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Jockeying for position in 2008 <br> Next presidential race well over horizon, <br> but the sky is filling with trial balloons

The end of 2005 may seem a touch early to be thinking about the presidential election of 2008, but with the Bush administration imploding and potential candidates already starting the campaign strut, a thought occurs: As presidential elections go, this next one is shaping up as a corker.

As the political Web site reports, this election will be the first since 1928 when both major parties will have open contests for the presidential nomination without a sitting president or vice president in the running. And just look at the potential lineup of candidates:
For Republicans, there is former New York City Mayor Rudolph Giuliani, Sen. John S. McCain of Arizona, Sen. Chuck Hagel of Nebraska and former House Speaker Newt Gingrich.
For Democrats, consider the likes of Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton of New York, Sen. Joseph Biden of Delaware, Sen. John Kerry of Massachusetts (again) and former Sen. John Edwards of North Carolina (again).
All are 800-pound gorillas, if they'll pardon the expression, and that's just the A-list.

Perhaps it is partly because the current administration has revealed itself as hapless, but this list of candidates suggests a seriousness of purpose that is striking. The resumes -- of senators, a former first lady, a former prisoner of war, a mayor who brought order to an "ungovernable" metropolis then led it though the worst calamity ever to befall an American city -- document a breadth of experience, approach and stature that will set the forthcoming campaign apart from others in recent history.

For New Yorkers, the exciting -- if remote -- possibility is an election that pits the Republican Giuliani against the Democrat Clinton. Once the summer's nominating conventions were over, it would be official: For the first time since 1945, a New Yorker would hold the White House. Ah, dreams . . .
Which is not to say that the next administration will, therefore, be exceptional. Certainly, it stands that chance, but much will depend on events, advisers and an interest, to borrow a phrase, in being a uniter not a divider. A lot can happen to derail an administration (see Clinton, William J.).
And it depends on who actually runs. No one has announced yet, and while many seem to be earnestly signaling their intentions, who really knows?
After all, it's only the end of 2005.

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