Ive had several questions

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I’ve had several questions about what I think of Bill Safire’s handicapping of the Democratic presidential contenders in Monday’s New York Times.

There’s a separate question which Andrew Sullivan raised about what to make of the Times poll itself — whether it should be taken seriously, considering it seemed to have Bush a bit lower than recent Gallup and Zogby polls.

But for the moment let’s stick to the Safire handicapping (which I’ve included below sans commentary).

Tom Daschle (4-1)
Joe Biden (5-1)
Richard Gephardt (15-1)
John Edwards (9-1)
John Kerry (4-1)
Pat Leahy (6-1)
Joe Lieberman (5-1)
Chris Dodd (4-1)
Russell Feingold (8-1)
Al Gore (2-1)

Actually, by and large, I think he’s got it about right. Gore, Kerry, and Lieberman seem about right, though Lieberman should be at least as high as Kerry, and probably a touch higher. Daschle is maybe a touch high; Edwards maybe a touch low; but neither too far off the mark.

Feingold makes no sense. Dodd at 4-1 is so ridiculous that you have to wonder what Safire is smoking (and I’m a Dodd fan). And Leahy unfortunately also seems pretty overdone even at 6-1 (though I’m a fan of his too).

The name where I may surprise people by agreeing with Safire is Dick Gephardt’s. I think Safire’s exactly right. One of the next-yet- quite-told stories of Washington these days is the slow, inexorable fall of Dick Gephardt as a serious presidential contender. If Gephardt were just a goof it wouldn’t be such an interesting story. But he’s not. Not at all. In fact, in some ways, Gephardt’s decline as a possible presidential contender is directly related to his able leadership of the House Democratic caucus back from the wilderness years of 1995. I think 15-1 has it about right. Maybe a touch optimistic.

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