D’oh… 1968 felt wide-open, but a reader points out that, of course, the Democratic nominee was Johnson’s VP.

So, let’s see when was the last election with no sitting president or veep as the nominee: 2004 Bush, 2000 Gore, 1996 Clinton, 1992 Bush, 1988 Bush, 1984 Reagan, 1980 Carter, 1976 Ford, 1972 Nixon, 1968 Humphrey, 1964 Johnson, 1960 Nixon, 1956 Eisenhower… there we go, 1952, Eisenhower vs. Stevenson. 

Though maybe that gets an asterisk, since both Truman and his VP, Barkley (then 75), were in the race for awhile.  So: 1948 Truman, 1944 Roosevelt, 1940 Roosevelt, 1936 Roosevelt, 1932 Hoover, 1928… OK, 1924, Hoover vs. Smith.

The next earlier case was the previous election, 1920: Wilson was incapacitated and his VP, Thomas Marshall, wasn’t interested, nor interesting to others.  Apparently Marshall liked to tell a joke about a woman with two sons: one ran away to sea, the other was elected vice president… neither was heard from ever again.

A few people— yes, really— have been asking me about the elections.  And for sure, 2008— which we’ve been enjoying for about a year now— has been an unusually entertaining election season, since both parties are wide open.  Counting sitting veeps as closed, if I’m counting right, we haven’t had that since 1968.

The Republican side is the most fun to watch since I don’t have a dog in that race, and they’re playing it for laughs anyway— cleverly, they’re all running as George Bush.  

In a couple of weeks, though, I’ll have to choose between Hillary and Obama.  At least this year it feels like we’re voting early enough for it to mean something.  I’ve been leaning toward Obama, partly because he’s a sturdy son of the Illinois soil (well, he is now), partly because I think we could use someone who actually inspires people, partly because he seems to have a good grasp of the limits of office.  Democrats have this terrible tendency to nominate smart, wonky, extremely capable people with all the warmth of a junior high science teacher.  The reedy kind with a bow tie.  Confidential to DNC: It doesn’t work. 

I was put off by some of Paul Krugman’s recent editorials, which lambaste Obama’s health care plan and his naïveté about bipartisanship.  Hillary is certainly sensible.  Also smart, wonky, and extremely capable.  

A New Yorker profile this week suggests that she’s also very personable in private (didn’t we hear that about Al Gore too?), more concerned for people than Bill ever was, and tough enough to fight the Republican attack machine.  But she’s also their favorite target, and they’ve had 16 years to perfect their attacks on her.  Nominating her would rejuvenate the Republicans.   I don’t think she’d be a disaster as president, but she would certainly be a hard sell as a nominee.