Nothing hurts Democrats more than their own aversion to risk. If they are to confront a Republican Party now eyeing a constitutional amendment to make their favorite Austrian-born-movie-beefcake-turned-GOP governor eligible for the White House, Democrats must start thinking audaciously.

Instead of bellyaching about the supposedly shallow 2008 bench, why not consider the following list of people, who probably no one–including those on the list–have yet pictured duking it out in New Hampshire? Some of them may have a real chance of winning the nomination, while others are longshots who nonetheless represent the type of candidate who might make a run for the White House. Some are larger-than-life personalities; some have been wildly successful in business; some are already household names; and some are all of the above. Most importantly–with apologies to the governor of Iowa–each can make a more exciting candidate than Tom Vilsack.

Bio: Former NBC “Nightly News” anchor; author of The Greatest Generation.
Case for Candidacy: You know him, you trust him, and you are already tired of Brian Williams. Until recently America’s most-watched news anchor, Brokaw was a respected interpreter of world events for 21 years. His “Fleecing of America” segment about government corruption and waste highlighted the native South Dakotan’s populist insistence that Washington work for the people. And Brokaw’s bestselling book made him a spokesman for a bygone era of national pride and political harmony.
Surprising Edge: He’s interviewed more foreign leaders than most candidates can name.
Possible Disqualifier: South Dakota Democrats might be cursed (See McGovern, G.).
Odds of surviving Iowa Caucus: 2:1

Bio: Professional bicyclist, six-time Tour de France winner; cancer survivor.
Case for Candidacy: The man got Americans to sit in front of their televisions to watch a three-week-long bike race. In France. Armstrong’s pro-choice, a major advocate of stem-cell research, and an inspiration to cancer patients everywhere. He established the Lance Armstrong Foundation to fund research and sits on Bush’s national cancer panel. Oh, and he’s from Texas. Come on–sign him up.
Surprising Edge: Trouncing the French time and time again.
Possible Disqualifier: Divorced wife, then hooked up with rocker Sheryl Crow.
Odds of surviving Iowa Caucus: 1:3

Bio: Governor of Tennessee; entrepreneur.
Case for Candidacy: The only two successful Democratic candidates in the last 30 years have been Southern governors–if anyone can repeat the formula, it’s Bredesen. He’s Clinton, version 2.0: tough on crime, a fiscal conservative, a death-penalty supporter, and a gun owner. Widely touted as the face of the “New South,” the self-made millionaire came into office during the 2002 election debacle, bucking the Republican tide that swept the rest of the country.
Surprising Edge: Hands-on experience in health care.
Possible Disqualifier: Unfortunately, it was as the head of an HMO.
Odds of surviving Iowa Caucus: 3:1

Bio: Comedian; actor; Ph.D. in education.
Case for Candidacy: America’s favorite dad is also a master of reframing; Cosby consciously structured his top-rated “Cosby Show” to emphasize the importance of education and knock down stereotypes of black families. He has since drawn upon his beloved-icon status and personal fortune to stump for early-reading initiatives and endow college scholarships; now, he’s putting his popularity on the line to criticize the lax parenting and low academic standards he sees in black America today. These recent remarks, that drew defensive fire, proved the former Jello spokesman has guts and thrust Cosby back onto the national stage. A successful, much-loved black man touting education and family-values–what’s not to love?
Surprising Edge: Great one-liners.
Possible Disqualifier: Has admitted cheating on his wife.
Odds of surviving Iowa Caucus: 50-50

Bio: Chairman and CEO of Hewlett-Packard; former teacher.
Case for Candidacy: A naturally-gifted saleswoman (and what is a president if not national pitchman?), Fiorina rose from sales rep at AT&T to chief executive of Lucent Technologies where she engineered its IPO. When she took over the helm of HP, she became the first woman to head a Dow 30 company and oversaw a successful merger deal with Compaq. She was Fortune‘s most powerful woman in business for six years running, and she is also closely involved with HP’s philanthropy efforts.
Surprising Edge: Poster girl for women with stay-at-home husbands.
Possible Disqualifier: Her company may not survive another four years.
Odds of surviving Iowa Caucus: 50-50

Bio: Former chairman and CEO of IBM.
Case for Candidacy: No one has to teach Gerstner about the new economy–IBM was on its way to bankruptcy until the former Pepsi CEO took over and revived the computing giant by restructuring a hopelessly entrench-ed bureaucratic culture into an innovative, lively powerhouse. In addition to saving corporations, Gerstner doubles as an education wonk: He co-chairs Achieve, Inc., a bipartisan group founded by governors and corporate leaders in the mid-1990s to advance national standards and testing. The goals of Bush’s No Child Left Behind reform, if not their implementation, bear the group’s hallmark.
Surprising Edge: He’s the son of a truck driver.
Possible Disqualifier: He’s also global chairman of the Carlyle Group.
Odds of surviving Iowa Caucus: 2:1

Bio: Actor, two-time Oscar winner.
Case for Candidacy: Gosh, he’s nice. Whether portraying everybody’s favorite captain in Saving Private Ryan or everybody’s favorite astronaut in Apollo 13, Hanks understands and celebrates the nobility and heroism of ordinary men; in real life he plays a convincing multimillionaire everyman. He has received the Distinguished Public Service Award (the highest honor the Navy gives to a civilian) and is an activist for veterans causes, leading the charge for a World War II Memorial in Washington.
Surprising Edge: Remarkable number of Americans think he served in WWII.
Possible Disqualifier: Turner and Hooch.
Odds of surviving Iowa Caucus: 50-50

Bio: Former Nebraska senator and governor; college president.
Case for Candidacy: The straight-talking maverick politician from the heartland was hailed as the second coming of Bobby Kennedy when he came to the Senate in 1989. He’s tough–Kerrey lost a leg serving as a Navy SEAL in Vietnam–and never afraid to break party ranks. As a member of the 9/11 commission, he enhanced his national security bona fides with sharply worded questions to both Republicans and Democrats.
Surprising Edge: Just crazy enough to do the right thing.
Possible Disqualifier: Acknowledged participation in war atrocities.
Odds of surviving Iowa Caucus: 2:1

Bio: Senator from Florida; former astronaut.
Case for Candidacy: Political consultants, look no further for your dream candidate. Moderate? Check. Veteran? Check. From Florida? Check. Tall, good-looking, a younger John Glenn, and a smarter Evan Bayh? All that, and more. And when it comes to moral values, Nelson doesn’t just go to church–he and his wife founded a Presbyterian congregation while he served as a congressman from Florida.
Surprising Edge: Has already won the all-important I-4 corridor.
Possible Disqualifier: Not that much smarter than Evan Bayh.
Odds of surviving Iowa Caucus: 50-50

Bio: Widow of Jordan’s King Hussein.
Case for Candidacy: Americans dig royals! She’s multilingual, stunning, and beloved throughout much of the Middle East. And while she’s part of the Jordanian monarchy, the former Lisa Halaby is also a D.C. native whose father served in the Pentagon and was appointed head of the FAA by President Kennedy. Noor’s advocacy for women and children in Jordan (not to mention the parties she’s thrown for many of the major leaders in the region) could go a long way toward redeeming our reputation in the Muslim world.
Surprising Edge: Speaks flawless Arabic.
Possible Disqualifier: Also makes anti-Israel comments.
Odds of surviving Iowa Caucus: 1:5

Bio: Congressman from Arkansas; physician.
Case for Candidacy: Democrats worried about a Bill Frist run in ’08 could neutralize the Senate’s only doctor with Snyder, a family practitioner. Nothing says crossover appeal like medical missions to the Third World. Snyder is a moderate who continues to foil Republican challengers in Arkansas with his fiscal conservatism and background as a Marine in Vietnam, and handily won reelection despite voting against the Iraq resolution.
Surprising Edge: Wife is a Methodist minister.
Possible Disqualifier: The last time a congressman won the presidency was… well, never.
Odds of surviving Iowa Caucus: 1:2

Bio: Founder and former CEO of CNN; philanthropist.
Case for Candidacy: The take-no-guff businessman bet the farm on a tiny Atlanta VHF station and turned it into the world’s largest cable media enterprise, revolutionizing the way we consume news in the process. He’s a Southern good ol’ boy who is committed to liberal causes. And, heck, he already acts like a country–Turner has endowed $1 billion to the United Nations (more than the combined annual dues of the United States, Japan, Germany, Italy, and France) and his land conservation holdings are nearly the size of the Bahamas.
Surprising Edge: A hunter-environmentalist.
Possible Disqualifier: Too many pictures of him standing next to Hanoi Jane.
Odds of surviving Iowa Caucus: 1:3

Bio: U.S. envoy to the Middle East; four-star general.
Case for Candidacy: Most presidents wait until they win the White House before attempting to solve the Middle East conflict–Zinni has a head-start. Democrats concerned about their party’s foreign policy heft will like the diplomatic missions he led to Somalia, Pakistan, and Ethiopia, and his years as commander-in-chief of Central Command bring much needed national security cred to the table. But he’s a thoughtful hawk; though he was appointed as Bush’s envoy to the Middle East, Zinni publicly broke with his boss to criticize the administration’s post-war planning in Iraq.
Surprising Edge: Taller than Gen. Wesley Clark.
Possible Disqualifier: The Swift Boat Vets Against Zinni ad is already in the hopper.
Odds of surviving Iowa Caucus: 50-50