With the first caucus imminent, I guess it’s time for discussion about how we would like the primary to come out. And my answer is: it depends. To preface this, I should say that I think Clinton would be a pretty good president, and I also think she would be favored against anyone except McCain (alas, this is now looking like a big exception.) I would be happier with any of the major Dems than I was with Kerry in 2004, and I didn’t dislike Kerry. Certainly, Clinton would be infinitely preferable to any Republican opponent.
But. I can’t support her for the nomination for two reasons. The first can be summed up by Tom Tomorrow; her support for the Iraq War is both (as we saw in 2004) bad politics and bad on the merits, and anyone who thinks that Iraq isn’t going to be a major issue in 2008 is fooling themselves. The second was made well by Yglesias and Rosenfeld:
Liberal Democrats should want a nominee who is, in fact, a liberal. And liberals and moderates alike have should want a nominee who’s seen as a moderate by the median voter. Clinton, however, is a moderate who people think is a liberal. This is a terrible combination of qualities from almost every point of view — except, perhaps, for the faction of her advisers whose views are probably too right-wing to be associated with the Democratic presidential nominee, unless they can latch onto the one candidate both blessed and cursed with an undeserved reputation for liberalism. Well, bully for them. But liberals should open their eyes.
Given that there are at least two good alternatives, I just can’t see supporting a centrist candidate with a reputation as a liberal, and who also seems especially likely to mobilize what may otherwise be an undermotivated GOP base.
Since between Edwards and Obama I don’t have a strong preference, I would basically support whoever in my state had the best chance of beating Clinton. In the abstract, I would marginally prefer Edwards; he’s the best on domestic policy, although his vote for the war is a political problem (one he’s at least dealt with better than Clinton.) On the other hand, Obama seems to have a better chance to win the nomination, has formidable political skills, is more liberal than he’s perceived as being (which is what you want) and also seems to be much less hated by the press than the other two Dems. (I definitely wouldn’t bet on this to continue — especially if he’s running against St. McCain’s Straight Talkitude Express — but better uncertainty that someone we know the press will relentlessly savage all things being equal.) So knowing what I know now I would support Obama, but would happily shift to choice 1A if Edwards looks good after NH.
To reiterate, on the GOP side Romney is clearly the one to root for; he’s the least appallingly bad choice as president and would also be beaten like a rented Devil Ray in the general.