2008 Sleeper: Phil Bredesen
Bredesen is popular, a moderate Democrat, and is a southern Governor - three things that must place him in the '08 Dem discussion. Some have had him marked as presidential material for quite awhile.
Feb. 2005: The Democrats have noticed that senators and Northeasterners don't do especially well in presidential elections. That has led to some talk of running a governor from the South in 2008, but Southern Democratic governors are in short supply.
Of those who remain, my governor, Phil Bredesen, is starting to get some attention. A while back, The Economist called him a governor with a CEO approach. And The New Republic recently made him the subject of a cover story focusing on his ability to win over the opposition.
The Dem field has obviously gone through several momentous changes since Feb. '05, but Bredesen still deserves a look.
Bredesen has been able to cobble together a bipartisan coalition in Tenn. that has gotten legislation done. His previous campaign for Governor was based on bipartisanship. That's big with voters, as we've seen with the midterms. He's focused on health care , another winning issue for candidates. And, most importantly, he's from the South. While he's certainly no Bill Clintonesque populist, he still has that whole Southern aura going for him, making him gold with voters if Edwards decides not to run.
But can he really make it through the Dem primary? Past Hillary and Obama? No. But a clean and positive mini-run early in the primaries could set Bredesen up for a dream Veep slot with Hillary or Obama. They both could use a white, male, Southern moderate as their running mates, countering the fact that both are fairly liberal and both are not Southern men.
Bottom Line - Bredesen is the very definition of a sleeper. He's never stated any intention to run and is still a popular and successful governor in Tennessee. Those are two strikes against him making any sort of run in '08. But his perfect credentials are hard to ignore. His Southern moderate message would make a great pairing with Hillary or Obama, especially if Mitt Romney - the dreaded Mormon - were to somehow get the GOP nomination. Southerners are political gold (except for Edwards, but that's another story) in presidential races, making Phil Bredesen a solid Dem sleeper in 2008.