Who Isn't Running for President?


There must be something in the water in Washington. How else can you explain obscure politicians even thinking about running for president?

The latest would-be candidate is former Gov. Jim Gilmore of Virginia. A right-wing Republican, Gilmore has formed the usual exploratory committee because he says there is no real conservative in the race. He must be dreaming.

Sen. Sam Brownback of Kansas is thinking about it, and he's about as conservative as the law allows. He's just in the exploratory stage, however.

For his part, Gilmore couldn't get elected in Virginia again, given the shift to Democrats in recent elections in the Old Dominion. Virginia is changing.

Another early horse out of the starting gate is Rep. Duncan Hunter of California, whose name identification may stretch into his congressional district, but that's about it. He's running as a follower of Ronald Reagan. Sorry, Mr. Hunter, you are a pale imitation to the Gipper, a two-term governor of your state and a two-term president.

On the Democratic side, there is Rep. Dennis Kucinich of Ohio, the former mayor of Cleveland known then as Dennis the Menace. He is running, as he did in 2004, as one who is strongly against the war.

That stance got him nowhere then and won't in 2008, when he is looking at facing Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton and Sen. Barack Obama and others in the primaries. He surprised even his own staff when he said he was jumping in.

Outgoing Democratic Gov. Tom Vilsack of Iowa can make a stronger case. He isn't well known, but he served with some distinction as a two-term governor with centrist ideas. At least Vilsack might make a splash in the Iowa caucuses and become a player. But that is a long shot, as he admits.

If candidates think they can pull a Jimmy Carter and rise from obscurity to the White House, as Carter did 30 years ago, forget it. Carter had a weaker field to run against in the Democratic primaries, and it cost a lot less money to run three decades ago.

It's an old joke that all senators see the president in the mirror when they shave every morning. (In Clinton's case, it would be while putting on her make-up.)

The mirror seems to be working overtime these days.