(Guest Blog)The Next President of the United States: Coming to a town-hall near you?
While most political junkies in Alabama are engrossed in handicapping the competitive and likely entertaining 2006 statewide races, at least a few are looking ahead and thinking a bit bigger. Last week the possibility of moving up Alabama’s presidential primaries to increase the state’s influence on the selection of the parties’ nominees was again brought to the fore.
Remember that during this year’s legislative session, a bill was brought up to move the state’s presidential primaries to the Saturday after New Hampshire’s all-important First in the Nation Primary.
That’s right, the state that stands a decent chance of electing the Ten Commandments Governor is now in the hunt to help determine the two major party candidates for president. While the conventional wisdom says that moving Alabama to the front of the line would help more conservative candidates in both parties, that may not necessarily be the case.
For the Republicans, if Secretary of State, and Alabama Native, Condoleezza Rice were in the mix, based on the hugely positive coverage her recent trip to Tuscaloosa and Birmingham generated, I’d expect this “mildly pro-choice” African-American woman to, surprisingly, be the frontrunner, perhaps even discouraging other Republicans from participating. If Rice’s out, expect Alabama’s voters to be courted heavily by conservatives like Sen. George Allen of Virginia as they try to score a victory over the moderate/liberal candidates in their party like John McCain and Rudy Guliani. As a matter of fact, my sense is Republican establishment types are looking to move Alabama up as a bulwark against a moderate Republican taking the nomination, much as South Carolina ended McCain’s challenge to George W. Bush in 2000.
For the Democrats, they are looking to move up a state that has a large proportion of minorities (unlike the very white states of Iowa and New Hampshire). The possibility of an early primary in a state where 40% of the Democratic primary electorate is African-American must be music to the Rev. Al Sharpton’s ears. Given the lackluster crop of Dem. candidates that’ll be challenging Hillary Clinton, I’d give Sharpton a real shot at coming in a strong second in an Alabama primary. The white Democrats in Alabama are considerably more conservative than the average national Democrat, so an early primary here would give someone like Gen. Wesley Clark of Arkansas or John Edwards of South Carolina, if they run to her right, a real shot at gaining momentum to become that one “anti-Hillary” candidate left standing.
While it is much too early to make meaningful predictions about 2008, it is not too early to see that the primary calendar, and Alabama’s place in it, may be very important in determining who the party’s standard bearers will be.
-- CNH 320