News From Terre Haute, Indiana

May 17, 2006

Pete Chalos: Never too soon to pay attention to 2008 election

The next presidential election is already a hot topic of discussion in the press and we aren’t even close to the election year yet. Everyone is interested in finding out which candidate will have an edge come 2008.

Recent public opinion polls from have determined that Sen. John McCain of Arizona and Sen. Hillary Clinton of New York could be the frontrunners if they decide to run. The only declared candidates thus far are Sen. Joe Biden of Delaware, former Sen. Mike Gravel of Alaska and John H. Cox of Illinois.

The top 10 Democratic frontrunners according to public opinion polls are: Sen. Hillary Clinton of New York, Sen. John Kerry of Massachusetts, Sen. John Edwards of North Carolina, former Vice President Al Gore of Tennessee, Sen. Joe Biden of Delaware, retired Gen. Wesley Clark of Arkansas, Gov. Bill Richardson of New Mexico, Sen. Russ Feingold of Wisconsin, Sen. and former Gov. Evan Bayh of Indiana and former Gov. Mark Warner of Virginia.

The top 10 Republican frontrunners according to public opinion polls are: Secretary of State Condolezza Rice, former Mayor Rudolph Giuliani of New York City, Sen. John McCain of Arizona, Gov. Jeb Bush of Florida, Sen. George Allen of Virginia, former House Speaker Newt Gingrich of Georgia, Sen. Fred Thompson of Tennessee, Sen. Bill Frist of Tennessee, Gov. Mitt Romney of Massachusetts, Sen. Rick Santorum of Pennsylvania and Rep. Tom Tancredo of Colorado.

Other possible candidates include: Gov. Bill Richardson of New Mexico, Gov. Tom Vilsack of Iowa, former Gov. Howard Dean of Vermont, Rep. Dennis Kucinich of Ohio, Sen. Barack Obama of Illinois, Gov. Mike Huckabee of Arkansas, Gov. George Pataki of New York, former Secretary of State Colin Powell, Sen. Elizabeth Dole of North Carolina, Gov. Mark Sanford of South Carolina and Rev. Al Sharpton of New York. Some list Vice President Dick Cheney as a potential “dark horse” candidate in spite of his insistence that he will not run.

If the election were held today, I think it would be a close race between Democrat Sen. Biden and Republican Sen. McCain. Biden’s running mate would either be Sen. John Edwards or Indiana’s own Sen. Evan Bayh. John McCain’s running mate would either be Sen. Fred Thompson or Sen. Bill Frist.

If either Sen. Evan Bayh or Sen. John Edwards got out and campaigned aggressively, one of these sharp young men could take the lead. It would be good for the country to get a fresh start with either of these intelligent and capable young leaders. In fact, they’d make quite a team if they worked together.

This may be the first time in history that a woman is nominated for the office of president. If so, I hope it is a woman who has proven herself through the years, like Sen. Dianne Feinstein of California. If you stack Dianne’s accomplishments and qualifications next to those of Hillary Clinton, there is no contest. Dianne comes out way ahead.

It’s hard to say what will happen between today and the election in 2008. Keep your eyes open and get to know the candidates. We need to make an informed and confident decision when we get out to vote. Start studying these men and women early so you will know what to expect from them. Every voter has a responsibility to make an educated decision. Don’t wait until the last minute to start learning what you can about these potential candidates. Do it now.

Pete Chalos, a longtime teacher, coach and public servant in Vigo County, was mayor of Terre Haute for 16 years. Send e-mail to