receiving some local criticism (this time in Missouri) for grabbing some campaign cash for her reelection bid to the Senate from New York instead of allowing that money to be spent on the local contests. LINK

Even though the censure call "hasn't won much support in Congress," Sen. Feingold "won a backer tonight in Jon Stewart," writes the AP. LINK

This coming Sunday's New York Times Magazine has a bunch of letters on the recent Mark Warner story, along with a mini reproduction of the controversial art.

The AP's Andrew Miga reports on John Kerry's recently created defense fund to help "pay his legal costs in a federal defamation lawsuit filed last fall by a Pennsylvania filmmaker." LINK

In response to the story we included yesterday about boxer Danny Romero invoking Gov. Richardson's name and claiming he had just come from the governor's residence when police charged him with a DWI, Richardson communications director Pahl Shipley tells The Note, "It's absolutely not true. The governor had a private dinner with the first lady alone at the mansion that night after returning from Washington. He hasn't seen Danny Romero in over a year and it's unfortunate that Romero decided to drop some names to try to talk his way out of the situation."

Other political stories:

Bloomberg's Brendan Murray writes that the stock market's performance "hasn't accommodated" President Bush's effort to sell Americans on an "ownership society" that would create "more wealth" and "more Republicans." LINK

David Brooks uses his expensive New York Times column to rail against Republicans who have begun to "veer overboard into a vulgarized version of Huntingtonist cultural determinism" and warns the GOP that it may be about to "walk off a cliff on the subject of immigration." To fully appreciate Brooks' wisdom, you must read the column in its entirety: LINK

USA Today's Richard Benedetto takes Note of the fact that President Bush today surpasses James Monroe and becomes the longest-sitting President since Thomas Jefferson not to veto a single bill. LINK and LINK

The New York Times' Adam Nagourney and Elisabeth Bumiller report on the latest speculation regarding staff changes at the White House, which, they write, now focuses less on replacing Andy Card and more on perhaps finding some help for Karl Rove. LINK

"Republicans outside the White House said Wednesday that they had pushed Mr. Bush not to replace Mr. Rove, but rather to bring in someone at the same level or above, perhaps as minister without portfolio. One Republican said Mr. Bush should view it as replacing a top-notch pitcher struggling in the later innings of a baseball game, rather than as a vote of no-confidence in a friend."

Nagourney and Bumiller toss out the names of Michael Leavitt, Marc Racicot, Don Evans, Ed Gillespie, Thomas Loeffler, and Bill Paxon as possible candidates for the "relief pitching" position.

Howard Fineman, quite obviously out of ideas, goes Hollywood in his MSNBC column in which he does the George W. Bush as Jack Bauer thing in reviewing the President's Tuesday press conference. LINK

Richard Wolffe and Holly Bailey of Newsweek wonder if the President's recent "candor" on Iraq is enough to boost his poll numbers. (Be sure to read that anonymous GOP aide quote a couple of times.) LINK

Bloomberg's Jonathan D. Salant reports that House Democrats may have to agree to restrictions on donations from some of their biggest backers in exchange for lobbying reform legislation. LINK


The Wall Street Journal's Jackie Calmes reports that DCCC Chairman Rahm Emanuel (D-IL) and DLC President Bruce Reed have penned a new book (set for Labor Day-ish release) entitled, "The Plan," that "lays out 'specific ideas' for universal health coverage and college education, and initiatives on retirement security and national security, energy, tax overhaul and deficit reduction." LINK

The Boston Globe's Rick Klein writes that the Democrats are targeting 17 Republican-held seats in New England and the mid-Atlantic, hoping to make the Northeast as Democratic as the South is Republican. LINK

"Just as Ohio was ground zero in the 2004 presidential election, the statewide races this year and 2008 campaign for the White House will attract national attention, the head of the Republican National Committee said yesterday," writes Mark Niquette of the Columbus Dispatch. LINK

The New York Times finds a possibly inflated item in New York senatorial candidate Kathleen Troia McFarland's resume: though she "helped write" President Reagan's famous "Star Wars" speech, its most famous passage was written by the president himself -- yet her resume says simply, "Drafted President Reagan's Star Wars Speech." LINK

There is some other good research and reporting in the piece; one wonders where the story's original conceptualization occurred. Forty-eight hours later, the New York Post's Fred Dicker gives some ink to Al D'Amato's NY1 comments where he called McFarland's candidacy a "joke." LINK

RNC Chairman Ken Mehlman called out state Treasurer Bob Casey (D-PA) for his alleged glut of ambition and lack of ideas at a fundraiser for Sen. Rick Santorum (R-PA) yesterday, reports Rich Cholodofsky of the Pittsburgh Review-Tribune. LINK

In an feature set to appear in this Sunday's New York Times Magazine, Michael Sokolove gets an inside look at Lt. Gov. Michael Steele's (R-MD) run for Senate.

Sokolove describes Steele's effort to win support from black community leaders who have never voted for a Republican before.

"On policy, he can be maddeningly hard to pin down, which so far, at least, seems to be working as a strategy. One of his campaign's internal polls showed that moderate voters who like him think he's moderate, while his conservative backers consider him conservative," writes Sokolove.

Lt. Gov. Steele might file a lawsuit to learn more about an episode in which a (former) DSCC staff member accessed his credit report, the Washington Post's John Wagner and Ann E. Marimow report for the newspaper's Metro section. LINK

Campaign finance records show that Gov. Schwarzenegger has added $5.2 million to his coffers since the beginning of the year, putting his reelection campaign $3 million in the black. Meanwhile, says the Los Angeles Times, his Democratic rivals are spending furiously in advance of the June 6 primary. LINK

The Chicago Tribune's write-up of wounded Iraq War vet Tammy Duckworth's Democratic primary win includes a grumble from a local party chairman that the win was the result of "top-down politics as foisted upon us by Rahm Emanuel." LINK

The New York Post's Deb Orin, looking for a cloud to cover up any silver linings Emanuel might hope to find, writes low turnout in the Duckworth primary is just one of many signs that the "'Iraq veteran' political strategy that Democrats hope will sweep them into Congress could be coming up short." LINK

Montgomery County executive Douglas Duncan (D-MD) rips Mayor O'Malley, his Democratic gubernatorial rival, for not solving Baltimore's crime problem in a Washington Post op-ed. LINK

A candidate for New York's Democratic nomination for attorney general will today launch an ad that takes on the President's domestic surveillance program: "Hey, let's talk about what's happening in America," candidate Sean Maloney says in the ad. "George Bush is secretly tapping American phones without a court order. Under New York law, that's illegal and wrong." LINK

Politics of Iraq:

While appearing on morning television, Dan Bartlett discussed President Bush's comments from Tuesday that American troops will be in Iraq after 2008 saying that "the comment is over-interpreted," and that the President answered a specific question, regarding "all" American troops. "He understood that as every single one of our troops," Bartlett said.

In a Wall Street Journal op-ed, former Bush Administration advisers Dan Senor and Roman Martinez urge Iraqis to make the president of Iraq the country's prime minister and to make the prime minister of Iraq the country's president.

"The time has come for Iraq's leaders to break out of the ethnic and sectarian straitjacket constraining talks over the new government. By uniting around a Talabani-led coalition government, Iraqi leaders can move to address the pressing security challenges now facing their country. The clock is ticking."

Tonight on "Texas Monthly Talks," Texas Monthly editor Evan Smith chats with news legend Walter Cronkite. LINK

In the interview, Cronkite is asked about comparisons between Vietnam and the Iraq war and says, "I think the comparison is almost exact."

Of Iraq, Cronkite says, "We shouldn't have gone in there. We got in by mistake. We got in thinking we could do something for democracy, save a democracy. Same thing we were saying, Kennedy said, for Vietnam, we were saying for the Middle East."