2008 Is Closer Than It Appears

With the 2006 midterms nearly signed, sealed and delivered, the buzz around 2008 presidential hopefuls is likely to reach a dull roar in the coming weeks as potentials posture and pose against a changed political landscape.

For Democrats, it is a center-stage chance to ride party momentum into the limelight. For Republicans, it means the opportunity to recast themselves as political visionaries ready to take the GOP in new directions.

Republican strategist Mark McKinnon described the close of polls Tuesday as "the official starting gun of the race for 2008."

"There is an enormous premium on organization, on money, on talent," McKinnon told ABC News. "All those things require enormous preplanning in order to get a head start."

"Democrats are going on a shopping spree," Democratic strategist Donna Brazile said. "They're looking for a candidate who can take advantage of the new political environment for Democrats."

For both parties, that shopping spree has already begun.

In the 2008 campaign trail mix, more than two dozen candidates will be defining -- some redefining -- themselves in the political spotlight that has shifted both power and public perception.

Front-runners

Republican front-runner Sen. John McCain of Arizona has visited 21 states in the last 30 days. Leading up to the midterms, he stumped for GOP candidates, certainly, but also used the time to build his stock as a party favorite for the 2008 presidential bid, though he has not yet declared his candidacy.

Sources close to the McCain camp say the senator has been at his Arizona ranch since Tuesday -- in meetings and making calls. They also mentioned strong numbers in New Hampshire and the parallel organization he's built to prepare for a presidential run.

Democrat Sen. Hillary Clinton isn't talking about 2008 either, though her numbers -- a landslide victory in the New York Senate race and the highest fundraising of any other Senate candidate this cycle -- indicate presidential horizons.

Exit polls reflected that six in 10 New Yorkers thought she'd make a "good president," but Clinton still remains a divisive figure in national politics and an easy target for Republicans to use to galvanize their base.

Wild Cards

Dubbed "America's Mayor" post-9/11, former New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani has no public appearances scheduled for the rest of the week, but it would be hard to deny he could be a major player on the campaign circuit this cycle.

His appeal as a GOP presidential contender is evidenced by cheering crowds at nationwide rallies, as well as on voter preference surveys, where he consistently finishes first. What remains debatable is if those same crowds would take their enthusiasm to the polls given Giuliani's liberal views on issues like gay marriage and abortion.

Former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney also holds a hit-or-miss factor in the national Republican spectrum. Republicans lost governorships under Romney's leadership of the Republican Governorships Association in the midterm elections, and Massachusetts voted for Democrat Deval Patrick to succeed him.

Romney's health care plan passed in Massachusetts earlier this year and appeals to moderates and independents; Romney has stood to the right of McCain on immigration and national security, but his Mormon faith still makes him a difficult candidate for the GOP's religious conservatives to swallow.

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