Rich Galen

Talk about a big Presidential Election weekend: Hillary got in. NM Governor Bill Richardson got in. Kansas Senator Sam Brownback got in. Newt and Biden were on Fox News Sunday. McCain was on Meet the Press.

Sen. Chuck Hagel (R?-Neb) was on Face the Nation and C-SPAN where announced he is considering run for President as an independent.

Let's see. Third party runs for President: Teddy Roosevelt (1912)
Eugene V. Debs (1920)
Robert LaFollette (1924)
Strom Thurmond (1948)
George Wallace (1968)
Eugene McCarthy (1976)
John Anderson (1980)
Ross Perot (1992 & 1996)
Ralph Nader (2000)

Chuck Hagel? What kind of slogan would Chuck Hagel have: "Hagel's not a Bagel?" "Chuck's a Â" Oh. Nevermind.

Keep in mind, there are 652 days - each one charged with high drama - between today and election day (November 4) 2008.

The real news this weekend was Hillary's having to advance - perhaps by several months - her campaign timetable because of the extraordinary attention being generated by Barak Obama whose appearance in New Hampshire last month stopped political junkies in our tracks.

Obama is at that stage in Presidential politics which roughly equates to lighting a charcoal grill: You stack the briquettes, pour on the lighter fluid, throw in a match and  Whoa! Smoke and fire and heat! Very exciting.

But you can't cook a steak on that. You have to wait until the fire burns down and the coals begin to glow to see if you can grill a meal.

Here's a way to test a candidate's early strength. If you have to describe who someone is, they are not in the top tier: McCain, Giuliani, and Romney are in the top tier because most people know who they are without further explanation. Brownback, Hagel, and Hunter are not.

On the Democrat side, Clinton, Obama, and Edwards are top tier. Biden, Richardson, Dodd are not.

According to the Washington Post/ABC News poll, Sen. Clinton is the choice of 41% of those polled, Obama is the choice of 17%, John Edwards is at 11%; Al Gore - AL GORE - is the choice of 10%.

It seems to me that 41% for Mrs. Clinton is far below what her campaign would have wanted at this stage given her huge win in her re-election campaign for Senate in New York. 17% for Obama is remarkable because only about three people have any idea what he stands for or who he is other than be is not named "Hillary."

Rich Galen

Rich Galen has been a press secretary to Dan Quayle and Newt Gingrich. Rich Galen currently works as a journalist and writes at