Sunday, January 18, 2004

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My final thoughts on Iowa

The latest Des Moines Register poll has the following results: Kerry, 26%; Edwards, 23%; Dean, 20%; Gephardt, 18%.

The latest Zogby tracking poll: Kerry, 24%; Dean, 23%; Gephardt, 19%; Edwards, 18%.

So what's going to happen tomorrow night? Roger L. Simon dared me to make a prediction. I've had really bad luck at making predictions -- so with that said, here goes:

The short prediction: Kerry wins in Iowa, but Edwards gets the biggest boost.

The long prediction: The media story is that polls don't matter because of the way the caucus structure is organized. What really matters is turnout and organization. This hurts Edwards, who is presumed to have the weakest infrastructure, and helps Dean, who's decentralized organization awed everyone a few months ago.

What's striking to me is that Kerry and Edwards are surging, and that they also have the lowest unfavorable ratings. In part this is because Dean and Gephardt are still bashing each other (As I'm typing this, I'm watching Gephardt on Meet the Press, and he's still bashing Dean).

The polls both show Kerry ahead and trending in the right direction -- though Tom Schaller makes some excellent arguments at DailyKos for why the poll numbers might be underestimating Dean's strength. As for ground strength, Michael Crowley makes the case that Kerry's operation on the ground is pretty strong.

The media seem to feel that Edwards will suffer because his organization on the ground is weaker than the other three candidates, so he'll get fewer delegates and lose the perceptions contest.

However, because the race is so close, interest and turnout should be extremely high. This brings in people who are outside of any campaign's organizational apparatus, who are likely to be more moderate, and who will react to the candidate that seems to be the most likeable -- which I'm thinking will help Edwards.

The Boston Globe thinks this will matter a great deal in second rounds of the caucus:

Inside the Iowa caucuses tomorrow night, John Edwards may end up attracting a disproportionate share of those voters who are forced to pick a second choice under the quirky election rules, political specialists and likely caucusgoers said....

The lack of negative associations could help mitigate the deficit in organizational support Edwards has in some precincts, said James McCormick, chairman of the political science department at Iowa State University. McCormick said because second-choice voters will not think of Edwards as the enemy of their first choice, they might instead focus on his image as an optimistic alternative who could win in the South.

"He ultimately comes across as a moderate among angry, hollering other candidates," McCormick said. "He's a fresh face, which also gives him an advantage."

Now, what's actually pretty interesting about that article is that beyond the expert quote, there's no evidence to support the article's thesis. Indeed, this is really the key section:

Under caucus rules, voters in each precinct first stand in a group for their candidate of choice. But any candidate who does not reach 15 percent in a given precinct is deemed "not viable," and his supporters will then pick another.

The four candidates leading in polls are expected to be viable in urban precincts, so only supporters of minor candidates, such as Dennis J. Kucinich, will be in play.

Because support for each candidate is not evenly distributed, some of the major candidates may not reach 15 percent in the many small rural precincts, where as few as a dozen voters may turn out. In those smaller precincts, supporters for Edwards hope his positive campaign and rural upbringing could help him dominate in the second-choice voting, because he will not be associated with attacks on those voters' initial choice. (emphasis added)

Why run a story on such weak foundations? It's one example of why I think Edwards will be the big winner coming out of Iowa -- he fits in best with the media's professional and personal proclivities.

Professionally, the media wants close races and new faces. An Edwards surge provides both.

Personally, reporters don't appear to really like Dean or Kerry all that much. In contrast, they do seem to like Edwards (see this Time dispatch for an example). I heard Brit Hume say on Fox News Sunday that "John Edwards is engaging, likeable, appealing." Brit Hume doesn't like anything, for God's sake. If any of the Democrats has the Clintonian charisma, it's Edwards.

If Kerry wins, he's going to get a bump, no doubt -- and New Hampshire becomes an interesting question. But if Edwards performs better than either Gephardt or Dean at the caucus, reporters are going to lock in on him as the story of the week. Whether he can sustain it is an entirely different question.

My apologies to Kerry and Edwards for sealing their doom.

UPDATE: Much obliged to Michele Catalano at The Command Post for posting this as an op-ed.

ANOTHER UPDATE: Hmmm... the New York Times has actual evidence that Edwards might pick up second-round caucus votes:

Representative Dennis Kucinich of Ohio said today that he and Senator Edwards had reached an agreement specifying that if neither reached the 15 percent viability threshold for delegates, the supporters of both would unite behind the candidate with greater support.

"John and I are friends," Mr. Kucinich said. "He and I have complementary constituencies. I'm going to do well in college towns and urban areas. He is going to do well in rural areas. Rather than leave it up to chance, we're letting our supporters know to support the other guy."

This ain't a misquote -- Kucinich posted this quote on his blog. Tactically, I understand this. Strategically, I'm not sure how much any viable Democrat would want to be associated with Kucinich.

posted by Dan on 01.18.04 at 11:01 AM


Don't worry – Kerry and Edwards are gonna do just fine. Anyone who saw them this morning on the talk shows knows what their surge is about.

Although Kerry needs a new makeup artist. Or more sleep.

I noted that when Mr. Gillespie (RNC) was asked on abc to list the main strength and weakness of the top-tier Ds, the best he could do against Edwards was to repeat the words "trial lawyer" 3 times. Karl Rove had better get in touch with former NC Senator Lauch Faircloth about this tactic. It was that man's whole campaign against Edwards, and Edwards is the one with Senator in front of his name now.

posted by: Fred Arnold on 01.18.04 at 11:01 AM [permalink]

That's true, but Lauch Faircloth was a dope. That's why he lost.

On the other hand, what we're talking about here is how completely a candidate can master the mechanics of getting elected -- or, to be even more specific, the mechanics of winning in the year he is running. The distinction matters because these mechanics change from one election cycle to another. George HW Bush prospered in 1988 by coasting on Ronald Reagan's popularity and exploiting popular doubts about the Democrats on national security. Bill Clinton beat him four years later by recognizing that the national security issues weren't salient any more and that Bush was weak on the domestic stuff. He won again in 1996 by spotlighting the unpopular Republican congressional leadership and pulling out all the stops to overcome the Republicans natural advantage in fundraising. Bush's son won last time by exploiting the Republican tendency to celebrate legitimacy (which in practice means automatically supporting the candidate with the highest name ID), and focusing relentlessly on mobilizing the Republican base.

The mechanics are different once again this time. Foreign policy and defense are back in play, which helps Kerry and Clark; the most zealous Democratic activists are united in their revulsion to Bush, which helps the candidate who puts his own revulsion most on display, Dean; and Democratic candidates must struggle for name ID, which helps Gephardt and Lieberman, the guys who have been around the longest. It isn't immediately clear what might put any of these five guys decisively ahead of the others, which means that at some point (and with Gephardt and Dean in Iowa this point has already been reached) they will start attacking one another, driving down their own positives in a multi-candidate race.

Edwards, with solid financial backing from one of the leading Democratic interest groups (trial lawyers), no issues where his position and record are very unpopular with all the other groups (because he hasn't been in politics that long) and excellent retail campaign skills, is well positioned to surge to the front as Democratic voters weary of an increasingly acrimonious campaign for the nomination. If he does, he could benefit from the (probably correct) perception that he would fare very well matched against President Bush in televised debates in the fall, and from the (probably incorrect) perception that he could help carry some Southern states because he is from North Carolina.

Understand that we have gotten to the point in this country where mastery of the mechanics of getting elected and the potential to serve capably and well once in office bear little relation to one another. The idea of putting a personal injury lawyer whose career in public life consists of five years of (at most) part-time legislating in the White House makes no more sense than choosing the President by picking a name at random from the phone book. But one could have said much the same of the current occupant of the Oval Office, and the one before that, and even -- taking into account what the man had accomplished rather than the places he had filled -- the one before that.

I'm not predicting an Edwards victory. For one thing, if Kerry were to win Iowa and right his campaign in New Hampshire his momentum might become too great for anyone to stop. I just don't see anything in the way Edwards has campaigned so far that would prevent him from winning if all the other candidates stumbled, which they may well do.

posted by: Zathras on 01.18.04 at 11:01 AM [permalink]

Great post, Dan. And Zathras too. It sutre looks at this moment that Edwards is the only Dem with a real chance against Bush... but, as we all know, that could change tomorrow.

posted by: Roger L. Simon on 01.18.04 at 11:01 AM [permalink]

Gephardt might get the most votes, but he cannot go anywhere after Iowa, so the media will ignore him. If Dean is not close to or ahead of Gephardt, the media will call him a loser, but the media spin will have no impact on NH. The media will focus on Kerry and Dean to set up a battle over who will be the alternative to Dean in NH. No matter what happens Edwards will get a positive spin by the media; but the media will turn on him if he does not win SC outright. In other words, the real loser in Iowa could be Edwards because the media are setting up impossible expectations for him in SC. Edwards needs desperately to establish some cred on national security, otherwise the ultimate Democratic nominee will be Kerry or Clark, although I hope it will be Dean because of his excellent record as governor of VT.

posted by: Jim Linnane on 01.18.04 at 11:01 AM [permalink]

Great post Zathras.

It's getting to the point that to truly know what/who we are electing we need to have each candidate's entire prospective cabinet lined up with them on the podium.

Yeah, I see the candidate, but who are his handlers? I want to know who will actually be running things.

posted by: Waffle on 01.18.04 at 11:01 AM [permalink]

For those confused about how this whole caucus thing works I've got a simple explanation of the process.

posted by: Randal Robinson on 01.18.04 at 11:01 AM [permalink]

I still think Howard Dean will be the winner. He has the folks who will go the extra mile for him. Dick Gephardt will come in second. What is all this talk about John Edwards? I just don't get it. John Kerry is dead meat. It' s a matter of too little, and too late. Oh well, we will all know for sure in about another 24 hours.

posted by: David Thomson on 01.18.04 at 11:01 AM [permalink]

It's going to be Kerry and Edwards pulling ahead in Iowa.

Everybody is discounting Edwards because of his infrastructure, but he is running a positive, Tony Robbins-like campaign events which undecideds and especially women who voted for Gore in 2000 like.

Edwards also has a fantastic positive ad running on TV in Iowa right now and nobody is talking about it. Most people haven't sat through weeks and weeks of dreary Gephardt and Dean ads or the laconic Kerry ads. I have. When I first saw the new Edwards ad it was like a light went on. The second time I saw it, I knew the undecideds and the women were going to gravitate to it.

Will that translate into people attending for the straw polls? Maybe. I don't think the weather will be a factor - most clear and in the single digits above zero in the evening, not untypical for this time of year.

posted by: Cedar Pundit on 01.18.04 at 11:01 AM [permalink]


I am curious if any of the bunch (including Clark) are candidates that you would even consider supporting?

Also, did Clark make a genius decision for sitting out Iowa, or is this an unexpected mess-up on account of so many stories coming out of Iowa this week?

posted by: Rich on 01.18.04 at 11:01 AM [permalink]

My take on the candidates who'll emerge from Iowa:

1) Dean.
No matter what happens in Iowa, Dean is still in play: He has too much unspent money and too many volunteers. If he leaves Iowa with less than a strong second-place finish, though, he'll need a solid win in New Hampshire to prove that his support doesn't plateau at 30%.

2) Kerry.
Kerry needs to finish above Edwards to claim the "comeback kid" mantle -- but if so he proceeds to NH with momentum, even if he loses to Dean and Gephardt. New Hampshire is still Kerry's do-or-die state, though; if he doesn't win there, he runs out of money.

3) Clark.
Clark is biding his time in New Hampshire, hoping that Iowa weakens Dean and doesn't help any other candidate too strongly. If Dean takes Iowa by storm, Clark is the best hope of stopping him -- but if Kerry makes a stand in NH and splits the anti-Dean vote, then Dean rolls into February with unstoppable momentum.

4) Edwards.
Edwards is the anti-Clark: Great candidate, weak resume. He's a fantastic public speaker, and his message is getting heard for the first time; he can afford to stay positive because, perhaps alone among the candidates, he can afford to lose gracefully and return in 2008. A second-place finish in Iowa would make him a contender, but anything short of a blowout makes him a rising star.

Candidates likely to be eliminated in Iowa:

5) Gephardt.
To stay alive, Gephardt needs a commanding win in Iowa... and he's not going to get it. Gephardt is to the Democrats what Bob Dole was to the Republicans: A good man, a dedicated public servant, and a reliable leader in Congress... but he just doesn't click with the voters in a national race. If Gephardt had Trippi and a rousing stump speech, he'd be on top of the world right now; instead, alas, he'll be out of the race after New Hampshire.

6) Lieberman.
Liberal hawks love the unabashedly pro-war candidate, but the rank and file wants more daylight between Bush and their nominee. Lieberman skipped Iowa to concentrate on New Hampshire, but with Clark stealing his thunder (and his foreign policy street cred), Lieberman may end up wishing he'd skipped the entire race.

7) Kucinich.
If GOP theories about Dean were correct, Kucinich would be the front-runner: His anti-war bona fides are stronger than Dean's, and he ought to be attracting the Democratic Party's allegedly rabid Bush-hating core. In fact Kucinich *is* drawing the ultra-pacifist vote, but the GOP (and, to a lesser extent, Dean) is mistaken about how much of the party's base is wedded to this issue. Kucinich is more likely to bolt to the Greens than he is to win the nomination.

Vanity candidates:

8) Sharpton.
Sharpton is running for a guest spot on "Saturday Night Live" and a podium speech at the convention, so he emerges from Iowa exactly as he entered it. Watch for Sharpton to attempt Jesse Jackson's old role as kingmaker and power-broker; watch for Dean to deflect this attempt, as he did in the debates, with help from Carol Moseley-Braun.

Note that Dean and Edwards began life as vanity candidates (and Kucinich arguably still is one), so nothing is ever certain. But I'll lay odds on Dean to lock up the nomination by March -- and possibly even to show in Iowa that his opponents are underestimating him.

posted by: Scott Forbes on 01.18.04 at 11:01 AM [permalink]

In a nut shell, Dean has alot of support from the Outside. The Iowa caucus is a neighbor to neighbor caucus.

Kerry and Edwards do not have the organizational support in place to handle the surge. You don't "build it and they will come" in four days.

Now Gephardt has the loyal base that has been in Iowa for years.

Gephardt delegates have powerfull positions on County Democratic Committees and can delegate positions on County Committees that translate into power for a voter, if a voter changes their vote for Gephardt.

Very puffy stuff for a potential delegate.

Dean doesn't have that kind of power base, Kerry doesn't have it nor does Edwards.

What is surprising is the lack of intuition on the part of pollsters to ask for a voter's second choice.

That is where this race will be won along with a little arm twisting (lobbying, brokering).

posted by: Loud Mouths on 01.18.04 at 11:01 AM [permalink]

“What is surprising is the lack of intuition on the part of pollsters to ask for a voter's second choice.”

That’s a great point and indeed in a caucus selection process this is very important. A caucus voter may very be compelled to vote for their second choice candidate. The organization ability to award and punish voters cannot be underestimated.

Howard Dean will likely win a narrow victory. Still, who will be the real winner Monday evening? That person is President George W. Bush. The caucus results will almost certainly embitter the Dean backers. They rightfully sense that the Democrat establishment is out to destroy them. The disgusting ABC slime job on Howard Dean regarding the wife beating police officer raises serious questions. It doesn’t even begin to pass the smell test. As I said previously, the Democrats realize that the odds favor President Bush’s reelection. Thus, they will focus on fighting for the soul of their party.

posted by: David Thomson on 01.18.04 at 11:01 AM [permalink]

“Sharpton is running for a guest spot on "Saturday Night Live" and a podium speech at the convention, so he emerges from Iowa exactly as he entered it. Watch for Sharpton to attempt Jesse Jackson's old role as kingmaker and power-broker..”

Watch for Al Sharpton to run as a third party candidate. This race card sleaze ball is only loyal to himself. What can the Democrat Party offer him? Also, Ralph Nader will toss his hat into the ring. Both candidates together might only get 2% of the total vote---but that’s significant if the race tightens as we get nearer to November.

posted by: David Thomson on 01.18.04 at 11:01 AM [permalink]


Edwards never did any Pro-Bono work as a Trial Lawyer. All money was earned at expense of cases. And, he is fighting for working families :)

Take over, Karl, he is yours.


PS: Edwards is running for VP. I said it before and I am saying it today on IA caucus day. But, he ain't going to be Dean's VP - that is either Clark or John Lewis. At best, he will be Dean's AG, which should be fine for a future White House bid (or VP spot).

posted by: Ali Karim Bey on 01.18.04 at 11:01 AM [permalink]

At this point, I still think the nomination race is between Dean (the passionate one) and a not-yet-chosen alternative (the electable one) to Dean. The depth of each candidates' support matters a lot. Dean has this, so he will survive a loss in Iowa easily, and his money means that he can stay in for the duration.

posted by: Ben on 01.18.04 at 11:01 AM [permalink]

Edwards will be the real winner out of Iowa. Mainly because he is fresh and the media will be fighting to figure out who he is and why he has appeal. He is excellent in debates and really reaches into the hearts of the voters.

Also, Dean's going to have difficulty getting Republican swing voters to look at him. The Republicans I know have said they can't stand Dean or Clark, but look at Edwards as the best Democratic canidat.

And Edwards only needs 1,2 or 3 to come of Iowa way ahead of expectations. SC will be the real testing ground for Edwards. If he wins SC then he can run all the way to the White House.

posted by: Cathy on 01.18.04 at 11:01 AM [permalink]

I agree with Waffle on the importance of having a glimpse of the key parts of an administration. From a voter's perspective, it is the only way of having a confident judgement regarding the likely policies and practices of an administration. If a new norm was followed whereby candidates named prospective cabinet secretaries, judges, senior advisers etc, one could vote with confidence. As it is, as a Republican I am wary of the whole Democratic field save Lieberman. Who would Dean nominate as secretary of state, who would Gephardt nominate as trade ambassador to the WTO, what kind of judges would Edwards favor? I cringe at the possibilities. But if a democratic candidate were to suggest a palatable administration in advance, many moderate Republicans (such as myself) would peel off and vote Democratic if for no other reason than to reign in the deficit. This practice also might encourage less ideological administrations, as well encourage the cross-over vote.

posted by: Scott on 01.18.04 at 11:01 AM [permalink]

David Thomson, I'm no fan of Al Sharpton, but don't expect him to run a third party campaign (even if Howard Dean were the nominee).

If he sat on his hands, refused to assist the nominee (as he did the New York mayoral race in 2001) and helped re-elect Bush, he would be forever demonized in Democratic Party circles -- especially the black community. The MLK booing of Bush should tell you something -- even after all the "compassionate conservative" rhetoric and the No Child Left Behind education stuff, African Americans are still fairly hostile towards Bush.

Another thing to keep in mind is that Sharpton's loss to Dean in the D.C. "beauty contest" primary tells us one thing: Sharpton is many things, but even on his best/worst day, he's no Jesse Jackson.

posted by: GR on 01.18.04 at 11:01 AM [permalink]

In a national race, Edwards is toast. It's one thing to be a lightweight post 9/11, it's even worse to look like one. Plastic to the point of meltdown.

Kerry's another sure loser nationally. He looks like a banker. He can polish is medals and talk the service to my country talk all he wants, but match him up against Bush, and his elitist ways will doom him.

Dean's problem is threefold: He can be easily piegonholed as a New England liberal. And, his Dr. wife (and her Jewishness) will turn a substantial number of voters off. And, Dr. Dean conveys intelligence. In a super-dumbed down America, that's a minus.

Clark is actually the Democrats best bet. One, he's not perceived as an intellect. Two, he's from a Southern border State, and possesses the common touch in a much more canny way than Edwards. And, three, his military background. He can beat Bush. At best, Dean is a question mark right now.

In a one-on-one between Lieberman and Sharpton, the Rev might in. Lieberman is the single least appealing candidate of the last forty years. Look what he did for Gore - he cost him votes in the South. Voters hate his twisted elf looks, his constipated whine, and his all-around phoniness. The guy had tremendous avantags coming into the race, and look what he did with them. Lastly, who could argue that America would be safer with a Jewish President? What, 1.2 billion Muslims don't hate us enough?

posted by: John Constable on 01.18.04 at 11:01 AM [permalink]

John Constable:

You might want to loosen the collar of your brown shirt; it seems to be clouding your "thinking".

posted by: RogueDemocrat on 01.18.04 at 11:01 AM [permalink]


You might wish to rejoin the settlers in Nablus. What exactly was it that prompted the smear? Get real. I don't have a problem with Mrs. Dean's Jewishness. But for Southern voters who care about a candidate's faith, Dean's newfound love of Christ doesn't square with the faith observed in his household. If you can't understand that, you're an imbecile. As to why President Lieberman would endanger the lives of Americans home and abroad, ask any G.I. in Iraq how many times they've heard regular, everyday Iraqis claim that the U.S. invasion was at the behest of Israel or "the Jews". Cling to all the hollow delusions you want, but facts are funny things. Gore/Lieberman lost the entire South, W. Virginia, and Arkansas. I'm sure Al Gore realizes now that anybody but Lieberman would have put him in the White House. The media (and Lieberman) can assure everyone 24-7 that Lieberman's Jewishness is as much a non-issue as JFK's Catholocism's was in '60. But, most Americans don't see it that way. Of course, if Lieberman emerges as the frontrunner, you'll be proven right.

posted by: John Constable on 01.18.04 at 11:01 AM [permalink]

JC is right. It's not anti-semitic in the least to point out that Lieberman doesn't make a good impression. He's the oly New Hmpshire campaigner with high negatives. Or that Dean's wife's ethnicity won't play well in the South. Not unless, the truth is anti-semitic.

Beyond that, does anone think Clark should let Lieberman continue to diss him?

posted by: Susan L. on 01.18.04 at 11:01 AM [permalink]

I don't believe Gore-Lieberman lost the South because of Lieberman's Jewishness. For one thing, ultra-religious Protestants are much more anti-Catholic than anti-Semitic. Gore didn't win the South because he ran against guns. Notice how gun control NEVER comes up in the Democratic primaries? Every primary I can remember (back to 1984) mentioned gun control. Not anymore. Guns "killed" him in Arkansas, Tennessee and West Virginia, and probably in Louisiana too. Jewishness doesn't matter as much - Eric Cantor, one of the very few Jewish Republicans, is from Virginia, for example. Southerners are no more anti-Semitic than any other Americans.

posted by: Elrod on 01.18.04 at 11:01 AM [permalink]

Guns do matter, agree. But, Lieberman's ethnicity is perceived as anti-gun. Especially in the South. As far as anti-semitism goes, the South certinly is more anti-semitic. It's the Bible Belt, for Chrissake. The notion that Liebeman's piety was a plus down there is ridiculous.

posted by: John Constable on 01.18.04 at 11:01 AM [permalink]

If Edwards is the Democratic nominee, Edwards will beat Bush.

Dems want Bush out and Edwards is the candidate they are increasingly realising can do it. Think back to 1992 and 2000 and young unknowns went on to be elected President. Trouble is the Dems may not realise Edwards is their man until it's too late.

However, ASSUMING Edwards is the Democratic nominee, he'll have a better-than-even shot at beating Bush.

True, Edwards has a DC postal address, but he's still a relative newcomer and therefore an outsider in political terms. Edwards will wallop Bush in the debates, and especially run circles around him on domestic policy.

Trial lawyer who never worked pro bono? Answer: I'm the son of a mill worker who worked his way up to the top, and helped the parents of a six-year-old girl get American justice. Other examples as above.

Essentially, the "son of a mill worker versus son of a president" line effectively neutralises the trial lawyer image.

Zero national security? Say hallo to possible VP Clark/Kerry. Also, he'll repeat his effective pitch that he has more national security experience than GWB did back in 2000 - and still does in 2004. Expect Dem attack ads with Paul O'Neill's comment about a "blind man in a room full of deaf people". That is, GWB doesn't run foreign policy in the country anyway.

Lastly, polls that today show Bush trounce any Democratic challenger on national security issues don't reflect the fact that voters in general will only start paying attention when the Democrats have a nominee.

In earlier elections, Republicans were able to portray Democrats as weak on national security for two reasons, neither of which applies any more.

First, as occupants of the left of the political spectrum, they could arguably portrayed as more sympathetic, or at least less antagonistic, towards the communist enemy. Terrorists are terrorists, whether you're on the left or the right.

Second, Democrats were seen as weak on security less because the fear was they'd turn out incompetent than because it was feared they wouldn't take security seriously enough. 9/11 changed everything. Security consciousness is practically a given. Edwards will roll out a high-profile national security team, with a military-minded veep. And voters will realise that whether it's Bush or Edwards won't make a difference as far as the war on terror was concerned.

Also, expect Edwards to fast master the war on terror vocab, a.k.a. Clinton. In an October debate, he'll name the Prime Minister of India, when Bush falters, and then use it against him in a way that he has that Gore just didn't happen to be born with.

But this is academic. The Dems will choose Dean/Kerry/Clark, and Edwards will be heading back to DC. Not as a running mate, because where running mates are concerned, the CV is more important than talking the talk. Dean obviously won't choose Edwards. Kerry and Clark may well choose each other for a tag team to counter on the national security issue the still-strong GWB. But Bush-Cheney still beats Clark-Kerry or Kerry-Clark.

Point is, Hillary's got to be thinking about what it's going to be like to run against the still-more-presidential Edwards in '08. A President John Edwards some time this century? You can count on it.

posted by: MD on 01.18.04 at 11:01 AM [permalink]

Also, the "wife factor." Did anyone notice Edwards' photogenic wife and young children? Elizabeth Edwards (also an "accomplished lawyer") seems practically like a Hillary to Edwards' Bill. Wonder if this is one reason JE did well among women in Iowa ...

posted by: MD on 01.18.04 at 11:01 AM [permalink]

MD, I certainly hope that Elizabeth Edwards is not seen as another Hillary -- the GOP attack dogs will devour her and Dems will avoid Edwards because they know one Hillary is enough.

You make some truly salient points about Edwards, his chances of winning, and the unlikelihood of him being nominated or given the VP slot.

After last night's behavior at the concession speech, I will not be voting for Dean in my state primary (if they ever get down here anyway). He has the most amazing knack for creating terrible publicity. He also proved (at least so far) that his big organization is unable to win broad support. Some people in Iowa said they voted for other candidates specifically due to Dean's horde constaly harrassing them and calling them.

I think Clark is unbelievably smug for someone who is loathed by many of his fellow generals. He's already taking cheap shots (like the one about Kerry being a "junior" in military status) which make him look bad. I'm not a big Kerry fan, but I would give him a military vote over Clark. You don't hear about war vets or old Vietnam friends of Clark's going and giving emotionally wrenching speeches in favor of him. All you hear is "I AM A SOLDIER, VOTE FOR ME!!!" If he gets the nomination, his military record, his Clinton ties and his arrogance are going to decimate him.

I think the best matchup would be Kerry/Edwards. Clark/Edwards a somewhat distant second.

posted by: Jon on 01.18.04 at 11:01 AM [permalink]

If a man's hair is on fire, he looks for water to douse the flames. Everything else can wait. Similarly in this election, for Democrats it's no longer a question of choosing between two appeasing, indistinct, alternatives - Bush and the Democratic nominee. It's a question of damage control. For them Bush has first to go; everything else can be done later.

If Dems agree, first, that their priority is to remove Bush, second, that any Democratic candidate will do a better job than GWB, and, third, that GWB is nonetheless a heavyweight who'll be very difficult to beat, they have got to go with the guy most likely to win. That guy is Edwards. But as between Clark and Kerry, it is Clark.

Jon, point taken. Kerry's got friends who will tell nice stories about his record in Vietnam. Not so Clark (not yet anyway).

But where did 'Nam-era heroics get John McCain? If it couldn't get a Republican the nomination, it won't get a Democrat the presidency.

Moreover, apart from being a Massachusetts Democrat (and that's a derogatory term in parts of the country), Kerry comes across as someone too born-rich, too remote, and who has spent way too long in politics to be considered electable. Kerry may not be your average liberal, but that's not how he'll be perceived. Forget about the South (even Clark or Edwards can't compete with GWB there, except in their home states); the whole point of Edwards' and Clark's attraction is that it takes a southern Democrat, or at least someone of the Gephardt variety, to convince even skeptical mid-Westerners that the guy's not - God forbid - a liberal. Coming from New England is a no-no in political terms; it shouldn't be, but it is. Note to Kerry: the "The New Enland Patriots won, and this New Englander won tonight" may play well in New Hampshire, but he'd do well not to repeat it in South Carolina, Arizona, etc. To people there "New Englander" sounds like "elitist liberal who'll sell us out."

Not to mention Teresa Heinz, who makes it a point to speak her political mind and to ridicule the political processes. That's a great trait in a wife, and I admire her and Kerry for it, but that's not what gets you elected President. Hillary, for all her feminism, was in both of Bill's campaigns the very picture of wifely propriety. Teresa Heinz can't be bothered to smile when her husband wins Iowa.

Clark can be who he wants to be (though he'd better sort out Iraq in his head in a hurry). The surprise will be not that Clark beats Bush, but that someone like Clark could actually walk in and take the Democratic nomination from literally nowhere. His model appears to be Eisenhower who, again, could have joined either party, but felt a little more Republican.

Of course, Eisenhower was Eisenhower and Clark is Clark. Winning World War II was one thing; winning in Kosovo quite another.

Still, Clark will be the more electable (not necessarily 'better') candidate (I'm with you here on Kerry -the guy's been a Senator so long he'd probably know how to run a country better than Clark, and in an ideal world, that's how we'd choose our presidents). Based on how Clark comes across on TV and in the debates, his Southerness, his intellectualism (Rhodes Scholar) without appearing like an intellectual, his limited political history, his war heroism in Vietnam (he got a Silver Star in Vietnam, and if we don't hear about it now, at some point we will) and military stature as an allied commander (here, he trumps Kerry) it goes to show why smart people like Bill and Hill would stick their necks out (and they have) for some guy who just happened to wake up a Democrat. The Clintons mantra is winnability, and they see that in WC. Don't listen to the conspiracy theorists who'd have us believe the Clintons want Clark to be the nominee, but not to win in 2004, so Hillary can run in 2008. If that was the case, they'd be rooting for a no-hoper like Dean (apparently, Gore's game). Clark is someone they know can win.

Vivid life histories are of course qualities admired in presidential, but not necessarily vice-presidential, candidates. Running mates are conventionally speaking dependable, boring, regular blokes. Every running mate in the last decade or so - Gore, Kemp, Lieberman, Cheney -is a case in point.

That said, Kerry has gravitas (i.e., boring and dependable), and also some nice war stories, so he'd make a great running mate for Clark. Dean as a running mate is an absurd idea - Dean's base is the hard liberal left, not people who came out suddenly to vote for the first time. Who's the hard liberal left going to vote for in November? Bush? No, Bush-lite will beat Bush, precisely because Bush is perceived as an extremist who's out of touch with the mainstream. Deaniacs will come out to vote anyway, just to see the last of GWB.

In other words, it wasn't Dean who created the Deanics. The Deaniacs would have created one anyway, had HD not been around. Their participation in the process arises from their fervent dislike of the incumbent president, and they'll vote for any Democrat who stands against him in November.

Clark hasn't had friends come over to speak about the hero he was, but that could be precisely because he's already has the image of a fighting general. And he doesn't want to be boxed as a single-issue candidate. In Kerry's case, war stories don't hurt because Kerry as a long-term Senator is already many things, and this is just one of them. Again, Clark may well have learnt from the McCain experience of overplaying one's war-time biography.

Edwards is still the Democrats' best bit, but Clark's a decent second. Sweet November to the rest.

posted by: MD on 01.18.04 at 11:01 AM [permalink]

"If he sat on his hands, refused to assist the nominee (as he did the New York mayoral race in 2001) and helped re-elect Bush, he would be forever demonized in Democratic Party circles -- especially the black community. "

Nope, Al Sharpton would be demonized only if it turns out to be a very tight election. It looks right now if President Bush should win by the minimum of six points over his Democrat opponent.

posted by: David Thomson on 01.18.04 at 11:01 AM [permalink]

"It looks right now if President Bush should win by the minimum of six points over his Democrat opponent. "
should read"It looks right now that President Bush should win by the minimum of six points over his Democrat opponent."

posted by: David Thomson on 01.18.04 at 11:01 AM [permalink]

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