There is no guarantee that any of these candidates will be nominated. Many Washington insiders think that Mitt Romney, now mostly unknown, and John Edwards, not yet known in depth, will emerge as strong contenders. Both fit more closely the profile of their parties' bases -- but both have records on issues that are inconveniently out of line with them. And dark horses could turn out to be strong horses. Who was giving serious consideration to Howard Dean at this point in the 2003-04 cycle?
Still, the likelihood is that the Republicans will nominate a candidate significantly different from George W. Bush and that the Democrats will nominate a candidate whose stands and style will differ significantly from that of Al Gore and John Kerry. Current polls suggest there will be more moveable voters than in 2000 or 2004. In polls in the 2003-04 cycle, neither Bush nor various Democrats scored so high as to suggest that either party's candidate would win more than the 51 percent Bush ultimately got. Movement was minimal. But in polls in this cycle we have seen well-known candidates of both parties run far ahead of little-known candidates of other parties -- far enough to suggest that they could get over that 51 percent level in general elections. Voters who wouldn't consider a Republican or Democrat in 2004 seem willing to at least consider one in 2008. The Karl Rove model of turning out your base may prove obsolete. Some analysts assume that Republicans will be weighed down by low Bush job ratings. But that may not be the case. I think we're entering a period of open-field politics, in which both parties will be defined less by their past leaders than by their new nominees. To read more political analysis by Michael Barone, visit www.usnews.com/baroneblog. To find out more about Michael Barone, and read features by other Creators Syndicate writers and cartoonists, visit the Creators Syndicate Web page at www.creators.com. COPYRIGHT 2007 CREATORS SYNDICATE INC. ?? ?? ?? ??