In the highly disturbing event of a Bush victory in 2004, what Democrats would be ready to compete for the nomination in 2008? Here is how I rank the top contenders:
1. Hillary Clinton
Duh. Nomination is probably hers if she wants it, as long as she does not lose to Guliani in 2006. Adored throughout the rank and file, even if not by the netroots. She is one of the best fundraisers in the Democratic Party, and not as hated in "middle America" as many believe. After two Bush wins, Democrats would be desperate to recapture the Clinton years.
2. John Edwards
Besides Kerry, Edwards is the only Democrat from 2004 to emerge not only undamaged from the primary season, but in a stronger national position than before he entered. He would start near the top of most state and national polls, and we already know how well he can finish.
3. Russ Feingold
Assuming he wins a comfortable re-election in 2004, Feingold would be ready to pick up the Dean mantle in 2008. Adored by labor and the netroots alike. As a well-known national figure, he would start from a stronger position than Dean. Would be a major player.
4. Bill Richardson
With a monster resume and connections throughout the party, Governor Richardson would have the best chance to win a major party nomination for President of any minority in history. Might not be telegenic enough to win the nomination.
5. Charles Schumer
The best fundraiser among all Senators also happens to be charismatic and hail from an extremely important state in the nominating process. Schumer would not be the frontrunner, but he would start out top tier. However, he would probably only run if Hillary does not.
6. Jesse Jackson Jr.
If memory of his father's personal indiscretion fades, he would rise higher. If Democrats take control of Congress and he is able to help pass more legislation, he would rise even higher. Huge potential, but 2012 seems a more likely scenario (especially if Kerry wins two terms).
7. Ed Rendell
Something tells me that if Rendell did run, he would be the Bob Graham of 2008.
8. Tom Vilsack
Everyone on Gore's super-shortlist from 2000 ran in 2004 (Kerry, Edwards and Lieberman). Hard to imagine that after all of the consideration he is getting for the VP spot, that Vilsack will not run the next time there is an opening. Equally hard to imagine he would have a significant impact on the race.
9. Blanche Lincoln
Schumer isn't the only candidate who would benefit in the unlikely event that both Kerry loses and Hillary does not run. Lincoln would be a strong substitute candidate from the Arkansas wing of the Democratic Party. Lincoln is extremely popular in her home state, and will cruise to re-election in 2004.
10. Harold Ford Jr.
Young and ambitious, it would actually be more surprising to see Ford not run for President than to see him run. He briefly challenged for House minority leader, but right now his political strength leaves him a better bet to challenge Lamar Alexander for the Senate in 2008. However, he would almost certainly strongly consider going for the Presidency.
Take the poll, give your own top ten.
Tomorrow: Republicans in 2008