16 People the Media Considered Presidential Contenders at This Time in 2006

A handy reminder that speculation is just that — speculation.

Joseph Leiberman during a ceremony at the at the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services December 19, 2012 in Washington, DC. 
National Journal
Aug. 12, 2014, 1:08 a.m.

Con­sid­er­ing how many 2016 think pieces bom­bard our col­lect­ive con­scious­ness on a daily basis, it’s use­ful to re­mem­ber that we’re a long way off from know­ing any­thing truly worth­while about how the next pres­id­en­tial elec­tion will play out.

Case in point: A Nex­is search of me­dia cov­er­age from the sum­mer of 2006 shows that, two years out from the 2008 pres­id­en­tial elec­tion, there was a lot of buzz about dif­fer­ent can­did­ates — mainly Hil­lary Clin­ton — but al­most none about the man who now oc­cu­pies the White House. And while most news out­lets took Sen. John Mc­Cain as the giv­en Re­pub­lic­an nom­in­ee, there were some wacky pro­pos­i­tions on both sides of the aisle.

Of course, polit­ic­al re­port­ers and colum­nists are wont to pro­gnost­ic­ate — it’s prac­tic­ally in our job de­scrip­tion, and it’s the closest thing we have to celebrity gos­sip. Even the best of us gaze in­to the crys­tal ball from time to time, only to dis­cov­er it’s a knock­off.

So, if you need a reas­on not to take 2016 pre­dic­tions too ser­i­ously — or to just ig­nore them com­pletely — look back at these art­icles from the sum­mer of 2006 that spec­u­lated about a vari­ety of can­did­ates, Re­pub­lic­an and Demo­crat­ic, who didn’t even wind up in a party primary two years later.

Chuck Hagel?

“Sen. Chuck Hagel, R-Neb., a po­ten­tial dark horse can­did­ate for the GOP pres­id­en­tial nom­in­a­tion, also will vote against the House-passed em­bryon­ic stem-cell le­gis­la­tion, said spokes­man Mike Buttry.

‘He’s al­ways been with the pres­id­ent on this,’ Buttry said. The de­bate ‘hasn’t changed enough to be something he would vote for.’ “

- Con­gres­sion­al Quarterly, Ju­ly 17, 2006

John Kerry, Round 2?

“There is no leg­al re­stric­tion on Kerry’s trans­fer­ring all $14 mil­lion in the old pres­id­en­tial ac­count to a pres­id­en­tial primary cam­paign, said former Fed­er­al Elec­tion Com­mis­sion Chair­man Scott Thomas.

Count­ing the $14 mil­lion in the two 2004 pres­id­en­tial cam­paign ac­counts and $179,000 in his Friends of John Kerry Sen­ate reelec­tion ac­count, Kerry could have the largest war chest at the start of the 2008 pres­id­en­tial primary. Wheth­er he does will de­pend how much Clin­ton raises and spends in her reelec­tion race.”

- The Hill, Ju­ly 19, 2006

Former Iowa Gov. Tom Vil­sack?

“Ce­ment­ing a set of na­tion­al policy goals and bridging the party’s fac­tions could pay di­vidends for Vil­sack, should he con­tin­ue tak­ing steps to­ward run­ning in 2008.

‘Vil­sack’s done the kind of things this year that put him in a stronger po­s­i­tion, should he de­cide to run,’ said Al From, the Demo­crat­ic Lead­er­ship Coun­cil’s founder and chief ex­ec­ut­ive of­ficer.”

- The Des Moines Re­gister, Ju­ly 23, 2006

Former Wis­con­sin Sen. Rus­sell Fein­gold?

“This time, with so many sen­at­ors think­ing about run­ning, the primar­ies and po­ten­tially the gen­er­al elec­tion could find the can­did­ates squar­ing off against col­leagues who are op­er­at­ing in close prox­im­ity. Mr. Kerry served in Vi­et­nam around the same time as Mr. Mc­Cain, who de­fen­ded him against Re­pub­lic­an at­tacks dur­ing the 2004 race. Sen­at­or Rus­sell D. Fein­gold, Demo­crat of Wis­con­sin, de­vised a land­mark cam­paign-fin­ance bill with Mr. Mc­Cain (and has since traveled with him and with Mrs. Clin­ton).”

- The New York Times, Ju­ly 29, 2006

Dick Cheney? Arnold Schwar­zeneg­ger? Jeb Bush?

“There should be more heavy hit­ters, three in par­tic­u­lar, and in each case a dis­tinct an­om­aly keeps them out.

No. 1, the vice pres­id­ent. Ap­par­ently, Dick Cheney meant it when he said he had no as­pir­a­tion for the top job. In con­sequence of this de­cision, he is likely go­ing to be the most-stud­ied vice pres­id­ent in his­tory among those who did not go on to the Oval Of­fice. And no, it’s not a health prob­lem. If he’d been work­ing the past six years to pre­pare the way for his own ac­ces­sion, es­pe­cially if that’s what Mr. Bush had in mind also, then Mr. Cheney would be the front-run­ner (and as buff as the cur­rent oc­cu­pant).

No. 2, the world-fam­ous gov­ernor of the most pop­u­lous state. Arnold Schwar­zeneg­ger has had his ups and downs in Cali­for­nia, but were it not for his Aus­tri­an birth, and thus his con­sti­tu­tion­al in­eligib­il­ity for the pres­id­ency, he would un­doubtedly be a ma­jor con­tender. He dazzles crowds like the Hol­ly­wood su­per­star he is, and he has proved wrong all the ca­ri­ca­tures ques­tion­ing his sub­stance.

No. 3, the very pop­u­lar and suc­cess­ful gov­ernor of a big swing state. Jeb Bush may get to run for pres­id­ent one day, but not as his broth­er’s im­me­di­ate suc­cessor. Were it oth­er­wise, party big­wigs and money would be flock­ing to Flor­ida in a way re­min­is­cent of the 1999 pro­ces­sion to Texas.”

- The Wash­ing­ton Times, Au­gust 1, 2006

Joe Lieber­man?

“Joe Lieber­man is not a friend of the Bush ad­min­is­tra­tion. He may, however, re­main the Demo­crat­ic Party’s last hope of re­cap­tur­ing the White House.”

- The Bal­timore Sun, Au­gust 8, 2006

Former New York Gov. George Pa­taki?

“Push­ing an en­ergy plan re­ly­ing heav­ily on eth­an­ol made from corn was sens­ible strategy for a re­l­at­ive un­known in the early caucuses in corn-grow­ing Iowa, said Ar­thur Sanders, an ana­lyst at Drake Uni­versity in Des Moines.

‘The hope for some­body like Pa­taki is that we end up with a lot of Re­pub­lic­an con­ser­vat­ives di­vid­ing up the vote’ while he builds up sup­port with mod­er­ates, Sanders said. ‘But then Pa­taki could be vy­ing for the same voters’ with an­oth­er po­ten­tial GOP can­did­ate from New York - former May­or Rudy Gi­uliani, Sanders said.”

- New York Daily News, Au­gust 8, 2006

Former Vir­gin­ia Gov. Mark Warner?

“Con­necti­c­ut Sen. Joseph I. Lieber­man’s loss in a Demo­crat­ic primary in Con­necti­c­ut is not great news for former Vir­gin­ia Gov. Mark R. Warner’s pres­id­en­tial am­bi­tions, a polit­ic­al ana­lyst said yes­ter­day.

Stu­art Rothen­berg, au­thor of a widely read polit­ic­al news­let­ter, said Warner, like Lieber­man, has por­trayed him­self as a cent­rist who can work well with Re­pub­lic­ans.”

- Rich­mond Times Dis­patch, Au­gust 10, 2006

Con­doleezza Rice?

“For many Re­pub­lic­ans, Sec­ret­ary of State Con­doleezza Rice is the reas­on to hope. She is the an­swer for GOP plans to con­tin­ue the Bush White House leg­acy. More im­port­antly, she’s the con­ser­vat­ive wo­man to put a stop to Hil­lary Clin­ton.”

- The Salt Lake Tribune, Au­gust 29, 2006

“Rice might be able to help the GOP in 2008 even if she were not at the top of the tick­et. “I do be­lieve that the even­tu­al Re­pub­lic­an nom­in­ee is al­most cer­tain to have her on the list for vice pres­id­ent,” [Re­pub­lic­an polit­ic­al con­sult­ant Charles] Black said.”

- Na­tion­al Journ­al, Au­gust 12, 2006

George “Macaca” Al­len?

“Most pres­id­en­tial hope­fuls don’t have to cam­paign for reelec­tion this year. Among those free to fo­cus on 2008 are Re­pub­lic­ans such as former New York may­or Rudy Gi­uliani, Mas­sachu­setts Gov. Mitt Rom­ney, and Sens. John Mc­Cain of Ari­zona, Sam Brown­back of Kan­sas and re­tir­ing Sen­ate Ma­jor­ity Lead­er Bill Frist of Ten­ness­ee. Demo­crat­ic Sens. Joseph Biden of Delaware and Russ Fein­gold of Wis­con­sin and Iowa Gov. Tom Vil­sack also don’t have to worry about the elec­tions Nov. 7.

Even so, Al­len and Clin­ton loom large in the field.

Ac­cord­ing to data com­piled by the Cen­ter for Re­spons­ive Polit­ics, a non­par­tis­an group that tracks cam­paign fin­ances, both sen­at­ors rank among the na­tion’s top polit­ic­al fun­draisers. Whatever they don’t spend on their Sen­ate races could be used to launch a pres­id­en­tial bid.”

- USA Today, Au­gust 15, 2006

Former In­di­ana Sen. Evan Bayh?

“If Demo­crats want to sink deep­er roots in the heart­land, they can’t just of­fer bet­ter can­did­ates. They must bring the heart­land onto their na­tion­al stage.

Let’s face it, Nancy Pelosi, Chuck Schu­mer and Ted Kennedy sound like chalk on the black­board, even to those who are used to them. Wouldn’t it be nice if the Demo­crat­ic spokes­per­son wer­en’t al­ways from Cali­for­nia, New York or the Com­mon­wealth of Mas­sachu­setts? Why not try a Hoo­si­er for a change, like Sen. Evan Bayh of In­di­ana?”

- Real­Clear­Polit­ics, Au­gust 24, 2006

Mi­chael Bloomberg?

“Ima­gine that it is two years from now, sum­mer of 2008. The na­tion­al party con­ven­tions are over. The nom­in­ees: Demo­crat Hil­lary Rod­ham Clin­ton, Re­pub­lic­an Rudolph W. Gi­uliani and the Re­form Party can­did­ate, Mi­chael R. Bloomberg.”

- The New York Times, Au­gust 27, 2006

Kan­sas Gov. Sam Brown­back?

“One of the most in­triguing pos­sib­il­it­ies at this point is that Sen. Sam Brown­back of Kan­sas will get in­to the race, in ef­fect run­ning for vice pres­id­ent. He’s got the con­ser­vat­ive bona fides and an act­iv­ist streak on such is­sues as halt­ing gen­o­cide in Dar­fur and hu­man rights more broadly. If con­ser­vat­ives demon­strate sup­port and en­thu­si­asm for him dur­ing the primar­ies, he might well be the one.”

- The Wash­ing­ton Times, Au­gust 29, 2006

Al Gore, Round 2?

“Al­though say­ing he has no plans to run for pres­id­ent in 2008, former vice pres­id­ent Al Gore has non­ethe­less left the door ever so slightly ajar. It’s a good bet that door will swing open a good bit wider come next May.

That is when Gore is sched­uled to pub­lish his next book.”

- The Wash­ing­ton Post, Septem­ber 17, 2006

* * * * *

Of all the ma­jor na­tion­al news­pa­pers, then-Sen. Barack Obama’s name cropped up in only a hand­ful of head­lines — mainly from Illinois-based out­lets. One Chica­go Tribune art­icle from Septem­ber 18, 2006 is head­lined, “Iowa Demo­crats see con­tender in Obama.”

At that point in the cycle, they were the only ones.

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