This is an all-new and heady responsibility for local Democrats, who had derided Arizona's early primaries in 1996 and 2000 as taxpayer-subsidized beauty contests for Republicans. (Now Republicans, who created the primary in the first place, are deriding it as a taxpayer-subsidized beauty contest for Democrats.)
But we digress. With eight candidates vying for the Democratic vote across the nation (with an equal number of Democrats on the ballot whose campaigns haven't exactly reached across the nation), there are many questions on the mind of party members: Should I support a guy on the left to send a message to the sell-out establishment? Should I support the guy in the middle, because maybe he can beat Bush in November? Should I eat at McDonald's, even though it's fattening and I might catch Mad Cow Disease? What if I have them hold the bun to lower my carb intake? Mmmm, burgers...
Since our demographic surveys show that Weekly readers, besides being good-looking, good earners and good in bed, are on-the-go people who don't have time to slog through pages of position papers, we're here to help you sort through the candidates with an easy-to-read chart that defines the candidates quicker than a 30-second soundbite.
And, to make learning even more fun, we've assembled a package of puzzles to keep you occupied while waiting in those long lines that are sure to form at the polls on Tuesday, Feb. 3, as you choose between:
Howard Dean: With his claim that he represents the Democratic wing of Democratic Party, Dean has gone from obscure Vermont governor to national frontrunner in the last year. Now, in the last week, he's gone from national frontrunner to yesterday's newsbut hey, the way things are going, that could change tomorrow! Dean has used anti-Bush anger and a really cool Web site to turn the establishment upside down, but will the angry act work on Election Day?
Wesley Clark: The former four-star Army general and NATO commander during the Kosovo war wasn't war way better back when it was casualtyfree? has the stars-and-stripes background that Democrats need to counter Bush on homeland security. But what else do voters know about Clark? Next to nothing, but that hasn't stopped him from climbing in the polls both here and nationally. Just like good women who love bad men, Democrats must be attracted to mystery and ambiguity.
John Kerry: With his great campaign bioU.S. senator, Vietnam vet, sharp-lookin' fellaKerry was once seen as the favorite in the race. Then he was written off as dead. Now, following his Iowa win, he's got the Big Mo going for him. Like several other candidates, Kerry has pretty much ignored sunny Arizona in favor of the traditional chilly battlegrounds of New Hampshire and Iowa. You'd think his wife would at least write him a check to buy a few TV ads in these parts.
Dick Gephardt: Well, he lasted longer than Carol Moseley Braun.
Joe Lieberman: So close and yet so far. Joe would have been vice president if some yahoo in Palm Beach hadn't experimented with a butterfly ballot that led a bunch of seniors to vote for Pat Buchanan. Now he can't break double-digits anywhere in the country. Lieberman thought the whole campaign wasn't going to be about outrage over the 2000 results. Instead, Dean's turned the campaign into outrage against the Democratic establishment Joe represents.
John Edwards: A charismatic policy wonk with Southern blue-collar roots? Nah, voters will never support a guy like that.
Dennis Kucinich: Think Howard Dean is just a little too centrist? Dennis Kucinich is the candidate for you. Dennis would slash the defense budget, bring U.S. troops home immediately, establish universal health care and create a massive public works program to rebuild the nation's roads, bridges and libraries. Perhaps he'll also provide free showers to some of his funkier supporters.
Al Sharpton: Now here's a guy who proves America is all about second chances. One minute, a guy's out inciting race riots and falsely accusing prosecutors of rape, and the next thing you know, he's running for president as a Democrat and hosting Saturday Night Live. Ain't politics grand? We'll give Rev. Al this: He's provided a desperately needed dose of comic relief in the campaign. You've got to love a line like, "It is time for the Christian right to meet the right Christians."