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Start Your Engines For Campaign 2000

By R. Morris Barrett/AllPolitics campaign

WASHINGTON (May 28) -- So you think it's too early to start handicapping Campaign 2000? OK. Then just hit the back button on your browser.

Still reading? We figured as much. For the political junkie, it's never too early. The Great Mentioner is already at work, throwing out possibilities about the next resident of 1600 Pennsylvania Ave. AllPolitics (while decrying, of course, the press' tendency to start races years too soon with idle speculation) still thinks it prudent to offer up a list, if only to help create an historical archive.

Here we go:

The Democrats


Al Gore -- A no-brainer. The vice president has been eyeing the number one spot since his lackluster 1988 bid. Actually, since he left the Cub Scouts. He's certainly in a better position now as heir apparent to President Bill Clinton. Though he's studiously groomed himself, some wonder if the veep has been tarnished by the ongoing flap over Democratic fund-raising.

ODDS: 4 to 1


Dick Gephardt -- As House minority leader, this Missouri Democrat blandly but effectively pushes a populist Democratic agenda. His recent break with the Clinton Administration over the balanced budget deal and over most-favored-nation trading status for China (he opposes renewing MFN) appear to be leading indicators that Al Gore could face a primary challenge in 2000.

ODDS: 40 to 1

Bob Kerrey -- This centrist Nebraska Democrat didn't go far in 1992, but the Vietnam vet has a pocketful of IOU's, having raised large sums for his Senate colleagues as head of the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee. Now, if he can just get Debra Winger back as his girlfriend.

ODDS: 50 to 1


Jesse Jackson -- Liberals could be chanting "Run, Jesse, Run" for a third time if one of the Democrats' shining lights continues to disapprove of his party's rightward drift. He has held his nose ever since the president signed the GOP's welfare reform bill and offered only tepid support for Clinton-Gore in 1996.

ODDS: 99 to 1


Paul Wellstone -- This college-professor-turned-senator could be the Senate's most liberal member, and he recently denounced the balanced budget deal. In 1990, he upset incumbent GOP senator Rudy Boschwitz, and then staved off Boschwitz's 1996 attempt to recapture his seat. Unknown on the national stage, except as oh-yeah-the-guy-with-the-beaten-up-bus, Wellstone has increased his exposure to test the waters for what seems the unlikeliest of candidacies.

ODDS: 150 to 1

The Republicans


Jack Kemp -- The GOP veep candidate's star was dimmed by his less-than-stellar campaign performance in 1996. But his "lower-taxes-solves-all-problems" crusade can still inspire enthusiasm among economic conservatives. He's already formed a political action committee, and Kemp may actually be interested in the job, for a change.

ODDS: 15 to 1


Colin Powell -- The retired general has downplayed speculation for 2000, and has lately turned his attention to volunteerism, but he remains the most popular choice among GOP voters.

ODDS: 10 to 1


George Bush -- No, Poppy's not poised for a comeback run. This time, though, it might be George W., the governor of Texas. His popularity there and his national name recognition have some GOPers salivating over a possible run. But his future may hinge, in part, on the success of his governorship, which suffered a setback recently when the Lone Star legislature killed his pet tax plan.

ODDS: 20 to 1


Elizabeth Dole -- Bob Dole likes to say he still may make it to 1600 Pennsylvania Ave. Only he'd be the first First Gentleman. His wife, Elizabeth, just might be the most likely candidate to become America's first woman president, even if Hillary Clinton says America isn't ready yet. Dole now leads the American Red Cross, which is conveniently headquartered just down the street from the White House. Elizabeth's Dole national exposure and demonstrated campaign skills could make her a formidable candidate.

ODDS: 60 to 1


Lamar Alexander -- Those plaid red shirts were such a hit in 1996 (just kidding), the former Tennessee governor is already raising money for 2000. Though his 1996 campaign stalled after only a few primaries (he didn't win any, but he created a momentary fright in New Hampshire), Alexander's experience might give him a jump-start on other contenders. Plus, he'll have had four more years to figure out just what conservative ideas he really possesses.

ODDS: 40 to 1


John Kasich -- Ohio's boy-wonder House budget committee chairman just might snatch the top political prize on sheer exuberance alone. Though only 45 and still relatively unknown nationally, Kasich upped his profile through the two-year budget fight. Coy about whether he'll run, Kasich is writing a book while managing to schedule trips to key states in recent months.

ODDS: 90 to 1


Steve Forbes -- Mr. Flat Tax appears poised to dump another $25 million or so into a renewed bid in 2000. The quirky billionaire publisher of Forbes magazine wins the prize every time for the simplest, most-easy-to-understand campaign message (Remember the Flat Tax? Kind of like Remember the Alamo), but can he hope to ride it any further in 2000?

ODDS: 75 to 1


Christine Todd Whitman -- New Jersey's popular GOP governor was a widely touted veep candidate for Bob Dole until she (oh so wisely) took herself out of the running. If she can earn a second term from Garden State voters, she could be well-poised to take her tax-cutting, pro-choice, GOP centrism to the national stage. Who knows, maybe it'll be Whitman-Dole in 2000.

ODDS: 45 to 1

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