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This year could prove to be one of the most interesting ? and important ? presidential campaign seasons in some time.
On both sides of the major party tickets, the races appear to be up in the air. For the first time since 1928, both parties enter the nomination process without a sitting president or vice president in the running. What happens in the next six weeks of primaries and caucuses will set the stage for what could be a contentious election, once the major candidates are set.
Let the races begin.
Tomorrow's Iowa Caucus will be the first of the major electoral events as the nominating process gets under way. For some, such as Jimmy Carter, that event has proven to be a jump-starter in the election process. In 2004 the Iowa caucus helped propel Sen. John Kerry towards the Democratic nomination. This year's participants include:
? Republicans John Cox, Rudy Giuliani, Mike Huckabee, Duncan Hunter, John McCain, Ron Paul, Mitt Romney and Fred Thompson.
? Democrats Joe Biden, Hillary Clinton, Chris Dodd, John Edwards, Mike Gravel, Dennis Kucinich, Barack Obama and Bill Richardson.
Of course some of these candidates are just window dressing. But the Iowa caucus should set the stage for an important month of campaigning, culminating in a Super Tuesday primary event on Feb. 5. This will be the largest Super Tuesday ever, with some 20 states having changed their primaries to this date. Virginia is set to hold its primaries the following Tuesday.
Just who will emerge as the candidates of choice remains to be seen. And that's what makes it so interesting.
Sen. Hillary Clinton appeared to have the upper hand for quite some time, but Sen. Barack Obama and John Edwards have been gaining ground almost daily. It appears for the first time ever, this country will have a legitimate candidate vying for the presidency who is either a woman (Clinton) or an African-American (Obama). There have been others, of course, but either of these candidates, given the current political climate, would likely be a favorite to win the presidency if they receive the Democratic nomination.
For the Republicans, the race is also proving to be contentious.
Rudy Giuliani, riding the wave of his popularity from dealing with the 9/11 terrorist attacks, had the early momentum. But that's quickly changing. Mitt Romney has garnered a lot of support and Mike Huckabee's message has resonated with the evangelical conservative right constituency. And don't count out Sen. John McCain or even senator-turned-television star Fred Thompson out of the mix. Some believe this nomination will remain in doubt until the political convention next summer.
And all of this just to set the stage for the 2008 election.
As of tomorrow, they're all off and running.