More Than Hot Air? You Decide

Never have the choices been wider. Never have the stakes for 21st-century America been higher. The 2008 presidential campaign has already made history in terms of its diverse slate of candidates, the cost of the race, and its early start: There will be seven primaries and caucuses next month, and Super Tuesday, a day on which as many as 18 key primaries and caucuses take place, has been moved to February from March.

At press time, there were 17 candidates crowding the presidential field. And, for the first time in the history of presidential politics, the contenders represent America’s melting pot in its racial, gender, and religious diversity: Candidates include an African American, a woman, a Latino, and a member of the Mormon faith. And, for the first time since 1928, an incumbent president or vice president is not seeking the White House. “It’s unique because no party from an incumbency standpoint has that ability to run from the Rose Garden,” says state senator and University of Denver political scientist Peter Groff (D-Colo.). “This allows folks to talk about what type of White House they’ll create. They can build their own playing field, with their own team and vision.”

The new president will have to contend with the Bush administration’s tattered foreign policy image, the economy, civil liberties, and other issues. Some of the most pressing concerns facing the new chief executive will be troop withdrawal from Iraq, reviving a flagging economy, and repairing the country’s tarnished reputation among the world’s industrialized and developing nations.

“Every year, candidates and their supporters say this is the most important election in generations. This one actually is,” says Michael Fauntroy, a George Mason University political scientist. “Hopefully, we can find a president

capable of some serious diplomacy. We as a nation need a president who can address the country’s security concerns with more than just a guns-and-bullets approach, which only makes us less secure going forward.”

James Lance Taylor, associate professor of politics at the University of San Francisco, believes not enough attention is being paid to the economic costs of the Iraq war. “The war front is being carried out at the expense of the home front,” he maintains. “Many analysts are failing to make the connection between the war and its domestic impact as it relates to Hurricane Katrina–for example, how the federal government earmarked funds for levees and diverted them to Iraq.”

The candidates are now gearing up for their first big campaign battles in major primary states such as Iowa and New Hampshire. “These states are important for momentum,” Taylor says. “Winning those primaries helps tremendously with fundraising and implies you have an appeal to middle-America in states with significant Electoral College votes.”

black enterprise reviewed the latest polling data and results to choose its frontrunners for the party nominations of the 17 candidates in the race. Moreover, we asked them to provide their platform on the economy, national defense, various social issues, and any other topic they feel strongly about–which we labeled “the wild