Tuesday, June 13, 2006

Berkeley Forum Exclusive


David Hopkins is an instructor of political science at UC Berkeley. He teaches American politics, including an in depth course on political parties in the United States. Mr. Hopkins is originally from Boston, moved to New York and is now at Berkeley, California. He has assisted Professor Nelson Polsby in publishing his famous book “How Congress Evolves" and is currently assisting Professor Polsby with the new edition of “Presidential Elections”. Berkeley Forum asked Mr.Hopkins a few questions about the upcoming presidential election of 2998. Here is the entire script:
-Aramesh


Who do you think would be the greatest challenger to
Sen. McCain in the 2008 Republican primaries? and why?

I think it's way too early to tell. Presumably, Republicans will face something of a tradeoff between McCain's electability and the greater ideological or partisan purity of an alternative candidate. I'm not sure the Republican electorate in the 2008 primaries will find McCain unacceptably moderate, although Republican activists and officeholders might prefer a candidate without McCain's history of occasional party disloyalty. Since any litmus test which disqualifies McCain certainly rules out
Giuliani as well, that leaves George Allen and Mitt Romney as the preeminent alternatives among those we know of at the moment.
But making predictions about presidential nominations is a risky venture, especially two years in advance. Some candidates crash on takeoff, while others come out of nowhere. Most Washington insiders, including Bush's own strategists, anticipated that
Steve Forbes, not McCain, would be Bush's chief rival for the nomination in 2000. Similarly, I remember the well-hyped Phil Gramm campaign in 1996; he was widely predicted to be a formidable threat to Bob Dole that year. But Gramm placed fifth in the Iowa caucuses and that was the end of him. It's sometimes frustrating that the presidential nomination process is so unpredictable, but I suppose that can make it exciting to follow as well.

What is your estimate of
Hillary Clinton's success in the primaries for the Democratic Party? Do you think that other candidates such as Joe Biden or Mark Warner would stand a chance in the Democratic primaries?
Again, I'll resist the temptation to make a prediction, hoping I can address your question in a slightly different way. If she runs, Hillary Clinton will be a formidable candidate in the 2008 Democratic primaries, and I don't mean to suggest otherwise. However, we should be very careful about interpreting the results of national polls as being in any way meaningful. At this early stage, they chiefly measure name recognition, and Mrs. Clinton has by far the broadest name recognition among the national electorate of all the potential 2008 candidates, excluding Gore and Kerry. Almost everybody else--Warner,
Bayh, Feingold, Biden, Dodd, Richardson, Vilsack, etc.--is basically unknown outside of his home state. But that would change overnight if one of them won the Iowa caucuses or exceeded media expectations. In 2004, nobody really knew who John Kerry was until he came in first in Iowa and New Hampshire, and all of a sudden Kerry was the front-runner and Howard Dean's goose was cooked. The presidential nomination process is extremely volatile in its early stages, and we have no way of knowing today what the political environment will be like in 2008.
Mrs. Clinton will have the strong support of a segment of the Democratic Party. How big that segment will be is impossible to say right now. But the nomination process will probably proceed in a way that will cause one or two of the numerous other Democratic candidates to emerge as the chief alternative or alternatives to a Hillary Clinton candidacy, while the others fall by the wayside. There's just no way right now to know exactly who those alternatives will be. After Iowa and New Hampshire, the nomination process becomes much more predictable, due to the immense influence of the outcomes in the first two states on media coverage and, therefore, the behavior of voters in subsequent primaries. So if you could tell me who wins in Iowa and New Hampshire in 2008, I'd be more likely to venture a prediction about the identity of the presidential nominee!

Comments:
this guy worked for polsby?? damn
 
This is great analysis. As a fellow Berkeley graduate student in political science, I have to say that Dave is extremely knowledgeable in this area.

One point I would add is that Bayh has made significant inroads in Iowa, where grassroots mobilization can play a huge role in their early caucuses. His appeal as a Dem who can win in a red-state like Indiana is also quite impressive, having won office as both Governor and Senator in Indiana. An early win in Iowa, as Dave notes, could boost Bayh immensely.

I also think that Al Gore is someone you can't rule out. His recent success with An Inconvenient Truth makes him one to watch, and he appears to be polling relatively well in head to head polls with McCain and other Republicans. I've written about this on my blog at

http://berkeleybubble.blogspot.com
 
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