With Al Gore officially pulling his hat out of the ring, a wild scramble for the Democratic nomination will begin in earnest after the first of the year. Considering the potential candidates, the race will veer to the left as the contenders vie to see who can inspire the largest number of voters among the Democratic Party’s core liberal supporters. Here is a look at the most likely candidates: JOE BIDEN
Background: Attorney; New Castle County, Delaware, Councilman, 1970-72; U.S. Senator from Delaware since ’72.
Signature Issues: Opposition to Supreme Court nominees Robert Bork and Clarence Thomas while chairman of Senate Judiciary Committee (1986-94). Support for NATO expansion and Kosovo war while chairman of Senate Foreign Relations Committee (2001-02). Support for broadening of hate crimes. Pro-abortion, pro-gun control, against Bush tax cuts and death tax repeal.
Strengths: Considered one of Senate’s better orators; nationwide recognition from discussing Iraqi war on TV talk shows
Weaknesses: Years of walking point for Democrats in character assassination campaigns against Republican judicial nominees. High-profile support of Delaware-based credit card giant MBNA. Plagiarism of Neil Kinnock’s background in speech during short-lived ’88 presidential campaign.
Background: Attorney; Connecticut State Senator, 1970-80; majority leader, 1974-80; attorney general of Connecticut, 1982-88; U.S. Senator since 1988; Democratic nominee for Vice President, 2000.
Signature Issues: Supported Gulf War in 1991. Supported Kosovo war and NATO expansion. Supported capital gains tax cut, rolling back affirmative action, and school prayer (but changed on all three); pro-abortion, pro-gun control and opposed to Bush tax cuts and death tax repeal.
Strengths: National recognition from 2000 campaign. Personal life considered beyond reproach (he will not campaign after sundown on Fridays or on Jewish holidays). Admired for working with Bill Bennett and the late Steve Allen on limiting pornographic and violent TV shows.
Weaknesses: Was most sanctimonious defender of Bill Clinton during impeachment scandal, and of Al Gore and Clinton during Chinese campaign finance scandal. Still faulted for weak performance against Dick Cheney in vice presidential debate.
Background: U.S. Air Force, 1969-72; congressional staffer, 1973-77; U.S. Representative from South Dakota, 1978-86; U.S. Senator, 1986-; Democratic leader of Senate since 1994.
Signature Issues: Switched from supporting to opposing Balanced Budget Amendment in 1995. Key force behind minimum wage increase in ’96. Chief advocate of compensation for Agent Orange victims. Supports farm subsidies and opposes Freedom to Farm Act. Opposed Gulf War in ’91. Supported Kosovo War. Favors Patient Bill of Rights. Pro-abortion, pro-gun control, and against Bush tax cut and death tax repeal.
Strengths: Leading Democratic spokesman against Bush on TV talk shows. His DashPAC has helped Democratic office-seekers nationwide in last three election cycles
Weaknesses: Was poster boy for Democrats in disastrous 2002 elections. Wife is big business lobbyist. South Dakota law holds that he cannot run simultaneously for President and re-election to Senate, when his seat is up in ’04.
Background: Doctor of medicine; State Representative, 1982-86; Vermont Lieutenant Governor, 1986-91; Governor, 1991-2002
Signature Issues: Supports socialized medicine. Created “Dr. Dynasaur” program to guarantee health coverage for all children in Vermont under age 18. Backs gay marriage. Supports statist campaign finance reform.
Strengths: Most active of Democratic candidates so far. Has set up campaign headquarters. In 2002 visited 28 states (including more than 20 New Hampshire visits, 12 Iowa trips, and multiple Florida, New York, and California appearances). Set up PAC called Fund for a Healthy America.
Weaknesses: He is unabashedly of the Democratic far left, and, being from a small state, is nationally unknown.
Background: Lawyer; son of U.S. Sen. Thomas Dodd (D.-Conn.); Peace Corps, 1966-68; U.S. Army Reserves, 1969-75; U.S. Representative from Connecticut, 1974-80; U.S. Senator since 1980; Democratic National Chairman 1995-97.
Signature Issues: Opposed U.S. aid to Nicaraguan freedom fighters in 1980s and openly supported Marxist Sandinista regime in Nicaragua. Backs free trade with Cuba. Supports tort reform legislation to restrict civil suits and damages. Pro-abortion, pro-gun control, and against Bush tax cut and death tax repeal.
Strengths: One of best speakers in Democratic Party. Fluent in Spanish. Campaigned in Florida, North Carolina, California and 18 other states in 2002. Became first-time father at age 57.
Weaknesses: Traditional Northeastern liberal; known to have short fuse; may have been in Senate too long to move on (ask Bob Dole).
Background: Trial lawyer, 1978-98; U.S. Sen. from North Carolina since 1998.
Signature Issues: Backs Permanent Normal Trade Relations with Red China. Supports Patients Bill of Rights with Sen. John McCain (R.-Ariz.). Opposes tort law reform. Pro-abortion, pro-gun control and against Bush tax cut and estate repeal;
Strengths: Worth estimated $20-$50 million. Attractive campaigner (proclaimed one of the “Sexiest Men Alive” by People magazine). Top-rated contacts with high-powered fellow trial lawyers in California, New York and other key states.
Weaknesses: Makes no secret of his ambition to be President. Does public really want to elect a President who became rich suing people?
Background: Lawyer; Air National Guard, 1965-71; St. Louis Alderman, 1971-76; U.S. Representative from Missouri since 1976; House Democratic Leader since 1994; Democratic presidential candidate 1988.
Signature Issues: Protectionist. Opposes Permanent Normal Trade Relations with China. Supported Bill Clinton’s record-high tax increase in 1993. Backed Ronald Reagan’s 1981 tax cut, was pro-life, anti-busing and against minimum wage (but changed his views on all four issues). Opposed Desert Storm in 1991.
Strengths: Has raised more than $20 million for Democratic candidates since ’94. Well-known from Presidential race and as spokesman for House Democrats.
Weaknesses: May have changed stands on too many key issues. No one has gone from U.S. House to White House since James Garfield in 1880.
Background: U.S. Navy, 1966-70 (Vietnam); lawyer; organizer, Vietnam Veterans Against the War, 1971-72; Assistant District Attorney, Middlesex County, Massachusetts, 1976-81; lieutenant governor, 1982-84; U.S. Senator since 1984.
Signature Issues: Headed POW/MIA Select Committee in Senate. Led fight for normalization of relations with North Vietnam. Backed Kosovo war. Supports Permanent Normal Trade Relations with Red China. Sponsored bill to provide $100 million annually to fight AIDS spread in Africa. Is pro-abortion, pro-gun control and against Bush tax cuts and death tax repeal.
Strengths: Articulate speaker; home state borders New Hampshire. Wife Teresa is worth more than $600 million (although he insists he won’t spend it on campaigns).