We know the answer. We saw him on Sept. 11, and during the days and weeks after. That's why Giuliani is getting support from many who don't agree with him on cultural issues. They're confident he'll be a strong and effective leader. About John McCain, we know that he endured seven years as a prisoner of war, went through torture and refused several offers of freedom. We know that he overcame his bitterness over his defeat in 2000 and offered staunch support to the man who beat him. We know he has a temper, but also a gift for self-deprecating humor.
As for Hillary Rodham Clinton, we saw her endure humiliations -- the collapse of her health care plan, the revelations of her husband's infidelities -- that would make most of us want to crawl in a hole. Yet she persevered, concentrating on her work and winning office in the most raucous political environment in America. You may not like her, but you can't deny that she's shown perseverance and grace under pressure -- a good quality for any president.
As it happens, the two major party nominees in 1928 had similar political assets. Americans then knew how Herbert Hoover administered war relief in Europe and Russia and responded to the disastrous Mississippi River flood in 1927.
Many Americans had also observed close-up his opponent, Al Smith, who was the governor of the largest and most visible state for eight years before the election. Both were in tension with their parties' bases: Hoover was a big government man; Smith, as a Catholic, was anathema to many ancestral Southern Democrats. The 1928 election shook up the political map. Hoover carried most border and Southern states, Smith heavily Catholic Massachusetts and Rhode Island.
The 2008 frontrunners aren't sure to be nominated. But a contest between two of them could shake up the political alignments that have been solidly in place for 10 years.