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Globe reporter Scott Helman chatted about Campaign '08

Scott Helman: Hi, everyone. Welcome to today's political chat. Here's your chance to ask questions about the presidential campaign. I'll do my best to answer them. What's on your mind?

bflem: Do you think the GOP nominee would select a woman as VP if Hillary wins the primary? To balance the ticket more? Is the GOP concerned with appealing to more voters -- specifically women?

Scott Helman: Good question. It seems possible, yes, but who? It could be a savvy move for the Republicans to make. Yes, I think the GOP is concerned with appealing to more voters. You saw rancor within the party after the candidates decided to skip forums in front of black and Hispanic voters. Newt Gingrich, for one, was very critical of his fellow Republicans, saying they were shooting themselves in the foot. Who do you think might make a good woman VP pick?

Boston007: What are the chances a 3rd party would ever win the presidency? If you think so, any thoughts on a timeframe?

Scott Helman: Boy, it seems unlikely, at least in the current political climate. Third-party candidates just start with such an institutional disadvantage. You may remember that New York Mayor Mike Bloomberg had been sending signals that he might seek the presidency as an independent, but that seems to have faded for now. It seems like it would take someone with a ton of dough. And it's a chicken-and-egg thing: A third party won't get traction unless it can attract voters; but voters won't come unless a party gets traction.

guitar man: I wish Al Gore would run. The thought of Hillary as president turns my stomach. Some say Gore will not run for fear he will split the party? I think he could win. Do you find it odd that he has not campaigned for Hillary at all?

Scott Helman: I think it's highly unlikely that Gore will get in. I think he's made that pretty clear. He may well be able to win, but he would have to find a way to do the I-told-you-so thing without coming across as didactic and, well, Gore-like. But certainly some share your concerns about Hillary. I don't think it's odd he hasn't campaigned for her. He is enjoying his life outside of politics and I imagine he will insert himself at a moment he feels is right.

Lucy: I think I passed Rudy Giuliani's motorcade on the highway today! I heard he was in Boston to be endorsed by someone... I guess it could have been Obama's motorcade, but I think his event in Boston with Gov. Patrick is later tonight?

Scott Helman: Yes, Rudy is in town today to receive the endorsement of former state treasurer Joe Malone. Obama is still up in NH this morning, I believe, so I am guessing it may have been Rudy. Obama and the governor are holding a big rally in Boston Common this evening. The program begins at 6:30.

Dana: I don't understand why some of these presidential candidates resist so much to the idea of being vice presidents. Obama was on the radio today saying he wasn't in this to be a VP. But being a VP, in my opinion, would really increase his chances in the next election. And it would really negate the "lack of experience" card that people play against him now. Why not be a VP if you can't be P?

Scott Helman: Well, remember that part of this is the front they have to put up. Everyone has to say they only want to be president, because if they say they are open to the VP job, they look like weak self-doubters unsure they can win the big one. I would actually be pretty surprised if any of the also-rans on the Democratic side end up on the ticket. I just don't see it. Maybe I am wrong. But when you look at the characters, the personalities, the states they hail from, etc., it just doesn't seem likely to me. What would your dream ticket be?

Joe: Hi, the "netroots" seem obsessed with Dodd...any idea why, he has absolutley zero traction. Thanks

Scott Helman: That is true, though of course the other candidates have support in the netroots, too, notably John Edwards. Chris Dodd has done a good job cultivating these bloggers, and they like his anti-war message and the fact that he's apologized profusely for his 2002 vote to authorize the Iraq war. But you are right. At this point, Dodd needs a major shake-up in the race to have a shot.

JTN: Who do you think will be the next candidate, one from each side, to drop out? I think it will be Tancredo from the GOP.... not sure about Dems

Scott Helman: I think Tancredo may try to hold on through Iowa, where his anti-illegal immigration message resonates quite well. But he'd have to pull off an incredible feat there to have a real shot at moving on, I would think. On the Democratic side, I imagine all the serious lower-tier guys (Chris Dodd, e.g.) will stay on through Iowa, but will drop out without a top showing there. As for Dennis Kucinich and Mike Gravel, who knows what they will do?

soxfan: Giuliani says he's rooting for the Red Sox in the World Series. Will this hurt his chances in Colorado? ;)

Scott Helman: Boy, that's quite a thing, isn't it? I mean, Rudy, a die-hard Yanks fan and Friend of Torre is saying he will root for the Sox? Do we even want his help? Can you imagine Rudy at a game with a Sox cap on? Maybe you're right -- he just lost the Denver vote.

Dana: My dream democratic ticket, out of the candidates currently in the race, would be Hillary Clinton and Bill Richardson or Chris Dodd.

Scott Helman: Interesting. Richardson certainly brings some geographic value to the ticket (he is governor of New Mexico, for anyone who doesn't know). Dodd brings lots of experience, but I'm not sure Clinton would want a Connecticut senator on her ticket. It seems to me that would give the Republicans a chance to say, "Democrats only represent the liberal Northeast, while Republicans stand for the rest of the country." If Dodd loses, I wouldn't be surprised to see him considered for a Cabinent post.

Joe: How do you see Biden doing...he seems kind of like a dark horse on the Dem side...tons of foreign policy experience and a pretty tough guy...kind of like the McCain of the democrat side.

Scott Helman: David Yepsen of The Des Moines Register, the sage of Iowa politics, wrote recently that people were underestimating Joe Biden's strength in Iowa. Perhaps he's right. Biden's campaign believes his realism on Iraq and knowledge of foreign affairs make him trustworthy to voters. And you can't really accuse Joe Biden of not saying what he thinks, can you? That said, he still faces long odds, at least according to polls.

Joe: Obama/Richardson is the ticket.

Scott Helman: Why do you think that would be such a good ticket?

Dana: who will be the next candidate profiled by the globe?

Scott Helman: We've still got a few to do -- we haven't written about Giuliani yet, for example. Look for others to run in the next several weeks. Have you read the other ones? What did you think?

Jenny: I think I learned the most about Fred Thompson from the profiles that ran so far. I didn't really know much about his background except for the acting part.

Scott Helman: Yeah, he's got a really interesting story and upbringing. He acknowledges that much of what has happened to him in his life he's sort of fallen into.

soxfan: I like a Clinton/Obama ticket -- would be truly groundbreaking, and you'd get her experience and his energy. And just about anyone with Stephen Colbert would be entertaining.

Scott Helman: A lot of people would agree with you, I'm just not sure Clinton would pick Obama for her VP. They have a pretty frosty relationship these days, and I don't know how easily Clinton would forgive him for challenging her for the presidency. I admit I don't really understand what Colbert is doing. He can be funny, but what is this about?

Jenny: Are you going to profile the second-tier candidates too or just the front-runners?

Scott Helman: Still to be determined. Needless to say, we don't have endless resources, so we need to choose carefully in what we write about. (These things take a lot of time, as you can imagine.) But at the same time, we don't want to just draw the line somewhere artificially. It's a hard balance to strike, and we struggle with it all the time.

Scott Helman: What else do you want to know about the campaign, or the players, or the Globe's coverage?

Des Enchanted: How long before Thompson packs it in? His campaign effort seems half-hearted.

Scott Helman: You may have seen the other day that he would run his campaign his own way, even if others call him lazy. We'll see. He got started pretty late and has a lot of ground to make up. But I think either way he's in through the primary season. He has enough support and will probably raise enough money to be a contender. He starts with such high name recognition that he doesn't need as much of a head start as, say, Mitt Romney needed. But whether or not he will rise or stall out is hard to know.

Frankie: Do you think those five states will ultimately be punished for having primaries before Feb. 5? The national GOP recommended they be punished, but what is the next step and does that recommendation carry any weight?

Scott Helman: Boy, I don't know. This whole primary thing is such a mess, and I don't pretend to understand all the facets of it. Republicans had argued that the Democrats were hurting themselves in Florida and Michigan, but this announcement from the RNC seems to complicate that. Believe me, it would be better for all of us to have this thing straightened out.

JR: Why do you think John Edwards get so little attention?

Scott Helman: The obvious reason is that he's run before, and he's not a new face, at least on the presidential scene, like Clinton and Obama are. Plus, he's behind in the money race and behind in a few of the early-state polls (New Hampshire, South Carolina). That said, he's got a great shot in Iowa, owing to his second-place finish there last time and his strong organization. If he could pull off a win in Iowa, all bets could be off. But I think it's fair to say that without a strong showing in Iowa, he would be in trouble. Edwards is now trying to draw a sharper contrast with Clinton, so my guess is he will be in the news a lot in the coming weeks.

Des Enchanted: Who are the Hollywood types aligning with -- split between Clinton and Obama?

Scott Helman: That's hard to say. They each seem to have support in Tinseltown. You may remember David Geffen, an Obama supporter, caused a stir a while back with some harsh words about Clinton. Obama also recently attended a glitzy fund-raiser at the home of Oprah Winfrey. But Clinton has director Rob Reiner and a host of others. The Clinton campaign recently made a funny video featuring Reiner. You can find it on her website. Worth a watch.

fromMA 2: Will we ever have a national primary. It seems crazy to me to winnow out candidates after Iowa or NH.

Scott Helman: I wonder if the mess of this year will blow up the primary process at all. NH and Iowa guard their status aggressively, of course, but some observers call for a national primary or regional primaries, where the regions of the country switch off going first. I don't know, however, how broad the support would be for such a major shift.

JR: If the "money race" is so important, why isn't Ron Paul receiving more serious consideration?

Scott Helman: Certainly Ron Paul has raised a fair amount of money, which means his message is resonating with some voters. But he is absolutely nowhere in the polls, so it's hard to argue that he's got a real shot at winning. Maybe that will change, but there's no indication it will.

fromMA 2: Assuming Hillary gets the nomination, I would expect an especially angry bruising contest with a split house and senate resulting in nothing accomplished for 4 years. Please tell me im wrong:))

Scott Helman: Do you mean that you think either the House or Senate will be controlled by Republicans, or just that she would be a divisive figure? There is clearly some of this sentiment out there, and you're seeing Obama try to make the same point: that if she wins, expect more gridlock and partisan bickering. But Clinton's campaign, of course, paints Obama's vision as naive, saying he doesn't know how Washington works.

Scott Helman: Anybody have any further questions? Final thoughts?

Scott Helman: Thanks y'all. Be sure to keep coming back to (sorry for the shameless plug) for the latest political news. Until we chat again ...

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