Monday, October 25, 2010

With Friends Like These

By Taylor Sias

One week from today, many experts expect Democrats to lose control of the House of Representatives. Even Democrats acknowledge the likelihood that the GOP will win the 39 seats required to oust Nancy Pelosi from her speakership of the House. Prospects for the upper house are only slightly rosier, with a best case scenario of a slim 51-Senator majority. But when you consider the tenuous partisan loyalties of Sens. Ben Nelson and Joe Lieberman, even a win on election night may not be enough.

This preface brings me to the heart of next Tuesday’s elections. The vast majority of competitive elections do not involve liberals and progressives. Especially in the House, the result will hinge on elections between incumbent, conservative Blue Dog DINO’s (Democrats in Name Only) against reactionary tea party candidates.

The 2006 and 2008 elections brought gains of 31 and 21 seats, respectively, in the House of Representatives. Democrats won nearly all the competitive races, effectively wiping out the GOP in the Northeast and even taking some traditionally Republican seats in the Midwest and South. However, the election of Democrats in years which favored Democrats nationally did not tilt the ideological leanings of these districts. Voters remained conservative, in spite of breaking with the Republicans during these two cycles.

Take for instance the case of Democratic Rep. Heath Shuler, who won North Carolina’s 11th Congressional District in 2006. Shuler represents a district that voted 52-46 % for John McCain in 2008. This rural district in Western Carolina has an R+6 partisan index, as calculated by the Cook Political Report. That particular seat had been held by a Republican, Charles Taylor, for eight terms. As a congressman, Rep. Shuler has voted against Obama’s health care bill and stimulus package. Shuler even voted against the TARP bailout, which was proposed under President Bush. In looking at the 109 contested races, as categorized by the New York Times’ Nate Silver’s 538 blog, contest after contest consist of incumbent Democrats running in purple or even dark red districts. For every fire-breathing liberal like Florida’s Alan Grayson, there’s a Bobby Bright (AL-02) or Gene Taylor (MS-04) who oppose President Obama on the Stimulus, Health Care, and the Energy Bill, but want voter enthusiasm to carry them to re-election. They are hoping that Democrats will forget that they oppose a President whom they support, and Independents will vote for a DINO against an authentic conservative Republican.

Just today, we learned that the aforementioned Gene Taylor is hardly a Democrat at all. The Mississippi congressman, already on the record for opposing Nancy Pelosi for Speaker should Democrats hold the House, stated that he voted for John McCain over Barack Obama in the 2008 election. Taylor’s reasoning, “Better the devil you know.” Taylor is also “disappointed”, that Pelosi has veered too far to the left. CBS News rates his re-election as “Probable Democrat”. The strategy of Rep. Taylor and many others is simple – vote against your party and hope voters will forget he’s a Democrat and vote for him out of name recognition. However, it’s more likely that the tea bagging Republican electorate will vote against anyone with a “D” after his name, even if it includes conservatives like Gene Taylor.

Finally, in another damned-if-you-do, damned-if-you-don’t election, there’s the special election to replace the deceased former Sen. Robert Byrd in the state of West Virginia. If there was a state that has not warmed to President Obama’s, it’s the reddest of the red states deep in the heart of Appalachia. Obama won just 42 % of the state’s vote in 2008, and his disapprovals have risen to 69 %. Democratic Governor Joe Manchin is attempting to keep this race in the blue column. Manchin, a conservative pro-life governor who has been endorsed by the Chamber of Commerce and NRA, is fending off Tea Party favorite John Raese. The Republican, Mr. Raese is famous for intentionally mispronouncing the names of Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayor and Energy Secretary Steven Chu in an attempt to make them sound foreign. Raese also commented that he wished more people made their money the old-fashioned way, by inheriting it, Raese joked. Manchin made news today by refusing to support Obama or any Democrat for the presidency in 2012, and will not endorse noted liberal firebrand Harry Reid (pause for comedic irony) for Party Leader in 2010

The sad truth of this election is that there is no winning if you’re a liberal Democrat. If the party hangs on, it will be on the backs of DINO’s who’ve shown no real interest in supporting a Democratic agenda. If the Republicans hold on, we’ll be stuck with Sen. Mitch McConnell and his newly stated #1 legislative goal of defeating Obama in 2012. I predict we’ll hear echoes of cheers from the right about how this election was a defining moment for the right, and how terrible President Obama and the liberals are. If that does happen, wouldn’t it have been nicer for Democrats to have actually been liberal and lose? The most probable result for Nov. 2 is that Democrats will have supported a watered-down health reform bill without even a public option, and wind up getting throttled as too liberal and extreme. Talk about going down without a fight. One axiom might prove true, though. The “enthusiasm gap”, which has become the new buzzword for pundits, may rear its head in the results. We’ll see if Harry Truman’s famous quote, “Given the choice between a Republican and someone who acts like a Republican, people will vote for the Real Republican all the time”, proves true.

Monday, August 09, 2010

August 24 Primary Endorsements

(Photograph): Democratic Senate candidate Kendrick Meek with President Obama (courtesy PB Post)

Today is the first day of early voting for the August 24 primary elections in the state of Florida. On the line are nominations for many pivotal federal, state, and local offices. Florida has closed primaries, meaning only voters registered with a political party are allowed to vote in this election. Independents are still able to vote for judgeships and amendments, and can participate in select primaries where only one party is fielding candidates.

I cast my vote early this afternoon at the Palm Beach Gardens location, one of eight precincts where early voting will proceed for the next two weeks. Some races I was quite familiar with, while others took a little more research. So without further adieu, my recommendations for the contests.

U.S. Senator – Democratic Party
Preference: Kendrick B. Meek
Others major candidates: Jeff Greene, Maurice Ferre, Glenn Burkett
November: Winner faces presumptive GOP nominee Marco Rubio and Independent candidate Charlie Crist.
Comments: Former state legislator and current U.S. Representative Kendrick Meek began as the favorite, but little-known millionaire Jeff Greene emerged and has taken the lead in polls. In a race where each candidate shares similar policies, Greene’s Democratic bonafides has taken center stage. Greene’s 1982 run for Congress as a Republican, along with his amnesia about whether he voted for Ronald Reagan, lead me to doubt his credibility. Greene also faces scrutiny for his role in credit default swaps that resulted from the mortgage crisis. If Greene wins, Democrats will likely abandon the party and vote for Crist in November. Meek may have a better chance of rallying the base, but neither appears poised to finish higher than 3rd in a race with Crist and Rubio.

U.S. Representative, District 22 – Democratic Party
Preference: Ron Klein
Other candidate: Paul Renneisen
November: Winner faces presumptive GOP nominee Allen West
Comments: Klein should easily defeat Renneisen, who unsuccessfully sought this seat in 2008. In his two terms in the House, Klein has voted for key policies like the Stimulus and Health Care reform. Renneisen attempts to outflank Klein’s left by favoring immediate withdrawal from Iraq and Afghanistan. Klein is the only candidate with the resources and political acumen to stave off the well-financed campaign of GOP frontrunner Allen West.

Governor – Democratic Party
Preference: Alex Sink
Other candidate: Brian Moore
November: Winner faces GOP nominee (Rick Scott or Bill McCollum) and No Party Candidate Lawton "Bud" Chiles
Comments: Democrats have settled on Sink, the state’s current CFO, to take back the governor’s mansion. Sink, the wife of 2002 Democratic nominee Bill McBride, hasn’t made waives as all the attention has been focused on the bitter GOP primary fight between Scott and McCollum. Sink is a moderate Democrat, and has a chance to defeat a wounded GOP nominee. With issues like redistricting, and the likely return of the terrible State Bill 6 and forced ultrasounds for women seeking abortions, Florida needs a moderate like Sink or Crist in the governor’s mansion to fight the arch-conservative legislature.

Attorney General – Democratic Party
Preference: Dave Aronberg
Other candidate: Dan Gelber
November: Winner faces GOP nominee (Pam Bondi, Jeff Kottkamp, or Holly Benson)
Comments: Two excellent Democrats are vying to become the state’s next attorney general. Gelber initially sought the U.S. Senate seat, but dropped out once Charlie Crist entered the race. What started out as a cordial affair has taken a nasty turn. Aronberg criticized Gelber for his employment with a law firm who defended the odious British Petroleum. Gelber responded in-kind, criticizing Aronberg for his lack of trial experience (Aronberg has not tried cases in front of a jury). In reality, both claims are overblown. Gelber long since resigned from his role with that firm, and Aronberg worked in the Attorney General’s office under Bob Butterworth. Both disagree with the current AG on repealing health care and instituting an Arizona-style immigration law in Florida. All that being said, I will vote for Sen. Aronberg for personal reasons. I volunteered on his re-election to the State Senate in 2004, going as far as flipping ribs with Mr. Aronberg at a Belle Glade BBQ get-out-the-vote effort.

Circuit Court Judge, Group 33
Preference: Lisa Small
November: Winner assumes seat.

County Court Judge, Group 7
Preference: Marni Bryson
November: Winner assumes seat.

Thursday, July 01, 2010

The Marlins coup d’ grace

For a week now, I’ve been holding off on posting about the sorry state of my hometown baseball team, the Florida Marlins. Last Wednesday’s firing of Fredi Gonzalez certainly did not come as a surprise to me. Every time the Marlins went on a losing streak, I’d log onto to see if owner Jeffrey Loria had finally axed the manager. Following their three game sweep at the hands of visiting Texas would have been an opportune time to relieve Fredi of his duties. But in typical Marlins fashion, they wait until winning three out of four to fire Fredi Gonzalez on the road in Baltimore. It’s the sort of classless action that reminds me of when Mets GM Omar Minaya fired Willie Randolph in the middle of a west-coast swing. Nevertheless, I suspect Loria saw the writing on the wall, suspecting the Marlins could possibly sweep hapless Baltimore and decided to pull the plug before those expected victories.

Fredi Gonzalez was a lame duck before this season ever started. In fact, it traced back to the last weekend of the ’09 season when Florida was reported to covet Bobby Valentine for the manager’s post. During the off-season, management opined it was playoffs-or-bust for the ragtag group of Fish. Despite overachieving with 84 victories last season, nothing short of a wild card berth in the National League would be accepted by Loria and henchman David Samson. Predictably, the Marlins started the season exactly like their talent would dictate. Moody SS Hanley Ramirez and burgeoning ace Josh Johnson would keep the Marlins afloat, but the rest of the roster was shaky.

The idea of the Marlins improving on last year’s 2nd year finish was laughable. Each of the other clubs in the NL East added significant pieces to their repertoire. Philadelphia didn’t rest on their laurels, upgrading at 3B with Placido Polanco and adding a future Hall-of-Famer in Roy Halladay. (And while we’re on the subject of Halladay, it was quite ingenious of Loria to try and make money of his team getting blanked by selling unused tickets from the Perfect game. But I digress) The Atlanta Braves added a healthy Tim Hudson back to their rotation, along with phenom Jason Heyward. The Mets signed OF Jason Bay, and welcomed back a healthy Jose Reyes. On the other hand, the Marlins add Mike Lamb, Brian Barden, and a whole bunch of flameouts in their bullpen. The Marlins were pressured to add some salary, and did ink Dan Uggla and Josh Johnson to contracts. Mike Stanton is in the big leagues, but is getting struck out by average major league stuff.

All that being said, as a Marlins fan I was somewhat satisfied with the course this season had taken. I understand that if the Fish keep it close, and are still alive coming to September, that it’s been a successful season. Clearly, management bungled the managerial search. I was sure that Bobby Valentine and his faux mustache were on his way to Miami Gardens. There was no way that a major league franchise would fire its most winning manager and replace him with a sub-.500 AAA manager in Edwin Rodriguez. Only total fools would allow a club still marginally in the hunt to be managed by Rodriguez and a team of minor league roving instructors. Rodriguez would be allowed to take a heartwarming return to his native Puerto Rico, only to be replaced by a professional coaching staff once the team reached Atlanta on Friday.

I nearly jumped out of my chair when I learned, during the 2nd inning of the Marlins telecast from San Juan, Rodriguez had the interim title lifted and would take the reigns for the remainder of the season. The rookie manager sounds like a nice guy and I am genuinely happy that he’s the first Puerto Rican manager in MLB. But to promote him in the middle of the season, without an experienced bench coach, hitting coach, or 1st and 3rd base coaches, Rodriguez cannot be expected to succeed. It’s all well and good when you play the Mets, who are familiar to all. But how will the team strategize and plan to play teams like the Dodgers, Padres, and Diamondbacks, whom they already see sparsely throughout the season.

After remarkably taking the first two games of their “home stand” in San Juan, last night was the Marlins moment to shine. ESPN’s Wednesday Night Baseball was in town to cover the final game of the series. The Marlins on national TV is rarer than a lunar eclipse, so naturally the team would want to impress. Ironically, the evening started out like a typical home game. Rain delayed the start for over 80 minutes. Fans suffered through a first inning of nearly 45 minutes, with the Mets emerging with a 3-2 lead. The entire nation would quickly be exposed to what it’s like to witness the Marlins on a daily basis. They were treated to a veritable orgy of infield miscues, featuring two errors from Jorge Cantu and one apiece from Gaby Sanchez and Dan Uggla. The eight whiffs from Marlins batters was actually an improvement from the double-digit K’s they usually produce. Chris Volstad was lifted for a pinch hitter in Mike Lamb, who meekly grounded to the pitcher. (Incidentally, Lamb has been designated for assignment twice and cleared waivers both times) Fans were treated to the middle-relievers of this playoff-worthy club. Alex Sanabia, in his 5th full inning in the majors, is betrayed by his defense and will eventually earn his 1st major league loss. Jose Veras, a championship caliber free agent addition, miraculously delivers a 1-2-3 eighth. To cap off the ineptitude, Rodriguez is forced to bat Emilio Bonifacio and Brian Barden in key spots in the 8th and 9th, respectively.

At night’s end, following a 6-5 defeat, the Fish fall to a mediocre 37-41. If I were the casual fan watching at home, having admirably made it all the way to the midnight hour, I’d be impressed that this ballclub was only four games below .500

Thursday, June 17, 2010

Game 7: Boston Celtics at L.A. Lakers

Tonight marks perhaps the most significant professional basketball game since at least 1994. While remaining entertaining with the personal exploits of Michael Jordan, Dwyane Wade, Kobe Bryant, and Shaquille O’Neal, the NBA Finals have mostly been devoid of lengthy, competitive series. Since 1994, when Houston defeated New York in 7 games, only one series has lasted the distance. And that one was the soporific Detroit vs. San Antonio matchup of 2005. In his 12 NBA Finals appearances and 10 victories, Phil Jackson has never been part of a Game 7. By and large, the better team is pretty well evident by Game 6 at the latest. However, this year’s NBA Finals features two evenly matched teams, and while I suspect Los Angeles may be slightly better from a talent perspective, either squad could take the winner-take-all contest tonight in California.

Boston enters this game lacking much margin of error. Without starting C Kendrick Perkins, the Celtics will need to stay out of early foul trouble. Tonight’s officiating crew consists of veterans Joe Crawford, Dan Crawford, and Scott Foster. For all those who fear biased officiating, I would like to allay those doubts. Even if you believe in conspiracies regarding the zebras, there is no reason for any chicanery to take place tonight. The league has everything they wanted – a Game 7 featuring the two most storied franchises in league history. David Stern would prefer nothing more than to have this high-profile game be decided by the players. That being said, the tone set by officiating will be crucial. Boston cannot afford to get hamstrung by touch fouls on their big men. Boston will likely activate F Brian Scalabrine in place of Perkins, and in essence would be a last resort. Shelden Williams hasn’t shown the ability to produce in the playoffs, leading you to believe that it’s Big Baby, ‘Sheed, or bust for the Celtics title hopes. We have to hope that Kevin Garnett’s legs have one more great defensive effort left, since Los Angeles is sure to integrate Andrew Bynum and Pau Gasol into the game plan.

Los Angeles also has an advantage in that they trot out the best player on the court tonight. In crucial elimination games, I tend to favor the team with the premiere performer. In this case, Kobe Bryant has the capability to carry the Lakers to victory all by himself. On the other hand, Boston will probably need tremendous efforts from all, or at least three of their Big Four (Rondo, Garnett, Pierce, R.Allen). Role players tend to play better at home, but Boston can hope that someone like Davis, Robinson, or T. Allen catch fire and provide an unexpected spark. For Boston to feel like they have a good chance at winning, they’ll have to carry some cushion leading into the 4th Quarter. Because if the game is close, I would be very, very nervous as a Celtics fan with Kobe Bryant being in position to take a championship deciding shot. But to be fair, in albeit a smaller sample size Paul Pierce also has the ability to be a difference maker in clutch time, as evidence by his 40-point effort against Cleveland in the 2008 East Semifinal Game 7. And one does expect Ray Allen to eventually start hitting some open jumpers.

In conclusion, expect this game to contain all the drama that woeful Game 6 lacked. History has shown us that one bad game does not a series make. Boston followed up its Game 3 blowout loss at home to Cleveland in the 2nd Round with a resounding Game 4 victory. Doc Rivers can proclaim to the contrary, but it was only human nature for the Lakers to feel more urgency, facing elimination in Game 6. Now both teams share the same level of initiative of knowing that there truly is “no tomorrow”, at least for the 2009-10 NBA campaign. My head tells me that the Lakers hold a slight edge in the X’s and O’s of this Game 7. Having said that, it’s nearly impossible to predict which way the ball will bounce or which players will be the unsung hero when it matters the most. So… for everyone who has made this franchise what it is today… Larry Bird, Kevin McHale, Bill Russell, JoJo White, Tommy Heinsohn, Bob Cousy, Hondo Havlicek, The Chief Robert Parish… and those who cannot be here today like Red, Reggie Lewis, Johnny Most, Dennis Johnson… and for devoted media members like Bob Ryan, Jackie MacMullan, Dan Shaughnessy… I am picking the BOSTON CELTICS to win Game 7 by a score of 101-93.

Thursday, May 06, 2010

Inside tsias 2.0

After a significant hiatus, I've decided to resume my hobby of online weblogging. I'm a little rusty, and it'll take some time to master the graphic design. As you can see in the archives, I blogged a little about everything (sports, politics, my fear of talking to pretty hairdressers at the salon). A lot has changed over the years. For instance, in 2004 I was supremely confident we'd be lead by a President John Kerry. The Miami Dolphins were a decaying NFL franchise, and I despised the traitorous Ricky Williams. Today, we have a President Obama and Williams is beloved in South Florida, and Jason Taylor is the Judas d'jour.

I blog mainly for myself, and to keep a time capsule of sorts. But any feedback (there is a comments page) is welcome and encouraged.


Tuesday, April 22, 2008

Pennsylvania Election Day

LATE DAY BREAKING NEWS (6:08): Various online outlets are reporting early exit poll numbers. 2/3 of voters felt that Clinton unfairly attacked Obama. Sen. Obama has made inroads with white males, garnering 45 %.

If the 52-48 Clinton numbers come to fruition, tonight will likely be the coup d' grace for Obama.

The much anticipated Pennsylvania primary has finally arrived for the Democrats. It is the first primary since Clinton's victories in Ohio and Rhode Island back on Mar.2. This will be the first chance for voters to respond to Rev. Jeremiah Wright, Bosnia Gate, and the controversial ABC debate. Polls close tonight at 8:00 Eastern in the state of Pennsylvania, and at that time the networks will either project a winner or offer an early characterization of the race.

For Sen. Obama, "too close to call" would be a delightful way to begin the evening. At 8:00, exit poll data will be released to the public. There should be a couple of trend lines, which should make it easy to judge the eventual outcome of this election.

1) Late deciders: Clinton won Ohio in Texas in large part because of late deciders. Those who made up their minds in the final week went sharply for Sen. Clinton. Obama may hope to benefit from Clinton's recent troubles. I expect that if Obama keeps the race close, it will be as a result of backlash against Clinton's negative campaign.

2) New/Young Democrats: The pundits keep talking about the new registrants, who changed their affiliation in order to vote in this primary. It would appear likely that the majority of these voters would favor Sen. Obama. If Obama is able to pull out a victory, a deciding factor may be that these new voters were under-represented in public opinion polls. The goal of negative campaigning is not to enhance the offending candidate's favorables. As we have seen, both Clinton and Obama have suffered a loss in popularity due to recent tactics. The real aim of negative campaigning is to supress voter turnout. And in this race today, more voters mean an Obama night. Sparse turnout would favor Clinton.

3) White/Rural Voters: Clinton's main advantage in Pennsylvania is the large number of lower educated, middle class workers. Her stronghold throughout this race, has been quite frankly "Low information voters". These are the people who think Obama is a Muslim and isn't even a U.S. citizen. The expectation is that PA will end up much like Ohio, in that Clinton's margin comes from her base of so-called "blue collar" workers. If Obama is unable to break into that margin, it will have been a failure of his campaign in this state.

As for my personal take on the race, I expect that Sen. Clinton will emerge victorious in the popular vote. At this point, she has ceded the fight for delegates. Her main goal would be to win a blowout (upwards of 20 percent), and make up a few hundred thousand popular votes. But for her to change the dynamic of this race, she needs a game-changing victory. I don't see that happening. I project a 53-47 margin, far short of a resounding win. If this is the result, I expect Clinton to continue for another two weeks, before finally being expelled from the race by losing both Indiana and North Carolina on May 6.

Wednesday, April 16, 2008

Ode to the Lesser Known Candidates

As we near the end of a primary campaign that has lasted since the day Sen. Kerry conceded in Boston in Nov. 2004, the field has winnowed down to three. Of course, we all know that Sens. Obama, Clinton, and McCain have survived the more than 20 other candidates who sought the nomination for the Democrats or Republicans. During this time, we’ve seen the rise and fall of presidential contenders, or perhaps pretenders. In this past year, Fred Thompson, Rudy Giuliani, Mitt Romney, and Mike Huckabee have been cast as prospective “front-runners” in the polls. But for every John Edwards, who garnered much mainstream attention, there’s a Joe Biden or Duncan Hunter that never was able to break through and had to prematurely end their dream of becoming president.

Now, here are five candidates that made a unique, humorous, or notable contribution to the “Race for the White House” in 2008.

· Rep. Ron Paul (R-Texas): This 1988 Libertarian Party nominee made a return to presidential politics with his quest to win the Republican nomination in 2008. Unbeknownst to most Americans, Paul is still actively seeking the presidency. His website has a headline that reads, “There were 11. Now there are two”, followed by a glowing portrait of the Texas Congressman. Paul is best known for his vociferous supporters, and the ability to raise $35 million without much media attention. It was difficult to cruise the interstate in 2008 without encountering homemade “Ron Paul Revolution” signs. One rather creative Paul supporter introduced the “Ron Paul Blimp”, which could be ridden in or advertised on for as much as $1 million. His dedicated supporters hand-delivered a pamphlet to my home just before the Florida primary. My favorite line was “Ron Paul has been in Congress for 20 years… Ron Paul has delivered over 4000 babies.” And in fact, both statements are true. Paul is a 10-term congressman from Texas’s 14th District, and he holds a PhD and was a practicing physician before entering politics. While he has not won a primary or caucus, his old-style Libertarian philosophy and opposition to the Iraq War was a breath of fresh air for this Democrat. And finally, he may have made the most true statement of this campaign, when he quoted Sinclair Lewis in saying, “When fascism comes it will be wrapped in a flag carrying a cross”.

· Sen. Joe Biden (D-Del.): This six-term Senator from Delaware was one of the most qualified candidates in the 2008 race. Biden was well respected for his foreign policy knowledge and credentials. He is currently the Chairman of the Senate Committee on Foreign Relations. While that may not mean much to Joe Q. Public, the position is one of great importance. For instance, the Foreign Relations Committee helped originate the purchase of Alaska in the 1960’s, and is responsible for foreign aid and arms sales. But the personal narrative of Sen. Biden’s life is much more interesting. Biden was first elected to the Senate in 1972, but his joy was short-lived. Biden, a husband and father of three, lost his wife and infant daughter in a car accident just after his election. His two sons were also injured in the accident, and Biden was actually sworn in as a Senator at their bedside in a Wilmington, Delaware hospital. While his campaign did succumb after a poor showing in Iowa, he succinctly summed up the campaign of Rudy Giuliani during a debate. Biden said, "There's only three things he mentions in a sentence: a noun, a verb, and 9/11”.

· Former Sen. Mike Gravel (D-Alaska): Let’s start with the serious part of Sen. Gravel. During the Watergate era, Gravel was a key opponent of the draft. In a 1971 speech, he filibustered against the draft and was able to force parts of the Pentagon Papers into the Senate record. He was vindicated in the Supreme Court ruling Gravel v. United States, which granted him immunity. Obviously, much of that occurred three decades ago and few people cared, considering his abysmal performance in the primaries. However, he did provide some memorable lines. At the CNN Youtube debate, he self-deprecatingly described himself as a “potted plant”, in reference to the fact that he received less speaking time than the major candidates. Detractors began to liken him to "the cranky uncle who lives in the attic”. Before he was ultimately barred from the debates, he let go this memorable line following responses about possible military action against Iran. “And I got to tell you, after standing up with them, some of these people frighten me - they frighten me,” said Gravel. Finally, in perhaps the best advertisement of the campaign, Gravel stares at the camera for a minute, and then finally throws a rock into the lake.

· Former Gov. Tommy Thompson (R-Wis.): Before I get too dismissive, I have to mention that Tommy Thompson was elected as governor of Wisconsin for four terms. He served in the cabinet of President George W. Bush as Secretary of Health and Human Services. Obviously, Thompson is a man of great accomplishment. But his candidacy, unfortunately, fell far short. Thompson spoke with assurance that he would finish 2nd in the much-important Ames Straw poll in Iowa, which was held in Aug 2007. On many television programs, Thompson was confident that he would do well, considering most of the other candidates were not competing in this non-binding exercise. Well, Thompson finished 6th with 7 percent of the vote, losing to Mitt Romney, Mike Huckabee, and John McCain. As if he were genuinely surprised, Thompson withdrew. Months later, he made another colossal error in endorsing Rudy “I spent $50 million for one damn delegate” Giuliani. I’ll close with one of Thompson’s memorable remarks. During a speech in front of Jewish Americans, Thompson uttered, “You know that's sort of part of the Jewish tradition and I do not find anything wrong with that.”

· Alan Keyes (R-???): We’ll end with a man who is likely to end up as a trivia question. On Jeopardy, some day in the near future, we’ll hear Alex Trebek ask, “I lost the Senate election in Illinois to future President Barack Obama.”. If you can answer, “Alan Keyes”, then you win $600 for Presidential politics. In the introduction, I do not list a state for Alan Keyes, since quite frankly I am not sure. Keyes ran for the U.S. Senate from Maryland in 1998 and 2002. But after Jack Ryan, wife of Star Trek star Jeri Ryan imploded in the 2004 Senate race, Keyes was the last-ditch choice to challenge the rising star, Obama, who would go on to become keynote speaker at the 2004 Democratic National Convention in Boston. This is only after “Da Bears” coach Mike Ditka declined overtures to enter the massacre, err race. But I digress. Keyes suddenly appeared in the Dec. 2007 PBS Debate in Des Moines. This came as a surprise to even seasoned political veterans, who were astonished that Keyes was still alive, far less running for the highest office in the land. While Keyes has not yet withdrawn from the race, and is now seeking the Constitution Party nomination, I will remember him for the good times he gave us. His Mr. Rogers-like sweatshirt that he wore in his short-lived Alan Keyes is Making Sense program on MSNBC will always give me fond memories of my high school days. And finally, who could ever forget him jumping into a mosh pit on Michael Moore’s Bravo program The Awful Truth. And as a second addendum, after garnering only 27 percent against Barack Obama he suggested ignoring the 17th Amendment and taking away Americans’ rights to direct elections of Senators. Farewell, Alan Keyes, maybe you will come back someday on FOX News after Sean Hannity passes.

Of course, I could not take the time to mention all the other minor candidates and their follies. If I had that time, I would have discussed Rep. Tom Tancredo (R-Colo.) angering Miami residents by calling their city a “third-world country”. Or I could have talked about how Sen. Sam Brownback (R-Kan.) worked hard and insured the endorsement of Terri Schiavo’s brother, Bobby Schindler. Or to be more serious, how Sen. Chris Dodd’s father witnessed the horrific natures of the Holocaust at the Nuremberg trials.

But to end, here is a list of the other candidates who will not be President. While they all deserve attention, none will get the acclaim they deserve.

Gov. Tom Vilsack (D-Iowa)
Rep. Dennis Kucinich (D-Ohio)
Rep. Duncan Hunter (R-Calif.)
Former Gov. Jim Gilmore (R-Va.)