Monday, June 5, 2006

Cattle Call’s Walter Shapiro takes a look at the early try-outs in New Hampshire as Sen. Russ Feingold and former Virginia Gov. Mark Warner hand out their face shots and run through their monologues.

More than 17 months before the primary, the 2008 Democratic presidential race has already become a major New Hampshire cottage industry, even with Hillary Clinton doggedly maintaining the comic pretense that she is solely interested in her lopsided Senate reelection campaign. In just the next two weeks, four other Democratic presidential dreamers (Sens. Evan Bayh and Joe Biden, Iowa Gov. Tom Vilsack and former Senate Majority Leader Tom Daschle) will be popping up in New Hampshire to selflessly aid local candidates.

Hillary and probable non-candidate Al Gore aside, the two Democrats who have had the best run of it in 2006 are unquestionably Feingold and Warner, representing the purist and pragmatic wings of the party. Feingold has made other Democrats look timorous by championing withdrawal from Iraq and a Senate resolution censuring the president. Warner has emerged as the party’s latest Southern white knight, the red-state dragon slayer who combines a sterling record as governor with an appealing business background as a mega-rich cellphone entrepreneur who helped found Nextel.

Feingold and Warner have, in effect, become the book ends surrounding a hefty, but potentially unreadable, tome called, “It Takes a Village of Consultants: The Cautious Political Career of Hillary Clinton.” As New Hampshire Democratic chairwoman Kathy Sullivan put it, describing Feingold and Warner in advance of the state convention, “They represent two divergent views of the direction that the Democratic Party should go in.”

I’m going to boldly predict that a year from now we will be seeing roughly the same candidates espousing the same positions, and the people of New Hampshire will be so tired of seeing them and their entourage that they will appeal to the Canadians to accept the state as the next province. And by then we will all be so tired of the Jackie Onassisification of Hillary Clinton that we might just elect her to get her off Page Six.

Let’s get the election of 2006 over with, shall we? Then we can debate who among the wide range of Democrats has the least annoying and most durable political consultant.