Washington Editor's note: This is a whimsical look at the candidate to beat in 2008.
Wanted: a former altar boy from the Southwest who speaks Spanish, married into a rich Republican family from Ohio and revolutionized the Internet after working as a volunteer firefighter in Florida.
Position: president of the United States.
Building a perfect candidate for 2008 is easy with hindsight and exit polls at your disposal. Some three years and 360 days away from the next election, this is what Republicans and Democrats might be looking for:
- A fifth-generation Hispanic American from New Mexico who comes from a long line of Democrats, including a grandfather who is an elections commissioner in southern Florida.
- His favorite uncle is a Catholic bishop in Iowa who shares his love for outdoor sports. They both drop their "g's" when talkin' about huntin' and fishin' and car racin'.
- A Medal of Honor winner who returned from combat and later worked with Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., to normalize relations with Vietnam.
- A former quarterback for the University of Michigan's winning Rose Bowl team whose brother played safety for Wisconsin. A song co-written by the brothers topped the gospel charts.
- A trained economist who taught in Minnesota, where he met his future wife, a nurse who works with Cuban emigres. Her father is a former Republican governor of Ohio.
- A volunteer fireman while attending graduate school in Florida, he has a signed picture of himself standing with President Bush after he drove his pickup to help at ground zero.
- A billionaire in his own right who developed software that made fund raising on the Internet possible, he has donated thousands of computers to inner-city schools.
- He has never set foot in Massachusetts.
The list is just a game, but the objective is real. State by state and group by group, results from the election just ended show both parties the qualities that pay off.
The potential 2008 candidates are short of perfection but long on hopes. Democratic New Mexico Gov. Bill Richardson is Hispanic. Republican Gov. Jeb Bush runs Florida. Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist, R-Tenn., is a wealthy doctor.
Former Mayor Rudolph Giuliani, a Republican, and Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton, D-N.Y., know something about Sept. 11 and ground zero. Democratic Gov. Tom Vilsack of Iowa is a Catholic.
On the military, Mr. Perfect would have voted without fail to support the troops while demanding that the White House do more.
Or Mr. Perfect might be a Mrs. -- the first woman to head a major party ticket. But it would be a lonely job, what with her husband fighting in Iraq.