January 19, 2004

Disappointing, but not dispositive

As Bob Dole recounted tonight on CNN, he won Iowa in 1988 but lost the nomination to George H.W. Bush. Iowa is important, but it's not crucial. Here's some initial thoughts after the Iowa caucuses.

Iowa's caucus system is a little odd. Anyone who watched tonight on C-SPAN saw how odd it was, and probably saw a disproportionate number of elderly ladies at the caucuses. It's likely that the vote for Howard Dean was skewed by this unrepresentative participation. We will see next week how Gov. Dean does in a state with a primary.

We'll also have to see how the media treats John Kerry. Over the past month the media has hammered on Dean, and while no one knows the one "right" explanation for why this happened, a plausible explanation is that Dean was perceived as the front-runner. Now that Kerry has some real numbers suggesting that he is a front-runner, it will be interesting to see if the media hammers on him the same way they hammered on Dean.

Dean still has the best 50-state campaign organization out there, and is the best-prepared for a nationwide battle for the nomination. If anyone could afford to come in third in Iowa, it was Howard Dean.

(Thanks to Ambivalent Imbroglio and Professor Bainbridge for links.)

Posted by Carey at January 19, 2004 10:43 PM

Dean poured a lot of energy into Iowa, but he's also already been running ads against Bush and fundraising for Senate candidates; he seems to have operation to spare.

In any case, more than I want Dean to be president I want my party to wake up and stop taking advice from the opposition. If someone else gets the nomination but the Democrats gain some self-awareness, I'll be more happy than if Dean wins fighting the DNC all the way...

Posted by: John at January 20, 2004 08:51 AM

"...it will be interesting to see if the media hammers on him the same way they hammered on Dean."

How could they possibly hammer on Kerry the same way they've hammered on Dean? Like it or not, Kerry goes to great lengths to keep his foot out of his mouth which, like it or not, will be absolutely vital when it comes time for whoever wins the nomination to challenge Bush.

I don't think Carey and I see this election quite the same. Win or lose, he seems to be focusing on making a statement to the Democrats and the country as a whole. I'd probably agree with this if I didn't think Bush is potentially the most dangerous and destructive president this country has ever had, at least in my lifetime. My focus right now is 100% on removing him from office, and for reasons I've stated repeatedly, I don't think Howard Dean can do it.

Can Kerry? I'm not entirely sure, but regardless of what I think of them as a potential president, I think Kerry, Clark, or Edwards would all have a much greater shot at beating Bush than Dean would.

If I could just sit back and vote for who I though would be the best president, I'd probably vote for Dean (of those left in the race), but for me, this race isn't so much about electing a new president as it is about removing an old one.

Posted by: Brian at January 22, 2004 10:37 PM

I think Bush is making all the statements that the Democratic party needs. My support for Dean isn't based on making statements, it's based on my judgment that Dean is the best candidate out there for President.

I think the issue of electability has largely ignored what will be the key feature of this election. Whomever the Democrats choose as their nominee will, by virtue of being the nominee, be electable. Why? Because George Bush has polarized this country. He'll get the support of hard-core conservatives and those swing voters who agree with his idea that aggression makes for greater national security. Neither of these blocs of voters will vote for ANY of the potential Democratic challengers. The hard-core liberals will vote for whomever the Democratic nominee is out of hatred for George Bush.

What remains is the bloc of swing voters who normally stay home and don't vote at all. Bush, by firing up the right wing, will coax right-leaning apathetic voters to the polls.

The question is, which Democratic nominee can coax the liberal apathetic voters to the polls? Howard Dean.

I remain hopeful about two things. One, that the people who came out of the woodwork in Iowa to vote for Kerry were not the kind of liberal apathetic voters that I just described, and two, that there are enough of these liberal apathetic voters who will roll out of bed in New Hampshire to vote for Dean. We'll see.

Of course, I'll be voting for whomever runs against Bush on the Democratic ticket.

Posted by: Carey at January 23, 2004 03:24 PM

"Bush, by firing up the right wing, will coax right-leaning apathetic voters to the polls."

Indeed, yet I continue to fail to see how Howard Dean, through repeatedly cramming his foot into his mouth, will somehow be able to encourage left-leaning apathetic voters to get out and vote. The voters you describe are just that: left *leaning*, and I seriously doubt that they'll be motivated to go out and vote for an ultra-lefty who screams like a banshee at his flock (note that I don't believe Dean is an ultra-lefty, but so far he's allowed his opponents to label him as such). These voters will be much more likely to vote for a sane-sounding, rational, respectable, coherent candidate that tells them that Bush is a horrible president than a crazed lunatic who says the same thing.

Essentially, these people can't and won't be coaxed through blind emotion. I firmly believe the only way they'll vote is if someone rationally convinces them that it is vital to their future to do so, and Dean will never be able to do that if he continues to give the media excuses to ignore his message in favor of his foolish antics.

Posted by: Brian at January 23, 2004 06:13 PM