The primary field really is bad–for Democrats. As the media and voters scrutinize the Republican contenders, it is easy to forget how weak and unpopular the incumbent is. Polls suggest a majority of Americans want to replace President Barack Obama in 2012, and Democrats are hitting the panic button–even as Obama enjoys a slight bounce in approval–because they realize he has failed.
In the end-of-the-year countdown spirit, here are the top ten Democrats who would be better presidential candidates than Barack Obama in 2012:
10. Rep. Harold Ford, Jr.
Losing his Senate race in 2006 seems to have freed the former Tennessee congressman to speak his mind. He has bucked liberal dogma on foreign policy and the Keystone XL pipeline, and offers independent, common sense ideas.
9. Sen. Joe Manchin
West Virginia’s junior senator can tout his experience as governor and his victory in a tough political climate. He appeals to independents with his opposition to climate change legislation, and his criticism of his own party’s stalling in the Senate.
8. Sen. Mark Warner (D-VA)
A favorite of party moderates, Warner was a popular governor of Virginia before being elected to the Senate, and also has private sector experience. He declined to seek the Democratic nomination in 2008, though he might have won it–then, or now.
7. Chris Wallace
Conservatives know him as a trusted anchor at Fox News–but he’s also a registered Democrat in Washington, D.C., adding bipartisan appeal to his communication skills.
6. Mayor Corey Booker
The mayor of Newark is a Rhodes scholar who, unlike Obama, has made his way in politics the hard way–by fighting corruption and reforming government.
5. Gov. Andrew Cuomo
His role in the housing crisis notwithstanding, he managed to balance the state budget without raising taxes, setting an example for other big states. He is now proposing a tax hike, but deserves credit for showing spending restraint first.
4. Sen. Ron Wyden (D-OR)
Though the senior senator from Oregon is liberal on social issues and foreign policy, he has shown sincere interest in real solutions to pressing policy issues. For example, he joined Rep. Paul Ryan (R-WI) in proposing sweeping Medicare reform.
3. Secretary Hillary Clinton
Many Democrats agree that Clinton ought to have been their party’s nominee in 2012 rather than the inexperienced, untested Obama. She is the country’s most popular politician–even though she has enacted Obama’s dubious foreign policy.
2. Sen. Evan Bayh
The former Indiana senator and governor was the future of his party–until he decided against re-election in 2010, bemoaning the deepening divisions and the lack of real debate. In a comeback, he would offer an alternative to Obama’s class warfare.
1. Sen. Joe Lieberman
1. Joe Lieberman – in ten years, the retiring senator fell from vice-presidential candidate to party outcast. The Democrat “netroots” purged him in 2006 in favor of anti-war one-percenter Ned Lamont. Yet Lieberman’s hawkish views on foreign policy, his strong bipartisan record, and his integrity still make him the best Democrats have to offer.
None of the candidates above would have a good chance of winning in 2012; the party as a whole has become so committed to big government and the old “tax-and-spend” agenda that voters haven’t hesitated to punish moderates as well as radicals.
Yet each would stand a better chance than Obama–and each would elevate our national debate from the bitter depths to which he and his Chicago team are determined to drag it.