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MARCH 2007

Exploring Exploratory Committeess

by Alex Miller-Mignone

Fire that starting pistol, the race for the White House in 2008 has begun! We may be almost a year from the first caucuses and primaries, but voter discontent with the current administration (according to a recent Newsweek poll, 58% of Americans just want the Bush presidency to be over) and an accelerated primary season with heavy-hitters Florida, California, Michigan, North Carolina and New Jersey preparing to move up to “Super Tuesday” in early February, has the candidates scrambling for position.

And do we have candidates! By some counts, as many as 26 contenders from both sides of the aisle have announced their candidacy or are expected to do so shortly. In such a crowded field, can we weed out potential winners from the also-rans?

With Exploratory Committee data, we just might be able to.

Exploratory Committees are the warning shot across the bow which says that a candidate is preparing to officially announce his or her honorable intentions toward the nation. Exploratory Committees have a looser structure than Election Committees; their purpose is simply to determine a potential candidate’s viability, and they are not governed by the same campaign finance laws that kick in once the candidate has officially thrown his hat in the ring.

Exploratory Committees are a kind of legal shell game, allowing candidates who are spending more than $5000 to perform certain political activities, such as polling, travel and making phone calls, without fully disclosing their financial sources and backers, nor the amounts they contribute. This period of testing the waters also allows a candidate to bow out gracefully if the numbers seem to be against him, and his candidacy isn’t getting any traction.

From an astrological point of view, the candidate’s announcement of the formation of an Exploratory Committee can be considered the official “birth” of his or her candidacy, and thus creates a celestial snapshot of the candidate’s aspirations and chances of success.

It was predominantly GOP candidates who got out in front of this election cycle first, with Republican stalwarts Arizona Senator John McCain (11.16.06) and former New York City Mayor Rudi Giulianni (11.10.06), as well as retiring Democratic Governor Tom Vilsack (11.9.06) of Iowa, all announcing the formation of Exploratory Committees within less than a week after the November 7, 2006 mid-term elections. By year’s end they had been joined by Kansas Republican Senator Sam Brownback (12.4.06).

January brought another spate of announcements. Among the contenders, for the Democrats, are former Senator and 2004 VP nominee John Edwards (1.2.07), Illinois Senator Barack Obama (1.16.07), Connecticut Senator Chris Dodd (1.11.07), New York Senator and former First Lady Hillary Clinton (1.20.07), New Mexico Governor Bill Richardson (1.22.07), and Delaware Senator Joe Biden (1.31.07). For the Republicans are Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney (1.3.07), and Arkansas Governor Mike Huckabee (1.29.07). Technically, Dodd and Biden didn’t form Exploratories—they cut right to the chase and announced their candidacies, so we’ll use those dates for analysis.

Black Hole energies will be very important in this race, especially for lesser-known candidates. If they’re to have even a shot at the Big Time, they’ll need the type of attention-getting and jet propulsion available only from the Black Hole, which can transform them from an unknown into a force to be reckoned with, seemingly in the twinkling of an eye. For top-tier candidates, the risks are greater than the advantages; Black Hole energies can make or break a campaign, and top-tier candidates have more to lose. We’ll look at Sun and Mercury contacts with Deep Space energies, for both the basic essence of the candidacy (Sun) and its message, or ability to connect with the constituents (Mercury). We’ll also check to see if any of the candidates have significant contacts to the USA chart, as a leading indicator of their presidential viability.

For a crisp, concise blending of candidate and message, a Sun/Mercury conjunction works best. With this combination, the essence of the campaign and its interface with the public mesh, there are less stumbles and do-overs, people get an automatic sense of both the image the candidate projects, and what he or she actually stands for. Eight of the twelve candidates’ exploratories have such a conjunction, including frontrunners Giulianni, Romney, Clinton, Obama and Edwards. Mercury is retrograde in Giulianni’s announcement, however, which may present difficulties.

At 14 and 17 Scorpio respectively, Giulianni’s (announced 11.10.06) Mercury/Sun exploratory conjunction opposes the Black Hole at 16 Taurus, a tenable placement for a candidate who seeks to vault from running one city (albeit America’s largest) to an entire country. But the Sun also exactly squares Neptune at 17 Scorpio, and therein lies the clue to Giulianni’s problem. To win the White House, Giulianni must first win the Republican primary, heavily populated with the religious right, as represented here by Neptune. Giulianni’s pro-choice, pro-gay rights stances make him an appealing centrist with a good chance for victory in the general election, but he hasn’t much hope among the GOP “values voters” who will pick the Party’s nominee.

Romney’s (announced 1.3.07) 10 and 12 Capricorn Mercury/Sun exploratory conjunction has its issues as well. Mercury exactly squares the Quasar at 10 Aries, which suggests success and achievement, and making a name for himself in the world, but the Sun is tightly squared the Black Hole at 13 Libra, and he’s feeling those effects. One of the qualities of a Black Hole Sun is its chameleon-like ability to adapt itself to its audience, allowing each interlocutor to see whatever he wishes to see. This tendency to speak out of both sides of his mouth has come home to roost for Romney. As a Mormon, Romney is considered an outsider and not quite Christian by many of the evangelical primary gatekeepers. He avowed himself pro-choice and pro-gay rights in his 2002 run for Massachusetts Governor, but has has now reversed those stances preparatory to his national campaign. True to the Sun/Mercury conjunction, potential voters do see Romney and his message clearly; the problem is, there are two of him to see.

By announcing his intentions a day before Romney, former North Carolina Senator John Edwards (announced 1.2.07) not only stole Romney's thunder, he set himself up for a much more favorable Sun/Mercury conjunction as well. At 8 and 11 Capricorn, both Mercury and the Sun aspect achievement-oriented Quasars, Mercury by an exact opposition to the Quasar at 8 Cancer, and the Sun squaring the 10 Aries Quasar. There is also an exact sextile from that Sun to Uranus at 11 Pisces, adding a bit of excitement and some of Edwards’ trademark “looking out for the little guy” populism. Both Edwards’ and Romney’s Exploratory Committee charts also show Jupiter at 8 Sagittarius exactly conjunct the USA Ascendant, with the increased visibility and potential for dramatic expansion of their candidacies which that brings.

Barack Obama went post-modern for his announcement (1.16.07) by making it via his website, an innovation copied by Hillary Clinton and others. With the Sun at 25 Capricorn conjunct the 26 Capricorn Pulsar, an informational anomaly related to high profile Media involvement, and Mercury moving on into high-tech-oriented Aquarius, this was perhaps inevitable. That Sun also squares the Black Hole at 24 Aries, while Mercury at 1 Aquarius is exactly trine to the supermassive Black Hole center of Galaxy M-87 at 1 Libra and opposes the Black Hole at 3 Leo. The Sun that day was also exactly conjoined Obama’s natal Saturn, symbol of the presidency, tightly inconjunct Saturn in the sky at 23 Leo, and within orb of the nation’s Pluto, its power center, at 27 Capricorn. Auspicious, indeed.

Hillary Clinton’s chosen announcement date (1.20.07) was hardly less so, even if she accelerated her plans to get in on the game before Obama could suck all the oxygen out of the room. Her timing shows the usual Clinton finesse, with the Sun at 29 Capricorn exactly conjoined another Pulsar and exactly squared the Black Hole at 29 Libra, and with Mercury at 7 Aquarius exactly squared the Black Hole at 7 Scorpio. The Black Hole/Pulsar combinations for both her and Obama should be invaluable assets, though wittingly or otherwise, Clinton shows her superior experience by choosing dates on which the aspects are exact. Obama’s are slightly off kilter, which could prove more problematic, as the dissonance created by inexact aspects is greater and less easily managed than the seamless interface created by Clinton’s exactitude.

New Mexico Governor Bill Richardson’s announcement (1.22.06) shows Mercury at 11 Aquarius just pulling out of orb of conjunction with the Sun at 1 Aquarius, and probably shouldn’t be counted as a true conjunction at all. But for the record, that Sun makes the same aspects as Obama’s Mercury, the trine to the Black Hole at 1 Libra and the opposition to one at 3 Leo; Mercury conjoins the Black Hole at 12 Aquarius. His most likely outcome will be an offer to share the ticket as Vice President with whomever gets the nomination, though, true to politically correct tradition, he denies any interest in the position.

Based on the astrology, a more likely Veep contender would be outgoing Iowa Governor Tom Vilsack, who has the best Sun/Mercury creds of the lot, though it’s difficult to see how he wins through to the nomination, given the competition. The earliest to announce his intentions (11.9.06), his Exploratory Committee chart sports a precise Sun/Mercury Inferior Conjunction with the Sun and retrograde Mercury combined at 16 Scorpio, conjunct the Pulsar at 15 and exactly opposed the Black Hole at 16 Taurus.

Connecticut Senator Chris Dodd’s announcement that he was a candidate for the presidency (1.11.07) also shows a close Sun/Mercury conjunction at 20 and 22 Capricorn, both within orb of the Black Hole at 19 Capricorn. Another unlikely contender, he nevertheless shows good astrologic timing with this pairing inconjunct to transit Saturn at 23 Leo retrograde.

Dodd’s break from tradition by announcing his candidacy up front, without the polite discretion of an Exploratory Committee preview, is shared by his Senate colleague, Senator Joe Biden of Delaware, whose early stumble on the very day of his announcement (1.31.07) may serve as a cautionary tale to candidates who ignore the power and focus of a Sun/Mercury conjunction. Separated by 15 degrees, at 11 and 26 Aquarius respectively, both the Sun and Mercury for Biden’s official entry into the race are within orb of Black Holes, but without the conjunction, Biden’s campaign seems to be unraveling almost before it begins. Speaking with reporters that day, Biden made this rather startling and controversial statement regarding his rival, Barack Obama: “I mean, you got the first mainstream African-American who is articulate and bright and clean and a nice-looking guy. I mean, that’s a storybook, man.” The paternalistic and somewhat patronizing sentiment was immediately pounced upon by both right- and left-wing bloggers, possibly a side effect of the Sun’s opposition to the controversy-provoking Maser at 13 Leo.

Arizona Senator John McCain, Kansas Senator Sam Brownback, and Arkansas Governor Mike Huckabee, all Republicans, complete the list of candidates whose Sun and Mercury are too far apart to be conjunct. The biggest surprise of that field was John McCain’s announcement (11.16.06). The top GOP contender could hardly have found a more powerful, prestigious day from a presidential viewpoint, however, for the Sun at 23 Scorpio is strongly tied to a Galactic T-Square composed of an opposition to the Black Hole at 24 Taurus and square to transit Saturn at 24 Leo, showing McCain’s formidability and executive clout. Mercury at 9 Scorpio is also galactically powerful, with a conjunction to one Black Hole at 7 Scorpio and an exact square to another at 9 Leo, even if the Sun and Mercury do not conjoin. Mercury is also retrograde in the chart, and as with Giulianni, it seems as if some of McCain’s cultural stances send a message which is unpopular with the Christian right, whom McCain formerly castigated for their role in the 2000 South Carolina primaries which ended his presidential aspirations at that time.

As far as candidates’ connections to the USA nativity are concerned, there is a fair sprinkling, as you might imagine. We’ll just take a look at the three top contenders on each side.

We’ve already mentioned Obama’s (born 4 August 1961) Saturn on the USA Pluto at 27 Capricorn, but his Jupiter is there, too, at 0 Aquarius. He also has Venus at 1 Cancer conjunct the USA Venus and Jupiter, and Mars exactly conjunct the USA Neptune at 22 Virgo. Not to mention the USA Moon on his South Node at 27 Aquarius with his Uranus opposed from 25 Leo, possibly the most dramatic of the connections.

Hillary’s (born 26 January 1947) contacts aren’t so fortuitous. Her Neptune at 11 Libra conjoins the nation’s Saturn at 14. Mercury and the Nodes square the USA Moon, a karmic connection to rival Obama’s, but her Uranus at 25 Gemini ties into that as well by inconjunct while simultaneously sitting atop the nation’s Mars. She can seem fractious, at once masculine (both Mars) and brittle (Uranus), makes people feel uncomfortable in general (Uranus again, plus the inconjunct aspect), and is just plain not liked by a sizeable portion of the population (Mars once more). Moreover, it’s something she can do little about (the Nodes).

John Edwards’ (born 10 June 1953) Jupiter at 7 Gemini sits snugly on the USA Descendant and the nation’s Uranus at 8 Gemini; his Sun at 19 Gemini conjoins the USA Mars at 21. There is an element of sympatico to the Jupiter/Descendant contact—he seems outgoing and gregarious, and we want to see more of him. Interestingly, his stimulation of the nation’s Mars comes across as energetic and vital, as opposed to Hillary’s, which makes her seem cold and calculating; the difference is predominantly cultural, with a man ‘wearing’ Mars better than a woman. Edwards’ Mercury at 8 Cancer is within orb of the USA Venus and Jupiter at 3 and 5 Cancer, and his 16 Cancer Uranus is conjunct both the USA Sun at 13 and its Mercury at 24. There’s a lot of commonality with these contacts, and a feeling of relaxed familiarity.

John McCain’s (born 29 August 1936) Pluto at 28 Cancer is also conjunct the USA’s Mercury, and his 22 Virgo Venus is an exact match for the nation’s Neptune, which is also opposed by McCain’s natal Saturn at 20 Pisces, and squared by his 22 Gemini Chiron, which itself sits atop the US Mars. This combination of personal and transpersonal planets in synastry can indicate a powerful presence, but one which may seem somewhat lofty and unapproachable. McCain comes off as elder statesman-like and competent, but touchy and aloof.

Rudi Giulianni’s (born 28 May 1944) Sun/Uranus conjunction at 7 and 8 Gemini is squarely centered on the USA’s own Uranus/Descendant conjunction at 8. We feel a highly personal connection with him, dubbed “America’s Mayor” after 9/11. Saturn at 27 Gemini is conjoined the nation’s Mars at 21; we feel we can trust him with security matters, that he’d be a responsible steward of the nation’s military, but he can also come across as rather low energy and subdued.

Mitt Romney’s (born 12 March 1947) Sun at 21 Pisces opposes the USA Neptune at 22 Virgo, and his own Neptune at 9 Libra conjoins our Saturn at 14, while his 17 Gemini Uranus activates the USA Mars at 21 Gemini. The double Neptune contact could cut either way—we may see him as ineffectual and vacillating, or as inspiring and spiritual, but in general, Neptune is a slippery energy, hard to pin down, even harder to predict. Uranus/Mars could indicate a restless, agitated energy and a tendency to mis-step.

The fact that each of the top-tier candidates has at least one strong contact to the nation’s Neptune or Mars, several to both, is not an encouraging one. The last thing the country needs is an activation of its militaristic streak or its tendency to look at the world via the rose-colored glasses of its own skewed perspective. Whether lashing out in anger and flexing its muscles as the world’s sole hyperpower, or mired in its escapist fantasies and unwilling to face harsh reality, the options presented by this group do not augur well for the next, critical phase of our country’s development, as Pluto enters Capricorn in 2009, signaling the breakdown of governmental institutions globally, and preparatory to its return to its birth place in the US nativity. Whoever is at the nation’s helm at this critical juncture will shoulder an immense burden, and it remains to be seen if any of them are capable of managing its destiny well.

Alex Miller-Mignone, photo
Alex Miller-Mignone is a professional writer and astrologer, author of The Black Hole Book and The Urban Wicca, former editor of "The Galactic Calendar," and past president of The Philadelphia Astrological Society.

His pioneering work with Black Holes in astrological interpretation began in 1991, when his progressed Sun unwittingly fell into one. Alex can be reached for comment or services at