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Newer Democrats

Michael Tomasky has an important article, ďIs It Time to BelieveĒ, in the new American Prospect that DR recommends to everyone. Tomaskyís basic point is that Howard Dean, regardless of what one thinks about him as a general election candidate, is helping reinvent the Democratic party and that the party was in desperate need of reinvention.

According to Tomaksy, Clinton helped transform the Democratic partyís ideology in the 1990's so that it was more acceptable to swing voters and, hence, more electorally successful. However, despite the important changes of the Clinton era, the partyís basic structure and how it related to, and mobilized, its partisans remained the same: distant and uninspiring. Dean is using new technologies and a new style to mobilize (and create) partisans who see the party as a cause to which they are willing to donate time, money and real energy. In other words, the party is becoming a movement people care about, rather than merely a fundraising apparatus that collects money from elites and runs candidates in election.

Tomasky argues that this is a highly desirableĖindeed, essentialĖdevelopment that insiders who doubt (and perhaps doubt fairly) whether Dean is the most electable Democratic candidate need to come to terms with. DR agrees. Between the Dean campaign and the rise of the 527s, the Democratic party is in the process of rejuvenating itself and thatís a very good thing. In fact, they canít win in any consistent way without it.

Thatís why at least some of the debate around Dean misses the point. Thatís especially true of attempts to fit his campaign into the (now traditional) ideological debate between liberals and New Democrats, populists and centrists. The changes Dean is bringing to the party are not primarily ideological, but rather operational and structural, and therefore canít be judged by the standards of that debate.

Time to realize the real debate about winning has moved beyond that. ďNewer DemocratsĒ, if DR may coin a phrase, are concerned with how to continue this rejuvenation process and build on it to create a winning party.

Now the last part of thisĖwinningĖis something Newer Democrats, especially Deanís many enthusiastic supporters, need to take a bit more seriously (assertions that heíll get lots of new voters donít qualify as serious electoral thinking). How will Dean, if he is the candidate, reach swing voters? What exactly are the states, as Nick Confessore asked the other day, that Dean will carry that Gore did not? Put more bluntly, as Harold Meyerson did the other day: Howís he going to win Ohio?

DR doesnít know the answers to these questions, but he does know that all we Newer Democrats better start thinking about them. Be a pity to have a nice shiny new party, only to have to suffer through 4 more years of you-know-who.


"What exactly are the states, as Nick Confessore asked the other day, that Dean will carry that Gore did not?"

Well, New Hampshire seems like a pretty safe bet, to begin with.

But come on, Ruy, you're the expert on demographics and polling, not us, so answer it yourself: What states will *any* Democrat carry that Gore didn't? Of those, what states will any *other* Democrat carry that Dean can't? And vice versa?

I am a Dean partisan, so you can write me off as one who's drunk the kool-aid if you like, but I just don't see a strong argument for any of the other eight Democrats being able to put together a *better* electoral coalition than Dean. If he can't win, then he can't--but if *he* can't, considering his monetary advantages, nimble and brilliant organization, grassroots support, and union support, not to mention his demonstrated ability to skyrocket from asterisk to front-runner through sheer hard work, then I don't see how any of the others *can*.

Clark has a great resume, but in a lot of the country it won't help--he's a Democrat; he will lose, QED. In those red states where Clark is competetive, I think Dean has what it takes to win too. And IMHO none of the other seven candidates even has a chance.

Do you see it differently? If so, why?


How will Dean reach swing voters, you ask? Apparently he's doing it in Pennsylvania, where there has not been a great deal of primary campaigning due to its later date.

A Quinnipiac poll released today indicates that in head-to-head matchups with Bush, Dean is favored over Bush among "independents" 49%-40% -- a larger margin of support than the poll found for the other candidates.

Of the top 5 candidates in PA, Joe Lieberman was least competitive among the independents, splitting them with Bush at 46% each.

And at least Dean has a strategy to be able to raise money and fight back against bush's 200M in the period from March to August. That is, at least he (and kerry) has opted out of matching funds-- no-one who has opted in appears to have any strategy at all to function in that timeframe.

Dean will win by running on his record. He balanced budgets while cutting taxes and providing health care to children. He left Vermont as one of the only states not it fiscal crisis in the last couple of years. Of course it's easier to do all that in Vermont. But it shows that he is someone with the right priorities and the right experience. And despite the naysayers, his record is not all that far from Clinton's winning ideology.

I have to agree with Evan. At this point the onus is on the other candidates to demonstrate they have a better chance than Dean, and right now they can't do that. It's no good saying "Dean can't do it, Dean can't do it" at this stage without also being able to explain convincingly why some other candidate can. I just don't see that now. Running as Bush Lite just won't work.

Evan is exactly right when he notes: "If he [Dean] can't win, then he can't--but if *he* can't, considering his monetary advantages, nimble and brilliant organization, grassroots support, and union support, not to mention his demonstrated ability to skyrocket from asterisk to front-runner through sheer hard work, then I don't see how any of the others *can*."

I don't know if Dean can win or not, either, but if he can't with the advantages that Evan enumerated, then we're screwed anyway.

I've drunk the Dean Kool-aid, too, and I fully recognize the downside to this guy--he is WAY too undisciplined in his public statements, and if he doesn't correct it he will be unelectable, frankly... but I hope and believe he will...

But the upside to this guy is incredible, unlike his conventional opponents who are snoozers by comparison. I'm rolling the dice with Dean knowing that I might come up snake-eyes, but hoping for sevens...

I'm not sure if what the posters here are really saying is: how can it be that some thoughtful people think a well-run Clark campaign (improvement is constant) may be more electable than Dean despite Dean's organizational advantage?

In short, it's a personality-regional culture-tone- and security-tax issues posittioning thing. It's a judgement made by me and others from years of observing and working in politics and developing a gut for what the broad range of voters like and what they don't. It's like A&R guys in the record industry, the best of whom have an ear for hits.

There are also some of these same people who think Dean may be more electable as well, in addition to activists and voters who have the full range of positions. So there's opinion everywhere.

Anyway, my point is that there is substantive opinion that these other factors can trump the organization advantage. Politics is still very much an image game, and television performance and snapshot judgements of character/personality play an unfortunately big role in voter choice for tens of millions of people, not careful parsing of policy positions and factual analysis.

Of course, if Clark doesn't run well, the question is moot. We'll see.

The McGovern-Mondale-Dukakis, Old Democrat problem wasn't simply that they pursued the WRONG ideology, but that the Democratic Party became a party OF ideology, instead of values. They were -- or were protrayed as -- effete elitests.

I believe the key to a renewal of progressive politics is to transcend liberal/moderate divisions, not just in structure, but in nature.

Newer Democrats should postion themselves as champions of "realistic, practical solutions for progressive values." Radical pragmatism. Radically different vision, pragmatic policies to achieve.

This was clearly what Bill Clinton did in '92 (anybody remember universal health care?), and what Al Gore attempted to return to in 2000 (step-by-step populism).

People generally agree with progressive values on a slew of issues. The answer isn't to abandon these values, but to convince people that Democrats will go about achieving them in a realistic way (balance budgets, strong defense, fair taxs).

I think youíre right. The only two Dems that have a chance are the ones with some anti-establishment credentials.
Dean will run a stronger race than any other Dem candidate, with the possible exception of Clark. And Clark right now only looks good on paper, though heís becoming a better candidate and is putting together an organization that would be drawing raves if Dean werenít in the race.
Of three scenarios next year Ė easy Dem win, easy Bush win and neck and neck, I think the latter is most likely to happen and an easy Dem win the least likely.
I think Dean can keep the blues states in a close election but itís hard to see him adding any electoral votes beyond Goreís total.
Clark has a shot at picking up West Virginia, Arkansas and perhaps Nevada. But he might have a tougher time keeping some of the close-call blue states where Dean might be more successful in mobilizing the liberal base, such as Minnesota, Iowa, Wisconsin and Oregon.
Are there any other states out there that a Dem can win in a close election? Iíd like someone to tell me if thereís a sleeper that could go blue.
The recent ARG poll in New Hampshire gave Bush a big lead over Dean and it had to make you wonder whether the independents in New Hampshire who have gotten a good look at Dean were turned off. I think New Hampshire is Republican territory next year.
Here in Florida, I think Clark would do better than Dean in the condo villages of Broward and Palm Beach counties, where Dems must get a huge turnout if they are going to win a statewide election. Liebermanís presence on the ticket did the trick in 2000 but Florida is probably out of play for any Democrat in 2004. The one factor that could change that is persuading seniors that the Medicare bill is a disaster. But Dean will have Medicare problems and Clark, with his uncertain footing on domestic issues, might not be able to capitalize on Medicare and prescription drugs.

I find it interesting that most of the key points made in this post--although not, notably, the final points--also appear in the "comments" section of the December 14 post on this site. Perhaps Mr. Teixeira needed to see those points made in an "important article" by Michael Tomasky before considering them valid? Or maybe, as also stated in the December 14 comments, he doesn't read the comments here.

The crux of the debate is whether Dean is truly changing the party into "a movement people care about, rather than merely a fundraising apparatus that collects money from elites and runs candidates in election." I don't agree that the statemet accurately portrays the Dems prior to Dean's ascendancy. His appeal to a portion of the party has clearly transformed its organizing principles, but like him or not, Dean has not transformed the party's ideology other than to give voice to the anger felt toward W. To the contrary, I fear that the Dems will continue to slide into oblivion exactly because a coherent philosophy will continue to elude us. The GOP continues to grow in power and influence, almost as if by natural selection they have evolved inot a better suited species for political life, because first and foremost its members consider winning a priority. It is in Dems very nature to be seek out the dialectic - debate, deliberation, and disagreement are prized by Dems. They are the traits of the reasonable man so highly prized by the party's leaders. To focus elsewhere on something so vulgar as merely "winning" would deny our very nature. I fear we are consigned in the modern era to always be the party who offers balm to the wounded public only after the GOP has done the wounding. The problem is that wounds heal and then they are forgotten and the Dems are left to answer again only after the next round of injury is inflicted.

OK, Dean keeps Gore's states. Let's start with that.

Scenario #1: Gets Florida. Game over. Is this totally unrealistic? Most political observers seem to put it solidly in Bush's hands, but I'm not sure I understand why, given that Gore did get MORE VOTES, even with Nader in the race. But there's probably a dynamic I haven't read about, so we go on to . . .
Scenario #2: Gets NH and AZ, which I understand is trending Dem because of Hispanic influx, OR throw in Nevada, with all the anti-Bush feeling because of the nuke issue, and things are looking way more than safe. Game over.
Scenario #3: Ohio, as Ruy points out, would be the sweet spot. Here's how he gets it: economic populism, which is one of Dean's big, BIG themes (remember, that was the point of the whole confederate flag thing, and it's a point he hammers home constantly in many other, less controversial ways). Ohio is hurting economically and is pissed at Bush about the steel tariffs bungling.

I want to second some other folks' challenges: who else is more likely to sew up some red states this year? Lieberman, Mr. Connecticut Yankee? Effete and obfuscatory Mr. Kerry? It's doubtful that Edwards would even carry his home state, so don't even get me started on the Breck Girl. Gephardt, well, I'm still not getting why this man is in the race, given his miserable failure as Dem leader in Congress.

OK, on to Clark. He is the acknowledged contender in the ring. Does he bring in Arkansas? Maybe, but his connection to the state is by now about equal to Gore's connection to Tennessee. Some other states that will be attracted to him because his first name is "general"? Maybe. As usual with the good general, it makes sense on paper, but with a (still) relatively poorly run campaign, without as much money as Dean, without the adoring masses that Dean has inspired, without the GOTV effort that Trippi will mastermind . . . I don't know. I can see how one might argue that Clark is stronger on balance, but I can't see how it's a slam-dunk argument.

I also can't see the legitimacy of Ruy's complaint that Deaniacs haven't thought seriously about electability. Can't see it at all. Indeed, electability is the ONLY reason I support Dean.

Ruy and lots of other political pros like to dismiss the whole idea that Dean will bring in lots of new voters, and it's true that Deaniacs wildly overestimate the probably effect of this on the race. But to dismiss this factor out of hand seems a little rash, especially in states like Florida where the decision came down to a few hundred votes. Given our 45/45 nation, it doesn't seem implausible that a small number of non-voters getting into the game will have some effect.

Also, don't forget the Nader problem. Dean has enchanted the left. He's not a leftist himself, and the former Naderites who support him have no illusions about this. But if Gore had been able to shore up his left flank, he would have won. Handily.

States where Clark would do better than Dean in the General. -- Begin with N. Carolina. Remember N. Carolina passed a law requiring the proportional distribution of Electorial Votes after 2000. With the large Military centers in NC -- Clark probably could do one or two Electorial votes better than Dean.

Florida -- I suspect he is the only Dem hopeful who could swing away some of the retired military, and he just might get a larger proportion of the Hispanic vote. (you have to get into his experience with Southern Command and the fact that he will be able to outshine Bush in his ability to really speak Spanish to see this.) He plays as well as Lieberman in the Condo villages. You have to just add it up -- he could make Florida really competitive.

Ohio - It is a combination of shaking loose military votes (Dayton Area) having something to say in SE Ohio that hurts Bush with the steelworkers more than Bush has already hurt himself, and making a dent in the suburban Bush vote -- Cleveland - Akron, Dayton, Cincinnati and Columbus. I am told by an elderly relative that nearly 100% of her retirement community voted Bush in 00, but are disgusted on many grounds and if Clark is the nominee they will all be switching. I don't hear the same sentiment for Dean.

Arkansas -- Clark was raised in Arkansas and remained an official resident throughout his military career. He retired there. The home folk are proud of him -- very proud. In fact most military men do not serve in the state they came from -- they move all about the world. Dem's (Prior) won the senate seat in 02, looks like Blanche Lincoln will keep her seat, and thusly Clark could fairly easily make it in Arkansas.

Lousiana -- Dems won the Senate Seat, the Governor's race -- and while there will be a contest for the open seat, the state recently has elected Democrats. Assuming they comprehend Clark as a southern neighbor -- he could win it. Clinton did.

Arizona - possibly conpetitive, particularly if the sense that Clark is a little like McCain holds up. The Democrats narrowly won the Governor's race, with the underlying issue being "corruption". It probably is a matter of moving a fairly small segment of the vote -- and the combination of Spanish Fluency and Clark's appeal to retired military could do it. I don't think Dean could move those votes. Native Americans are critical in both New Mexico and Arizona, attention must be given to registration and turn-out.

Some people think Virginia might be in play -- but I don't know. Tennessee recently elected a Dem Governor -- but again, don't know. I believe Clark would get W. Virginia.

Clark's advantage over Dean is in moving independents and left-over moderate Republicans over, and this group is most concerned with the whole maze of security issues. And like it or not, this is the area where we have to outshine Bush in terms of the question, Who do you trust with your seurity? Today, Clark illustrated how this is done in his post Milosevic trial briefing carried on C-Span. You praise the troops who captured Saddam, you name the units that did it, you mention in familiar terms the names of the unit commanders, you thank the intelligence guys and gals, then you turn to the failure to get "dead or alive" bin Laden -- you blame lack of plan and commitment of resources for this as well as not pressing Pakistan and Saudi Arabia hard enough. And you have Samanta Powers introduce you so that the bright line between Diplomatic-Military policy and Humanitarian Goals are "connected" and for good measure you throw in a few points about how to organize a Saddam trial. On Friday the focus will be on his testimony against Milosevic, which I understand went well.

What states can a Dem win that Gore lost? I think the question is what state can Bush win that he lost? I think we all can agree that if people were not removed from the voters list and if the supreme court had not stepped in, that Gore would have won Florida--there were certainly more people who *wanted* to vote for him. So the question is if Bush can *really* win the Florida, and what sates a Dem can add. In other words, if the results--except for the Supreme Court--were the same we will see a Dem in the White House. No?

Ruy --
What about Dean's appeal to the Perot/McCain type voter -- The angry, deficit hawk independent?

What states can a Dem win that Gore lost? I think the question is what state can Bush win that he lost? I think we all can agree that if people were not removed from the voters list and if the supreme court had not stepped in, that Gore would have won Florida--there were certainly more people who *wanted* to vote for him. So the question is if Bush can *really* win the Florida, and what sates a Dem can add. In other words, if the results--except for the Supreme Court--were the same we will see a Dem in the White House. No?

You argue that stating I will bring more voters to the polls is not a viable election strategy. Ok, is ďelect me because I am a general. Elect me because I am electable. I am generally electable. I am electable in the general electionĒ a viable election strategy? Has it come to this for the Clarkistas?

Dean is electable because he has done the organizing to get ahead in the polls, is leading the polls and he has something to say. Clark has not done the organizing. The last 2 polls I have seen in Arizona, Clark is losing to Dean. Last poll I saw out of SC, Clark is losing to Dean. Pennsylvania? Clark is losing to Dean. Gallop poll released yesterday- Clark is losing to Dean nationwide. The vaunted polls released after Saddamís capture that show Dean losing to Bush? Well, hold on, they show Clark losing to Bush too! And not doing any better than Dean to boot.

Donít tell me how electable you are, show me. Iím not from Missouri, but show me! Remember in 1960, when LBJ was telling Sam Rayburn how smart the Kennedy people were? Rayburnís reply is worth quoting here: Itíd be nice if one of them had actually run for dog catcher. Iíll go one further. Itíd be nice if General Electable had actually been elected to something. Anything! Class president even! Dean has been elected to the a state legislature, Lt. Governor and Governor. I wonder if that has anything to do with the fact he is out performing General Electable.

Finally, I am a southerner. I was born in Mississippi, went to school in Alabama and practiced law in Georgia and Florida. If you think Southernerís are going to vote for Clark solely because he is a southerner or because he is a general, you donít know Southerners. It will not be enough to make a difference in the end. If you think his uniform will keep him from being attacked, you havenít been paying attention. Remember McCain? Cleland? How about this: Reagan didnít serve, got elected, Carter was a navel officer- he lost. Dukakis served, he lost. Clinton didnít serve, Bush did, Bush lost. Gore served, Dubya was AWOL for more than 30 days in the face of the enemy. Who occupies the White House. Near as I can tell, the military brass is split on Clark, there is as many who dislike him as like him. My guess those views are an accurate microcosm. Thus his military back ground will not get him enough votes in the South. Realistically the South is rightwing GOP territory. Eventually we must retake it for congressional purposes. But for this election, its not a realistic goal.

If you want to win, focus on forcing Bush to compete in Florida (i.e. donít concede it) cause he has to have Florida to win. Take back W. Virginia because we can and that makes Florida that more important for Bush. Focus on Arizona, Nevada, and New Mexico. Dean is leading in Arizona, Las Vegas has a strong democratic base (and Nevada went for Clinton twice) and New Mexico has been a Democratic state for awhile, but it was awfully close last election.

But donít waste my time and valuable campaign time telling me how electable Clark, is because the facts refute that proposition so far. If you think Clark is all that valuable, persuade him to change his mind about being VP. Whatís more important, his ego or serving his country?

Dean take New Hampshire in the general election? Current polls show Dean faring even worse than a generic Democrat against Bush in that state: "A poll by the American Research Group shows President Bush with 57 percent over Former Vermont Gov. Howard Dean's 30 percent of voters in New Hampshire. Bush leads 51 percent over 34 percent over an unnamed Democrat." New Hampshire is a very conservative state. Other new polls continue to show Dean faring worse than other Dems against Bush in a general election. But I am NOT a poll watcher.

That said, blind faith in Dean's ability to win converts beyond the base he has already captured continues to surprise me. I hope it's true if he becomes the nominee, but I'm more worried about it than most. I'm also mildly bewildered by the "Dean invented the Internet" story. The Internet as an organizing tool was there for the taking (moveon.org amassed large numbers of angry Democrats during the impeachment years, and large entities like Democratic Underground had been seething since 2000, waiting for someone to come along). I do commend the Dean organization for seeing the potential of that motivated audience and seizing it for organizational and fundraising purposes. But that base I see as somewhat self-limiting.

I work on the ground in New Hampshire, and when I knock on doors of voters, I can tell you that the vast majority of them are not participating in this new virtual democracy. We news and Internet junkies sometimes fail to realize the rest of the country is not as engaged as we are.

Clark is one of the other candidates whose Internet grassroots organization is impressive. Indeed, his whole candidacy was based on a spontaneous draft movement that arose virtually and is second only to Dean's. This active grassroots community of volunteers and contributors is, however, self-limiting, too. Ultimately, the old pancake breakfast, television advertisement, hand-shaking, door-to-door, "character"-driven campaign tactics are still the ones that will ultimately decide this primary race. And the media spin.

Sam: I'm not a poll watcher, either, but I thought I'd read that NH would have gone for Gore if Nader hadn't been in the race there -- that Nader had siphoned enough votes on the left to keep Gore's numbers below Bush's. But maybe I'm misremembering that. If so, sorry. Like you, I'm not a poll watcher.

You write, "blind faith in Dean's ability to win converts beyond the base he has already captured continues to surprise me." But you do realize that naysayers have been saying this about Dean since, oh, June, right? Then he was polling at about 7 percent nationwide. Now he's polling in the 30s, so clearly he's moved way beyond the base of fanatics and Internet junkies. But these numbers are still within the Democratic party base, it's true.

Those who worry primarily about how to appeal to swing voters have it backwards -- indeed, that's been the problem with the other Democratic candidates. Both logically and temporally, a candidate of either party must appeal to his base first, then appeal to the wider public. These are to some extent overlapping tasks, and a candidate can't tack so far to his base that he will alienate the swing voters. If a candidate doesn't do the first (appeal to the base in the primaries), he will never get a chance to do the second (make his pitch to independents in the general). That Lieberman and Kerry couldn't figure this out only shows what incompetents they are at this whole presidential campaigning business.

Now, obviously, appealing to the base and attracting independents are both necessary to getting elected. Let's face it: one of the reasons Gore lost, and Bush won, was because Gore didn't appeal to his base (hence Nader), and Bush did (hence big excitement and turnout on the right). Bush also did a masterful job of dressing himself up in moderate clothing, thus attracting independents. It's not easy to thread this needle, of course, but the argument for Dean appealing to independents has always been: he's a fiscal conservative with a proven record; he comes off as "tough"; he got an A rating from the NRA; he's very big on health care, which is important to people across the board.

And Ruy: I have another question. I hear from political pros like you that "bringing in new voters" is pie-in-the-sky thinking. But then I hear pros says that getting out the vote is the absolutely most important thing in the world. Aren't these sentiments, to some extent, contradictory?

Dan: Your question to Ruy about new voters. No, Ruy's comments are not contradictory. What (some) political pros say is that politics has become so divided that true "swing" voters have gotten too scarce to affect close national elections. And that, therefore, you need to focus on what are called "marginal" Democrats -- voters who lean Democratic but don't always go there. They tend to be much more moderate than primary voters -- different animals, really. They're decidedly NOT the voters that are currently winning the nomination for Dean. I'm not sure I agree that swingers have completely disappeared, but I do agree these marginal Dems have been ignored over the past few cycles.

What I think Ruy and others were arguing is that the thought of drawing in lots of independent, disaffected voters has worked precisely once, in my memory, despite many, many appeals to the strategy. That once was for Jesse Ventura in Minnesota, and he only won because it was a three candidate race.

Whether Dean, more so than a Clark, can appeal to marginal but partisan Dems, is an open question. I don't think so. In fact, I think Clark is far better positioned to do so. But regardless, neither is likely to draw many disaffected voters into the system. Despite Dean's great organization and excitement, his numbers are still puny. 500,000 visitors to his website is nothing. A pimple on a bump on a log. Bush has close to 5 million e-mail correspondents, for sake of comparison. Many of us doubt whether Dean's army will draw any significant number of new voters. And if not, it becomes a battle for a group of moderate, unexcited and unexcitable voters. And there's where the rub begins.

The excellent Chris Bowers over at dailyKos posted an analysis of swing state voting trends which I refer to often.

It's here: http://www.dailykos.com/story/2003/11/17/18619/741

From this, Arizona & Nevada are in play (and Dean's NRA rating will help A LOT there.)

Couple more thoughts now that I've read more of the postings ...

Can one of you Deaniacs explain to me where your confidence in Dean's ability to appeal to voters outside the hard core of the liberal base comes from? How he makes up 23 points in New Hampshire, where he's extremely well known, for example. If it's just the fact that he's winning the primaries, you've got some 'splainin to do. If it's just blind faith, that's even worse. Just take a step outside of the excitement of the "movement" and evaluate as a disinterested, fairly well satisfied voter might. One of the problems of a campaign such as Dean's is that it's a snowball rolling downhill. As it grows, those on the inside get shut out from any kind of perspective, and can't really analyze how big (or in this case, still way too small to matter) it really is.

Primary voters are just different animals than general election voters, let alone the general election voters that actually decide states such as WV, FL, or AZ. Those voters, who currently don't know Howard Dean from Howard Cosell, make their decisions based on fleeting, TV-based impressions of a person's character and likeability. Whatever you think of that, it's the truth. So tell me, what about your Upper East Side-bred, governor-of-the-whitest-state-in-the-nation, deer in headlights on TV, no evident sense of humor, angry, combative candidate might do the trick? I just don't see it. I've seen him on the stump (fabulous) and on TV (invisible at best, unless you're really biased). And all he looks like is someone out of his league dragged along by an incredibly energetic and inspired group of followers. Not enough, because (and here's the real problem) most of the voters who actually decide close elections are not mad at Bush. They may have questions and are open to alternatives, but they kind of like him and think the war in Iraq was, if not the exact right call, at least a reasonable one. How is your man going to appeal to these people? I can't see how, and I've tried (by talking to as many non-political moderates as I can find).

So let's make that argument. What's the rationale for Dean's appeal to these all important average folks who frankly don't think much or care about who their President is? I'll make my argument for how Clark does it in my next post.

And BTW, I actually think Dean was a good governor (I'm from VT). And I give him HUGE points for saving the party from irrelevance. Let's give him a place in history for that. But let's not make the mistake of assuming he's also the right person to win a general presidential election. After all, Newt Gingrich remade the Republican Party, too. Completely re-energized it. But he was definitely not the right man to win a national election. Just food for thought.

Are you sure that the rise of the 527s is good for the *party*? Seems to be the death rattle, if you ask me.

States that Dean can carry that Gore did not should include West Virginia, a state that has a strong Democratic tradition, but that Gore's position on gun control lost for him in rural counties.

Dean's states rights position on gun control could play well here.

Kilroy Was Here

I find it interesting that most of the key points made in this post--although not, notably, the final points--also appear in the "comments" section of the December 14 post on this site. Perhaps Mr. Teixeira needed to see those points made in an "important article" by Michael Tomasky before considering them valid? Or maybe, as also stated in the December 14 comments, he doesn't read the comments here.

Exactly. You predicted 2002 as a victory for Dems. Much of what you talk about tactically is just wrong, though I'm sure in the long-term you're onto the key trends.

Now all of sudden 'respectable' pundits are discussing the process transformation of the Democratic party that we've been talking about for about a year, and so now you're like, 'we've had that discussion and insiders have blessed it, so NOW it's time to listen to the insiders.' Kind of missing the point, aren't you?

Um, sorry, I don't buy it. Your advice hasn't been very useful; the advice of the people you deride as unserious has been dead-on. And you don't bother to deal with them, as evidenced by the fact you don't read your comments.

Good debate everybody! I think this is one of the best threads we have had. Most of the discussion seems to be between those who support Clark and those who support Dean. I agree that these are the two candidates who are potentially viable in the fall. Let's try to have a thoughtful and respectful debate about their strengths and weaknesses that doesn't degenerate into name calling.

I come down on the side of Dean, let me explain my reasoning:

1) Positive populist appeal: Dean's use of populist rhetoric infuses every aspect of the campaign. "Take back your government" and "you have the power," these are the messages that have resonated with the grassroots. I think it is fundamentally the right message at the right time.

After twenty years of increasing Republican and corporate dominance of our political process and public policy decisions, I think the time is right for this appeal. I think the political insiders miss the profound hunger among the electorate for a leader who doesn't cynacally manipulate voters or pander to elites.

This is not a strickly idealogical left/right appeal. I believe that Dean can reach many of the same voters who voted for Perot and for McCain. Because Dean has built the very foundation of his campaign on these themes, I believe they will come across as genuine to many of the cynical, partially-alienated voters who do not have a clear liberal/conservative idealogy.

Dean's current base is with liberals, who like his anti-Iraq stance and think he can win, and with college educated white professionals, who are comfortable with his social-liberal, fiscal-conservative record. The real question is whether or not he can appeal to blue collar voters who are more culturally conservative.

I think Dean's populism is the key to bringing this group back to the Dems. There are a lot of working class voters who know that the economy and the political process are screwed-up and that they are getting the short end of the stick, they just aren't sure who to blame. Republicans have done a masterful job of getting them to blame poor people in general, and minorities in particular. Dean's "don't let them divide us," speach in South Carolina may be the right way to get these voters to see that they have more economic interests in common with the poor than they have with the corporate elite. It won't be an easy sell with the corporate media and Karl Rove manipulating in the background, but I think it is the Dems best shot.

2) Dean and the suburbs: besides blue-collar workers, the other group of swings are the suburban, professional and technical workers who the EDM book identifies as the fastest growing group who are trending Democratic. Dean is an absolute natural to appeal to this group who are socially-liberal to moderate, and fiscally conservative. Dean is the ideal guy to make the case that the Bushies fiscal policy has been wildly irresponsible, and to appeal to those who are uncomfortable to the growing power of Southern evangelicals in the Republican hierarchy.

I'm not saying it will be easy. If Dean wins the primary, I forsee the general election as a contest between Dean trying to pitch his positive populist appeal at the same time the Rep. will be trying to paint him as an ultra-liberal. I don't know who will win this battle, but it is definitely going to present the voters with the clearest choice since Johnson/Goldwater and Nixon/McGovern (I don't think the Dean situation is at all analogous to McGovern).

On the other hand, Clark looks great on paper. His southern roots, military background, and Republican history make it appear as though he would have greater appeal to moderates. If the decision making process were only fought out on a right/left, liberal/conservative axis I would agree with this analysis. However, I think voting is just as much a matter of top/down as it is right/left.

Clark is a right/left political ideology moderate (for the most part so is Dean, although his rhetoric and resume are further to the left). However, Clark is a totally top-down guy. His advisors are all Clinton/Gore insiders and his life experience is in the military the ultimate top down organization. I think it will be very difficult for a top-down guy to build support in the Democratic base, beyond those who buy the electability argument. I think this is why Clark's poll numbers have actually eroded since he got into the race.

He doesn't connect with the Democratic base. The fact that he voted for Reagan, twice, is a huge issue with me. Anyone who could vote for Reagan doesn't share my core values. Unless he suddenly finds a way to excite people, to make them feel he understands the issues they face in their daily lives, he is highly unlikely to win the nomination no matter how many smart, insider Dems support him.

"...assertions that heíll get lots of new voters donít qualify as serious electoral thinking."

So, Ruy, if Dean does get lots of new voters, can we conclude that your speculation doesn't qualify as serious electoral thinking?

I don't have any faith in the argument that some candidates can win because they convince previously non-voters to voite. Being old enough to have worked in both Gene McCarthy and McGovern's campaigns -- my experience in both instances suggested a wash. Yes -- it brought together Progressives, but it also moved the blue collar Dem's into Nixon's column. The only good thing that emerged from the campaign was a generation of folk who ran for State Legislature and Congress and did well, having caught the "disease" of electorial Politics.

More Recently -- in 1998 I was involved in campaigns where Jesse Ventura was running for Governor. In a state with same day at the polls registeration it was amaqing -- all the children of those Blue Collar Democrats were lined up in the late evening still trying to vote, polls ran out of ballots, very high percentage of new voters. Four years of a Professional Wrestler as Governor pretty much cured me of trusting in the myth of the progressive character of non-voters who suddenly decide to vote.

Winning strategies of course can include going after new voters -- but far more dependable are the people in the middle who vote every two or four years, and are essentially non-partisian and vote their view of personal self interest. It is the non-base in either party. They vote economic self interest and this year, they'll add Security to that, and they could be sensitive to a few other issues such as Education and Health Care -- but they do not study issues in depth, and are uniquely sensitive to ads, because they get most news from TV -- not the web, and not periodicals. But this is where the margin is in all the states that might be winable.

I don't dislike Dean -- in fact I was delighted last spring we had someone out there asking tough questions about Iraq -- but I simply don't see the independents in the middle taking a risk with someone with utterly no foreign policy experience, and little understanding of the military. It is simply not 1992. Clark won't let Bush have the Flag or the super-patriot pose, and he will know how to stress multilateralism without falling into soft rhetoric. That's going to be necessary this year.

And the fact that Clark voted for Reagan???? think again. So did lots of moderate Democrats, that's how Reagan won. Clark makes it comfortable for them to come home to the Democratic Party.

Try to imagine the campaign that Bush will run against Dean. It's not pretty. It's effective. And it will get Bush re-elected easily.

Dean is not McGovern, nor is he Dukakis. He is Dean. He has a lot of good things going for him and in normal times, he would be a formidable candidate. This is not the time.

Bush is going to run as an "effective leader in a time of war." He's going to play the commander-in-chief role to the hilt, and boast about how he's keeping America safe. Against Dean, who went skiing for a year after evading the draft with a "back problem", it works. Against Clark, he comes off as the Bush Action Toy Figure vs. a real world hero.

How will this play in the states? Clark will definitely take Arkansas and probably West Virginia, in addition to holding on to the Gore states. That's 271 electoral votes - enough to win. He also has a decent shot at Nevada, Ohio, and Arizona. That would be a Dem landslide. I don't believe Dean has a chance in any of these states, and what's more, I'm fairly certain he'll lose Wisconsin (a Gore state) and possibly Pennsylvania. There's no way to make up those losses.

New Hampshire and Florida are both way too Republican to be in play, I believe. So those of you who think that either Dean or Clark could win them are engaged, I think, in wishful thinking. Remember also that with the 2000 census, the Gore states lost 7 votes. So Gore's states plus one isn't enough, unless it's a state with loads of electoral votes.

John Edwards, a nice man who's time is not now, has a nifty map on his website. Go there and play with it. I think Clark looks better and better if you're honest about who can win what states. I'm in Ohio, BTW. Things can change in almost a year, true. But right now? I'd say Dean doesn't have a snowball's chance in Ohio. Clark has a shot to win the state.

It will be interesting to see how it plays out. Why am I a Clark supporter? For two reasons. First, I think he'd be a good president. He's spent a good deal of time in a leadership position, he's known among our allies, he has a good grasp on what it takes to mount an effective foreign policy . Secondly. He can beat George W. Bush in an election.

The map:

Remember that only 34% of the country is Democrat. That's not enough to win an election. In order to win, the Dems will have to reach out to the independents and to disinfranchised Republicans. Yes, there are a FEW of the latter, I believe. Not all of them are right-wing wackos. Clark will do much better at reaching out to those two groups than Dean can ever do.

Time will tell what will happen. But I think it's time to end the opinion of at least one pundit who remarked, "What are Democrats? Why, they're that group of people who love to lose elections". We've lost the last 2 national elections. Let's not make it 3.

Marcia- If all of that is true, why is Dean consistently polling better than Clark in head-to-head national matchups with Bush?

Why would Dean have a double digit lead over Clark in Georgia? Certainly Dem primary voters in Georgia tend to be more conservative. Why does Dean appeal to them more than Clark does?

Why is Dean beating Clark in Texas?

It's starting to look like Dean is more popular than Clark, not only with Dems nationally, not only against Bush, not only in early primary states, but now with southern Democrats, as well.

Sara, Marcia and the rest of the Clarkistas:

You guys make some very good points, however, I don't think you are acknowledging the good points on the Dean side.

There is no doubt that the conventional wisdom is on your side. "Nominate someone in the middle to appeal to the middle." It sounds simple. But I don't think it accurately addresses voter behavior.

Please see my lengthy post below. None of you have addressed my assertion that voting is as much a matter of top/down positioning as it is a matter of left/right positioning. Do you see the incredible power of Dean's populist rhetoric? Do you see how this rhetoric has the possibility to pull in many of the same disaffected voters who voted for Perot, McCain, Ventura, and even Schwarzenegger?

The voters hunger for a candidate who stands for something. A candidate who will say what is on their mind, take a position, and stick with it. They want someone who will stand up for their interests and not the interests of percieved elites.

I would really appreciate it if you guys would actually respond to the substance of my posts rather than just making laundry lists of why you think Clark is such a great candidate.

I agree that Dean is vulnerable on foriegn policy. If you actually read Dean's speech from Monday you would see how strong his positions are. The real question is whether he can be heard over the "anti-war" buzz of the media and the right-wing.

By the way, I have had a chance to meet and speak with General Tony McPeak the retired Air Force Chief of Staff who endorsed Dean after spending several days with the Dr. out on the campaign trail. He says he supports Dean because he thinks he has great character and integrity and because although he isn't real experienced in foriegn policy "he gets it." He said Dean has great instincts and is a very quick study. McPeak's endosement and the words he used to describe his impressions of Dean were very impressive and helped make me feel that Dean could handle foreign policy.

"... Florida are both way too Republican to be in play, I believe..."
No we actually are even here in Florida. I realize the GOP has routed the Democrats, here of late, but that said, GOP/Democratic regisration is about the same. South Florida is Democratic territory and th I-4 corridor is still up for grabs last I looked. We are comptetitive here.

"We've lost the last 2 national elections. Let's not make it 3."

Which country are you talking about? In the US of A it was:
1996- Clinton
2000- I say Gore, but I 'll spot you that one.

Thank you, ryeland, for pointing out some obvious facts to refute the CW on Clark/Dean, in this case the idea that Dean won't play in the South. Have you seen today's numbers from Georgia? Georgia!!

Remember these now-discarded bits of CW: Dean won't play among African-Americans, among Hispanics, among union voters . . . The facts just keep overtaking the anti-Dean crowd.

The argument for Clark looks so good on paper. And I'd buy it if he'd gotten into the race six months earlier, if he had more political savvy, if he understood the tectonic shifts in the Democratic party and how to exploit them for fundraising, if, if, if.

The anti-Dean CW is based on fear. Look at the Beltway reaction to Dean's comment about the capture of Saddam not making us any safer. There's an article in the NYT today that's full of quotations from the usual insider suspects fretting about the political implications of Dean's comment. They're terrified of the Republicans and how they'll portray Dean and the Dems as soft on defense. But guys! Seventy two percent of the American population agrees with Dean's sentiment!!! This is not an unpopular stand! In fact, a politically savvy person would see it as a way to reframe the debate around terrorism and Iraq, as a way to attack the GOP on one of Bush's major strengths.

Instead, the insiders are always playing defense, intimidated and paralyzed, ceding the political high ground to the Republicans on issue after issue. Pah!

Evan says:
"What exactly are the states, as Nick Confessore asked the other day, that Dean will carry that Gore did not?"

Well, New Hampshire seems like a pretty safe bet, to begin with.

gfwesq: Don't forget the Congressional elections.

gfwesq, I agree that the Dems technically won in 2000. But Bush is in the WH and Gore is teaching. So by all historical and legal standards, that was a win for the GOP.

After Jim Jeffords switched to Independent the Dems had a one-vote majority in the Senate. In 2002, we lost national election #2. The GOP now controls all branches of government. I really don't want to make this the 3rd national election in a row that leaves the GOP in the driver's seat.

In spite of all your emotional pleas for Dean, and for your quoting numbers of polls of Democratic voters who are actually paying attention at this point, there are no states that most knowledgeable people believe that Dean can switch from Red to Blue. There ARE some that Clark can capture.

There is no anti-Dean movement. If he wins the nomination, he gets the support of all of us, and I hope the same holds true if by some miracle the Dems wake up and nominate Clark. But I fear a Dean candidacy will be an exercise in futility. Dean sure isn't going to win Georgia or Texas, in spite of ryeland's belief that he's doing well in both states.

There are no "Clarkistas". Sometimes I think the Dean supporters are as fanatic as the right wingers. There are people who believe Dean can win, based on an emotional attraction to an effective candidate, and there are those of us who REALLY want to beat George W. Bush in 2004, and who want the candidate who, "on paper", and in actuality has the best chance to achieve that goal. I guess maybe we don't argue as passionately because our beliefs are based more on logic and on cold hard facts than on an emotional attachment to a guy who's finally saying the same things about Iraq publicly that we've been saying all along. I can understand this attraction. I too felt that Dems had NO representation on this topic. But there's much more to this race than Iraq.

I stated in my earlier post that I believe Clark can win Arkansas, West Virginia, and perhaps Nevada, Ohio and/or Arizona. Let me also throw Colorado into that mix of possibilities.

Nobody has given any credible guesses on which states Dean can "turn into blue states". If you believe in either NH, Florida, or Ohio, I think you are engaging in nothing more than wishful thinking. Because Dean's chances in all three of those states are very poor to none.

Marcia wrote:
"Dean sure isn't going to win Georgia or Texas, in spite of ryeland's belief that he's doing well in both states."

You accuse Dean supporters of making "emotional pleas," but it seems that you're the one appealing to emotion. My "belief" that Dean is doing well in Georgia and Texas is based on recent polls out of those states. I never argued that Dean would win those states in the general election (no Dem will) but I was citing the poll results as evidence of Dean's appeal to southern voters.

Please cite some evidence for your belief that Clark "can win Arkansas, West Virginia, and perhaps Nevada, Ohio and/or Arizona." We are a month away from the beginning of the Democratic primaries and it's no longer acceptable to make theoretical arguments.

Let's seem some those "cold hard facts" that your support of Clark is based on.

I'm a Democrat, but not in any presidential candidate's camp.

First of all, at least a third of actual voters have no accurate idea of who they voted for in 2000, or why. It is utter folly to assume that everybody will line up in 2004 just like they did in 2000. It's four years later and a whole new ball game. All of the states are up for grabs.

The Democrat is guaranteed to win the District of Columbia, maybe, but NOT ANY of the other states Gore carried. (Neither is GWB guaranteed to win any red state.) Gore had incumbent-party strength behind him, and anti-incumbent anger against him; those polarities will be REVERSED in 2004. (Some regions, like the Plains, always trend against the incumbent White House party, others trend toward it.)

Second, while it's true that political activists are increasingly partisan and polarized, the general public is not. Most people have other things to worry about than politics. And votes for president are LESS partisan than votes for other offices.

Third, the nomination process is now so brutally front-loaded that there isn't time for a "process" to develop with deliberate state by state consideration, like in the old days. Primaries and caucuses are now lumped so early in the year that it might as well be a national plebiscite; the state-by-state action is irrelevant. The process that really matters now happens in the national media in the previous year.

The party establishment pushed this front-loading in order to prevent Bill Bradley from having any chance of beating Gore. Well, now it has just about guaranteed the nomination to Dean.

Clark entered late, and he needed everything to go right for him to win. Specifically, he needed a huge wave of enthusiastic non-insider support -- which has just not materialized. Just about everybody I know who supports Clark is a party insider whose fondness for him is pure calculation. Starting late, you can't win a nomination that way.

Dean may not have been our best choice, but we are going to have to live with him. The desperate and unfair attacks on him have to stop. Time to calm down and make the best of where we are.

I think Dean has a shot, and the arrogance of the White House in writing him off sounds almost precisely like the arrogance of the Carter White House in 1980, writing off that other nominee who was too extreme to win: Ronald Reagan.

Two things struck me as questionable in this piece. This: "...in the long term, blocking the active participation of these millions may do more damage to the Democratic Party than four more years of George W. Bush."

The most important thing is that four more years of Bush would be a real disaster for the country (that very passion is, of course, largely what's fueling Dean's and others' campaigns); it would also simply be humiliating and even preposterous for the Democratic party to lose this election to someone like W. Bush. I hated losing to Reagan, but W. Bush is no Reagan. Bush has been patently, screamingly inept. He's Reagan without the 'gravitas' (?). If we refuse to have a sense of humor about ourselves - at this late date - and fail to beat this Bush, then what good are we?! I know that the presidency isn't the be-all-end-all of American politics, but it's not nothing(!). I have voted Democratic in every election since '76, and frankly, if we turn out to be feckless in this election as we have been so often in the past, I don't really give a damn about the 'party'. Sorry. The country is in real trouble. I know the party is important long-term, but...important for what, exactly? To whimper-about and react-to the GOP? To win back State Houses (important, but...). To paraphrase President Clinton, the Federal Government is still relevant! Since it's going to be a while before we can take back Congress, shouldn't we get very serious now, and not even think along the lines of 'Dean might possibly win'?. Please.

The other thing which didn't ring true: "Besides, insurgents do win sometimes."... after which he quotes Dean invoking Andrew Jackson, and also brings up Harold Washington. The problem with Dean is not that he's an insurgent; the problem is that he's not a very good national candidate. This shouldn't be, and probably isn't really, a fight between party insiders and an insurgent. If Dean was a great candidate, I don't think any 'insider' opposition would make enough difference to matter. As it is, Dean is no Andrew Jackson (or Harold Washington). He is a very smart man, and seems to be a somewhat brilliant administrator, but he's an overall-incoherent candidate. Of course it's possible that Dean could win the general, but it's very unlikely.

I think people are foolish, in more ways than one, to ignore John Edwards. In an earlier post, someone summed up one piece of conventional wisdom about Edwards, saying: '...a nice man whose time is not now'. Why are all the arguments against him are vague, ephemeral? He IS in fact a nice man, and one I wouldn't want to be in any kind of fight with. There's steel under that smile. And I'd also submit that this is exactly his time. He's the best Dem. candidate I've seen in a long time - better than Clinton is some ways - and the perfect opponent of W. Bush. In fact, the candidates whose time is clearly 'not now' are named Gephardt, Lieberman and - unfortunately - Kerry (who I like a lot). It's Edwards or Clark, or Dean. Take another look at Edwards (C-SPAN/60 Minutes this weekend). He's the guy Rove doesn't want to run against. I've even had Dems say to me 'Yeah, he could probably beat Bush, but this is only his first try'. What?! This is Bush on HIS first try at ANYTHING really substantial. Beating Bush is job one, as far as I'm concerned. Furthermore, Edwards is the only one not baiting/making-a-fool-of-themselves vis a vis Dean. What don't people like about him? His accent? His hair? Really, what?

Anyway, the bottom-line question is: is it about the country or is it about the party? Of course the answer is 'both', but, as we flirt with the idea of - nobly, earnestly - getting tangled-up in our own feet again in 2004, I would remind people that the country comes first: you build-up a party by governing, not govern by building-up a party.

Upper Left Corner (and others)

I am not unaware of the good points favoring Howard Dean. If he were running for Senate in virtually any state up this year, I'd be strongly supporting him. You can join the Senate and have a learning curve on Foreign and Military and Diplomatic policy and matters -- but President (especially now) has to be prepared to engage on Day One. Dean is simply not ready.

I actually began this election cycle back in 2001 supporting Dean. I was on a number of message board making the argument that Gore had run a perfectly terrible campaign, didn't deserve renomination, and folk ought to start looking for alternatives, and I recommended Dean's Vermont Governor Web site, and a short list of interesting articles. But then came 911, and like it or not, that changed things. No Democrat can win in 04 unless he can go toe to toe with Bush on International Issues showing a greater mastery of the players and the concepts -- and do it in such a way that people believe "the new guy" will be a better bet on national security than Bush is. It's the "are you better off...." question for 2004. It cannot be dismissed. Many voters may not understand the details of particular policy matters (Remember on 912 the New York Times did a quick survey to find out whether Americans knew where Afghanistan was -- and it seems that 17% could roughly locate it on an outline map -- and the poll gave credit for people who slopped over a bit into Pakistan and Iran.) Americans are not well read on International Affairs -- they don't pay attention to the details, but they comprehend Security, and they are "for it." That was the paradigm during the cold war -- and with a few adjustments, it is back again. In 1992 the Democrats were able to win with someone who had not supported Vietnam, and had little international or foreign policy record, in part because they were quietly dropping their focus on security -- today I don't think the Clinton of 92 could get much support.

My decision to support Clark was gradual -- it involved reading his first book, Waging Modern War when it first came out in the spring of 2001, being impressed with his TV appearances particularly what I call his "teaching style" -- Clark likes to move you to yis position with fairly dense talking points that provoke thought. It is an interesting contrast to the "take a position" mode. I actually think Clark can make thinking trump Bush's appeals to Faith -- and that structure has to be part of a winning Dem 04 candidacy.

Enough with the wishful thinking about what might have been with Clark or Edwards or Kerry. Dean may be far from the ideal nominee, but is going to be our nominee. There is no way that the next few weeks will change that. We should start thinking about how he can win.

Those of you who are bellyaching about what a bad candidate Dean is should have thought of that before you destroyed the old nomination process with the mad rush to front-load it. When every state is early, no state is early. When nomination events happen before most of the public notices, the candidate with the most committed supporters wins.

Also: foreign policy gravitas is a fine thing, but recent service in Congress is a terrible hindrance to a presidential candidate that only the likes of a Kennedy can overcome. The people who get elected president are governors, or recent governors, and Dean was the only one running.

My definition of a national election is one where we all vote for the same office.

If you want to change your statment from losing 2 out of 3 national elections to losing 2 out of 3 federal elections, I want quibble.

Conjucture is stating: Clark is more electable, because he can win "x" red state(s). That's opnion, not evidence.
Your opinion appears to be based upon the idea that Clark is a general and thus has some foreign policy credentials and will appeal to southernors. that sort of thinking is not based upon any empirical fact, that just your prejudices about the South speaking.

1st off the South is GOP territory. I'm a southernor, I live with that fact. Southerners are not going to vote for Clark, just because he is a general. Max Cleland was a bonified war hero, he actually leaped on a grenade to save his comrades. Max lost. Max was villified. Max Cleland's heroism and uniform were not enough to get Southerners to vote for him.

The only empirical evidence we have for military service and elections for president are the results since 1980. The results show 3 presidents with no military service (or in Dubya's case, desertion) who were elected over candidates (some of whom had the power of incumbancy, I might add). If you think military service is an automatic ticket or that military service will inoculate candidates to GOP attacks, you haven't been paying attention.

There are no Southern swing states other than Florida. 1992 was an aberation, Georgia barely went Democratic. In 1996, in a referendum election on a successful president with a ticket of southerners, it went Dole. NC hasn't voted Democratic since before 1980. Since 1980, Lousiana voted Democratic once- in the 1996 referendum election on a successful president with a ticket of southerners (which only shows Louisanians were more logical than my fellow Georgians). Arkansas and Tennessee votes can probably be attributed to Clinton and Gore being on the ticket, and in 2000, they went GOP.

The South is GOP territory for the foreseeable future. We are better off trolling for votes in the SW for reasons stated below. I have no empirical proof that Dean will do better than Clark in those states, but I see nothing that says he won't do better.

You don't have any empirical proof that Clark will do better, just your apriori belief that the uniform will help. Clark will get hammered with his flip flop on the war (which he will handle) and the video of him praising Bush/Cheney (which will undercut him and undermine him his arguement).

The only evidence we have are the polls and how well a candidate campaigns.

Discount if you wish, polls of democratic voters in the primary. How do you explain in the polls done after Saddam's capture, in head to head match ups with Bush, that Clark polled no better and worse than Dean against Bush?

Dean has run a hell of a campaign so far And I am not just talking about the internet part. Clark's campaign has improved, but its not showing that it is particullarly great. Perhaps it will.

Joe Klein recently stated that Dean is a better politician than the rest of the Democratic field. I happen to agree. That's not empirical evidence either. But the better politicians have a record of being elected over their competitors- see Reagan over Carter & Mondale, Bush over Dukakis, Clinton over Bush & Dole and Dubya over Gore.

Dean actually has won elections, that makes him by definitition electable. Clark has never won an election. That makes him unknown, not hands down more electable. Calling Clark more electable is no the same as actually being more electable.

Give me positive reasons for Clark over Dean and I will listen. Waste my time on 'electablity' in the face of the only evidence we have on the subject and I will ignore you. As I started out in this thread. Don't tell me how electable you are- proove it.

1) I agree with those who say our debate is unlikely to matter much: Dean is a prohibitive favorite to win the nomination at this point. He has the highest poll numbers, the most money, and the best grassroots organization. The National Journal's, "Democratic Insider Poll" (http:/nationaljournal.com/deminsiderpoll.htm) gives him 44 out of 50 first place votes, Gephardt 2nd, Clark 3rd, Edwards 4th, and Kerry 5th.

2) Given this likely state of affairs, I think it makes sense for us to continue our discussion with the following groundrules: those who don't support Dean as your first choice, continue to make your arguments for why your candidates would be stronger, but do so without belittling Dean or his supporters, or without sounding like Karl Rove. I think Lieberman's behavior over the past week has been outrageous. Self-indulgent Dean bashing needs to stop. I respect Edwards and Clark for the way they have stayed out of the mud. Those of us who support Dean, as our first choice, need to remember that no one has voted yet and that everyone else has a right to try to make their case.

3) Acknowledge each others well made points. The reason I post here is to try to have an intelligent discussion with other people, to clarify my own thinking, and to gain insights from others. I hope this is something more than political trash-talking.

Sara: Thanks for responding with a thoughful post.

I agree that national security is a potentially significant area of vulnerability for Dean. However, I think it is important to seperate vulnerability based on perception from vulnerability based on policy.

Dean's perceived vulnerability is based on 1) his lack of military sevice, 2) his lack of foriegn policy experience, and 3) his opposition to the Iraq war. Let me comment on each.

First, Dean's medical deferment will hurt him with some, particularly with veterans, but Bush's own AWOL National Guard experience makes him unable to push this too far. The voters accepted both Clinton and Bush's avoidance of service. I think they will accept Dean, if they think he is up to the job of Commander and Chief.

Second, four of the past five Presidents were Governors who were elected with no foriegn policy experience. I don't think most voters know much about foriegn policy issues and they don't vote based on foriegn policy experience. I think they make an assessment of the candidate's temperment and character. Is this guy up to the job, or isn't he? Dukakis flunked because he came across as a wimp. Gore was hurt because he was portrayed as a nerd and a wishy-washy, liar. IMO, Dean comes across as strong, smart, and direct. These characteristics won't keep him from being attacked as weak, but they will help keep those attacks from sticking.

Third, Dean's opposition to the war in Iraq needs to be seen as a potential strength as well as a potential weakness. The potential weakness is obvious, if Dean is seen as "soft on terrorism," he will loose votes. On the other hand, Dean's principled opposition to the war, inspite of widespread media bashing, gives his critique of Bush's foreign policy additional credibility. It makes him appear to be someone with the fortitude to stand up for what he believes. This is political judo: by being willing to stand-up for what is perceived to be an unpopular position, Dean appears strong. If he can make the case that the war was based on manipulation, unnecessary to protect us from any emminent danger, horribly expensive, damaging to our alliances and international moral standing, he can turn the public's doubt about the war to his benefit.

Dean's actual policy positions are very strong and well within the mainstream of the foriegn policy establishment. In fact, Dean's ideas are far more mainstream than the radical, neo-con, unilateralist, pre-emptive policy that Bush has pursued.

The real question is whether Dean can get his mainstream message heard over the din of the media and the right-wing trying to portray him as weak. I don't think any of us really knows the answer to this question. I do know that the calculus going on in the minds of most voters is far more complicated than the simple, "Bush is strong, Dean is weak," conventional wisdom.

Upper Left - I agree with nearly all of what you say, but leave out one critical piece of understanding - candidates and candidacies are defined in the minds of the vast majority of all voters based on very non-intellectual and minimally-analytical criteria. This is an image oriented society, and a profoundly non-intellectual one.

You can make arguments all day how Dean is smart and capable and for those and other reasons will do just fine in handling foreign policy issues. But this doesn't matter, because the vast majority of voters has very little space and time for the nuances of policy. 90% of voters will not parse the issues like you. Dean is already defined as not having experience, and his opponent is now extremely experienced (regardless of his competence.)

So you misunderstand that Dean's weakness is easily combatted with knowledge and argument - especially when the one arguing is already regarded personally as argumentative. Dean may not have many weaknesses, but the ones he does have are large enough to drive trucks through. Regular people don't like being told that their aspiring President knows more than they do. Condescension is death.

had to add: I generally agree with Sara's comments, but her insistence that Clark's intellectualism is a strength

The interesting thing about Clark is that he's in possession of an effective symbolic identity, is an intellectual but at the same time optimistic and gregarious, essential Presidential candidate qualities I dearly wish Dean had.

There can be no convincing empirical argument that one candidate is more electable when the criteria are not firmly specified. But I do believe that arguments about issue positions and personality and how these play with respect to the electoral college are persuasive in one candidate's favor. The personality part is a 'gut' thing, and it comes down to human experience and political experience.

oops, I should have said that Clark gets away with being intellectual for the reasons I mentioned when intellectualism is usually a big negative. Sorry.

Buford is correct that many, many voters make decisions based on superficial perception and images. In fact, though, I think he gives these voters more credit than they deserve when speculating on how much they will analyze this race.

That truth is that Dean's tough-guy, straight-shooter image is likely to be one of the most signifcant factors in both the primaries and general election. It's only my opinion, but I suspect that in the contest of Clark's background vs. Dean's style, Dean will win. (Actually, I think we're already seeing this in the polls.) And against War Admiral Bush, Dean's style, combined with the resources necessary to make sure the public knows the he will vigorously fight terrorism, will carry Dean to victory next year.

It is interesting that in poll after poll, Clark's numbers are going down. And Edwards is below Sharpton. Kerry is headed that way.

I agree that the electorate votes on image. Dean's straight talking image will serve him well. He doesn't sound canned, which, in my opinion is the major failing of the rest of the candidates. He does project an image of strength. He takes people on, doesn't back down and cower in the face of the Repubs, like most of the DC Democrats. If you check around the country, there are almost as many independents who are angry at Bush and who feel the country is on the wrong track. (See LA Times poll.) They see people laid off (or are themselves laid off), see the schools failing for lack of money, see tax cuts going to the rich. There is a radical middle, whether you in DC recognize it or not. Moreover, the demographics are with us here. Younger people (under 40) are by and large socially liberal, fiscally responsible. They know they will have to pay for the Boomers' mess. They are much more apt to respond to a message of fiscal responsibility, and are waking up to the fact that it matters to their future who is President. Finally, more and more people are tired of the Bush lies. As for national security, the farther you get from DC and NYC, the less it matters. It is economic security that matters in the rest of the country. Bush had far less foreign policy experience than Dean when he ran, and what has his experience of the last 3 years done for us? Alliances in tatters and Iraq a muddle and financial drain. Dean has what Bush doesn't have--the judgment and wisdom to listen to the right people and to make the right choices for America. He isn't afraid of diplomacy. He knows the world is too big and interconnected for this go-it-alone nonsense. That may play with a certain vocal group, but not with the majority of the country. And never discount Dean's stature as a doctor. He will level with the American people and a majority will respond. The Dems can take AZ, NV, NM, maybe WV, hold PA, make OH, MO, VA and FL competitive. This isn't a sure thing for Bush, and none of the other Dems is half the campaigner that Dean is.

I pray that you're right if Dean wins the nomination. Fiscal responsibility has traditionally been a non-sell in Presidential elections, but maybe you're right that enough has changed. I think Clark's style *is* his background, and compared to Dean and considering the issues landscape of this election (and Dean's tax position), Clark is superior, but that's just my opinion.

I still see a Dean nomination as a huge gamble, but one thing isn't a gamble: don't listen to anyone who claims to know "for sure". Yeah, we'll see. There's really a point where we throw up our hands and say, "we have no freaking idea".

I think there is a great deal of confusion around the question, what does it mean to be prepared to be President in terms of International Affairs -- be that a matter of understanding Economic Policy, Culture, Military issues, Diplomatic History and much else.

George W. Bush was probably the least well prepared person to become President in History in these terms -- in 2001. But he has had a 4 year tutorial now (at our expense) so diddy little things like AWOL and all that makes not a mite of difference. He has to be attacked on his current vision, his current policy, his mode or execution -- and only someone who knwos these matters cold, and is experienced can do the job.

I just watched Clark on C-Span at a VFW Post Pancake Breakfast for a couple of hours work a good crowd, and there are a couple of examples of competence in that event.

Someone asked him about Libya, and Qadhafi's decision to give up WMD. In less than a minute he ticked off the elements of the issue back to the Carter Administration, making the point that the key success regarding Libya had been Clinton's -- he was the one who negotiated the trial under Scottish Law of the Libyan intelligence agents, and that Qadhafi's current decision was the result of diplomatic follow through on Clinton's approach. It was masterful.

That kind of "range" of background knowledge on international security issues that Clark can execute on the fly is what scares the Sh*** out of Rove and the Bush team. That's why we all schould be clued in on how they are pushing "Dean" as our nominee before anyone has had a chance to vote, and while in New Hampshire -- and many other places, nearly half the voters say they have no preference yet. In fact all this business of "its already decided" is precisely the kind of propaganda one needs to watch out for as Rove presses his preference on us, and tries to do all possible to diminish the vote and the Democratic participation in our own primary/caucus process.

While any good President has exceptional advisors who work long hours, and know their stuff -- it is important for a President to know enough about International Affairs to actually direct and manage the process. In the forthcoming election, it would be nice to see someone actually attack Bush on what he knows. For instance, I understand that the first time he comprehended the conflict between Sunni and Shia in Iraq was about a month before the invasion, when Wolfie brought Chablis around for an introduction in the Oval Office -- and when he and his INC folk started talking about the Sunni/Shia conflict, Wolfie shut them up -- too complex for the President. Don't bother him with such details. Well -- that may be fine for the Texas Barbarque crowd, but I want a campaign where someone who has mastered material details puts the screws to Bush on them. I don't think Dean can do it, because he is not all that well read either.

If you notice, Clark does not spend a good deal of time on moral arguments in international affairs, on good and bad, evil and OK -- he jumps into the issue and strings together the hard issues that are in fact the source of conflict. That's what competence is all about.

Question for Sara:

Is your concern with Dean and foriegn affairs based on perception or substance? Do you fear that he will be perceived as lacking competence and therefore is not electable, or do you think he would perform poorly as President?

I have not spent a lot of time comparing the specific foriegn policy positions of Dean and Clark, but my general impression is that they are generally compatible (one of the reasons I would like to see a Dean/Clark ticket). I hope you read my earlier post about my conversations with General Tony McPeak the retired Air Force Chief of Staff who endorsed Dean. He was very impressed by Dean's grasp of foriegn and military affairs.

Regarding Bush, I could have a debate on national TV with "Dubya" and make him look stupid. This is less a comment on my vast knowledge than it is a comment on his pitiful command of the issues. During the debates in 2000, Bush was helped by the very low expectations of the media, and by the fact that he did not have a foriegn policy record to defend. I think either Clark or Dean will do very well in a debate against Bush next fall.

Getting back to our discussion of electability, I think it is very easy to "out-think" the swing-voters who will make the difference next November. Swing voters are not a homogeneous group of moderates. They are a collection of diverse groups who lack a clearly formed political idealogy and who respond to different types of appeals in different situations.

For the most part these voters are less engaged and less knowledable than those on the left and the right. They do not know or care about Clark's amazing grasp of the background of the situation in Libya (most of them don't know who Qadahfi is, and they don't know where Libya is on a map).

If these voters cared about foriegn affairs competance in any detailed way, "Dubya" would never have been elected. Their concern with foriegn affairs comes down to a gut level reaction about whether a candidate is up to the job. They evaluate candidates based on something they do understand which is values, character, and temperment. Gore ran circles around Bush in terms of knowledge and experience, but he still lost (or at least did not win by enough to keep Katherine Harris and the Supremes from stealing the election). The reason Gore lost is that Bush and the right-wing succeeded in getting enough swing-voters to question Gore's character.

What is truly amazing is how good the right-wing has become at character assasination. Having destroyed Clinton and Gore, they will be even more emboldened to come after this year's Democratic nominee. Rather than discussing knowledge, experience, or even policy, what we should be talking about is how these guys will stand up to the inevitable onslaught.

Will Clark's stars protect him from attack? No! Will Dean be savaged to the point that his own mother will question why she ever gave birth to him? Yes!

The real question is how will these guys fight back. I think Dean's populist rhetoric is the best defense. You have the power. Take back your government. Don't let them divide us. These slogans shift the ground of the discussion. It makes the voter identify with the campaign and the candidate, so that when Rove attacks Dean, he is also attacking the voter. I think this is the reason that Dean appears to have Teflon. His numbers have continued to grow inspite of an avalanche of criticism. What do the rest of you think?

Clark advantage over Dean on security issues is a matter of perception rather than substance

Ooops! The last sentence of my post below should have been deleted.

Go back and watch the War Room in 1992 and listen to Carville pat himself on the back for what a "revolutionary" campaign he put together. Then think about what Trippi's doing. They thought they were revolutionary because they didn't wear ties to work. Trippi's the real deal and the party desperately needs him.

Competence in the areas of Foreign Affairs and International Relations is not one dimensional. It is not at all about electorial positions staked out in the campaign process. In fact I suspect the differences between Dean and Clark are pretty minimal in the "staked out turf" arena. The question is -- does one know how to do it? My own conclusion is that Dean would have to learn, but Clark has been engaged in "doing it" for at least a dozen years of his military career -- and thus one can look at his craft, and assess.

I first heard of Clark during a conversation with Paul Wellstone in 1994. Paul was a good friend of mine for about 30 years, and I worked on his first campaign in 1990. (You get to win one such campaign in a long political life.) Anyhow Minnesota has one of the largest populations of ethnic Yugoslavians in the country, on the Iron Range, and during the campaign Paul was getting lots of questions about the political break up -- and one of my little jobs was to find among our supporters a few people who comprehended the problem and arrange for them to brief Paul. After he went to DC, and found "no joy" from Bush One on that matter, we used to banter for a few minutes when we met about what was new in Bosnia or Croatia -- and then in 1992, Paul was very strong convincing Clinton to put the issue into the campaign. (Paul wrote that segment of Clinton's issue paper.) But then when Clinton came in and not much happened in the early months, again he had to badger the White House, make himself unpopular with Tony Lake and all. Again -- everytime I saw him, we updated.

Finally, in 1994, Paul was all joy. Clinton had found a new team to work Bosnia, and as they started he got briefed by Clark and Holbrooke. Saw him shortly after that when he was himself just back from a trip to Bosnia and Serbia -- and while the end had not been yet turned, He was confident it would be, because he saw Clark and Holbrooke as competent. Paul could and did visit the range and tell his supporters (Rangers are 85% Democratic voters), that the right team had been found -- things would happen. And they did.

I suspect that's one reason I bought and read Clark's book when it first came out in spring, 2001. I wanted to know more about the qualities of the person (s) who organized the Europeans who so completely disagreed on what to do -- and had then managed to push through the DC maze an actual policy, plus a plan for achieving it -- and then managed it through the Dayton negotiations to a reasonable conclusion. It is really when you follow a story such as this through from its beginnings in the 1980's through all the Bush/Baker policy failures (of absence of policy), and then look at how tough it was to actually build policy -- and then actually do it -- that you comprehend the qualities of what I call competence. So it is one part remembering Paul saying "these new guys are really good -- they know how to push the system" and then the more relaxed stance of sipping some good tea while reading Clarks Book, and Holbrooke's book -- (and a few others), and comprehending all the details behind the accomplishment.

This is not to Argue that Dean might not have such skills -- he might, and with a little experience he might do well, but I don't have any evidence for that and no one else does either. Dean governed a state with about half the population of my metro area. Sorry -- that is not the main stage, it is very off off Broadway.

Clark worked in Jerry Ford's White House for Alexander Haig, and then went to NATO as his aide, and that afforded him an inside look at how things worked. During the Carter years, Clark was in the Pentagon, working in the same office with Colin Powell -- and together they had the job of reorganization from the draft army to the all volunteer army. (that involved massive changes many of which stepped on congressional toes.) So for 4 years he executed re-organization. And while that was going on, he did the advanced Staff Course at the War College, and his special project was a massive analysis of the Pentagon Papers, essentially identifying all the points in Vietnam decisions between 1945 and 1969 where the Army had been asked to weigh in on decisions, and critique the content of the decisions, identirying where and why they went so terribly wrong. Clark's paper -- still classified I think, but referenced in some open literature -- is considered stunning. Now I don't expect Clark as President to be doing that sort of analysis -- what we need now is someone who knows how to drive that kind of quality analysis from State, Defense, CIA, NSA and all the rest. All the special lobbies -- whether they be the Wolfowitz crowd or any other thrive in an environment where official policy analysis is crap -- that's how you "privatize" national policy. To reverse this, we need to re-build the public sector of analysis, and that can only be done by someone who understands why the goal is important -- and knows how to make it happen. Put simply, you need to be committed to making the machinery actually work again. I don't think Dean knows the first thing about this -- and it would take him at least a term to learn.

Don't be fooled by Bush's dumb act -- He has very few facts at his command (real facts as opposed to wrong headed facts), and he does not like to listen to alternatives -- but Bush is smart in another way, he understands how to gain the trust of the anti-intellectuals and the lazy folk who don't read much, because he can quickly negate a whole concept by focusing on a niggling detail. Somehow I think a smiling General will be better able to take it to him than a Doctor -- but that should be what the pre-primary/caucus should be about.

Sara- Thanks for a good post. Its nice to here from someone who actually knows the candidate and has some sense of what kind of a person he or she is.

Regarding the substance of your post, it appears that you are addressing actual experience and competance rather than perceived competance which is an "electability" issue.

I recognize that Dean lacks experience in foriegn policy. He will need good advice from his national security team, and will probably stumble a few times in the early going. But, according to General McPeak he has good instincts, listens well, and has chosen some good people to advise him.

Your right that Clark has a deeper understanding and easy command of these issues. On the other hand, if you want to talk domestic policy, Dean has the same advantage.

In a way, our support for our respective candidates comes down to our own values and priorities. My interest in this election is two-fold. First, I want to stop Bush. I believe his policies are truly corrosive to our country's soul. We need to stop him now.

Secondly, I want to build a pragmatic, progressive movement in this country. A movement that will be able to reform our campaign finance laws in order to make our democracy able to function.
A movement that will care about genuine equality of opportunity and will require corporate responsibility. Dean is saying things (see his Common Sense and his new Social Contract speech) I have been feeling for over two decades.

The bottom line is that the Dems need to stand for something. We need to have a coherent political philosophy. Since 1968, our political discussions have been on Republican turf. Dems have been on the defensive. Carter and Clinton were both decent, smart guys who managed to win by cleverly positioning themselves on Republican turf.

IMO, Dean is the first Dem in thirty years who holds the possibility of moving our national political discussion back on to Democratic turf. Clark is the safe, carefully positioned, CW candidate. Dean is the vision thing. Not since Bobby Kennedy was shot have the Dems had a tough, articulate, visionary candidate. It is about time!

Y'know, part of the problem is that the "Dean is unlectable meme" is being peddled by *our own freakin' side*. Of course that gives it immediate street cred with the media types, who then transform it into "conventional wisdom." Which then becomes a burden potential presidential candidate Dean will have to bear in the general election.

If Dean does wind up not being "electable", how much of this will be the result of our own internecine squabbles?

Upper Left Corner says.....


Yes, I agree with the need to build a modern progressive movement -- but doing that is really more about a massive campaign to elect lower level officials, State Legislators and all -- and eventually know how to mount successful progressive Senate and House races. The only campaigns that really accomplished that in recent years were the McCarthy and McGovern campaigns that did bring into local and state office a whole generation of good progressives across the country -- our problem is we have not moved a new generation ub behind them, a new generation that comprehends different issue sets, understands changeing demography, and is open to experimentation with new political forms.

But the need to do that -- and I think it is damn critical -- does not dictate my Presidential choice, because yes indeed, I think competence in International Relations is a profound need. It is only the President who constitutionally does the US Foreign Policy -- but Domestic Policy has many many leaders, not only in DC, but in the state capitols.

I see virtually no difference between the positions's Clark has staked out on Domestic Issues and those that Dean has taken. At Clark's site you can read his nearly 30 position papers on Domestic Issues -- and they are pretty mainstream Democratic. On some, I think Clark is tougher than Dean -- his Environmental 100 year Vision statement is his own long term developed work -- he is far more pointed in his attack on Bush's effort to not only destroy the public school tradition, but to deny higher education to the less well off. The question is who can be the stand up initiator of new approaches -- provide the leadership, and then lead all the levels of government to execute better policy. That's the key question. It is not just the turf you stake out, it is the ability to convince people to move in different directions. I simply think Clark has that gift --

Domestic issues are much, much, much easier to grasp and master than foreign policy, diplomacy, world history, etc. It's not even close. Try it yourself at home sometime.

That's why it's a good argument that Clark's non domestic advantage is much greater than Dean's domestic advantage. That's as far as "being President" goes. Arguing about the campaign is a different matter.

Check out the most recent Washington Post/ABC News poll of Dems and independents leaning for Dems: Dean 31%, Gep 8%, Kerry 8%, Lieb 8%, Clark 7%.

If you get into the guts of the poll, several things are striking. Dean's support is nationwide, he polls as high in the south as he does the east. He is pulling 41% of the black vote. So much for the notion that he can't appeal to blacks because he is from Vermont. He polls higher among independents leaning towards the Dems than among party faithful. So much for the notion that he is only supported by the hardcore liberal activist crowd and won't be able to broaden his base of support.

Face it folks, Dean is going to get the nomination. Clark is probably the only candidate with the money and credibility to challenge Dean, but he continues to get very little traction. I have been saying it for weeks now: Clark does not connect with the voters emotionally. He appeals to a certain set of voters who like his resume and who buy the "Dean isn't electable" argument. He is not generating much buzz beyond this group.

As for the electability argument itself, why is Clark only pulling 4% in the all important mid-west? The reality is that this election will be fought out in the industrial mid-west and in the southwest, far more than in the south. Clark continues to look great on paper and flat on the ground.

The real question is how long will the Dems continue to engage in cannibalism? How long will they continue to give Rove sound bites to use against Dean? How long will they keep trying to assail Dean's credibility? Do we really want to beat Bush, if so, the Dean bashing needs to stop.

Upper Left, while trends are evident, the game is far from over. 5,10,15 point changes have happened within the course of a month many, many times in history. Selective citations of polls with varying methodology does not prove anything.

And I personally know plenty of people who connect emotionally with Clark. Shows you that you're in a bubble just like the beltwayers.

Face it, Upper Left, nobody knows what's gonna happen. But some of us do look beyond polling toward issue positions and how they play out among the general public. You may be right in general. But you may be wrong. Like many Dean-fans on the net, your singleminded insistence and sureness is grating to me and many others.

It's not successful persuasion, either in content or in style, and something that you need to learn to do your best in this game, and your motivation to do so is clearly evident. Your efforts will be appreciated when you let a little uncertainty, a little humility, and a little more experience and objectivity into your writing. Sorry to come down like this, but I'm just really tired of being lectured on Dean triumphalism.

I am hardly a "Dean fan", but I recognize the inevitability of a Dean nomination at this point. The arguments for the other candidates (much as I admire their good qualities) are now at the level of wishful thinking.

Of course we don't know what the next few weeks will hold, but after the next few weeks, it is over. There simply isn't time for a new frontrunner to emerge. What we have is NOTHING like 1972 or 1976 or any previous year. We don't have a lengthy series of nomination events stretching to June any more. It wasn't Dean who fought for this insanely front-loaded process, but Dean is the beneficiary.

This is not triumphalism, it is recognition of reality. And the reality is that the nasty attacks on Dean are destructive to our chances next November.

Kerry and Lieberman might have made better nominees, but their current tactics are beneath contempt.

Yes -- it is strange that the Dean Team that talks about restoring the Democrat in Democratic Party is opening the Champagne before any votes are cast. I so well remember 1984 when Alan Cranston was polling as second in Iowa, Glenn as third -- and Hart nowhere, and at a late forum someone asked a question about Agriculture Parity as policy. Cranston answered in terms of California's Ag industries (which he represented), and that was the end of him in Iowa. Hart knew how to finess the question, and he came in second. It is only in Iowa that anyone understand's old Henry Wallace's theory of Parity, and where it is necessary knowledge to win elections. And yes, something similar could happen again. Let's watch trends, but keep the flutes on the shelf till the votes are counted.

While the primaries/caucuses are front loaded, they are also not "winner take all" -- and it could be that delegate count will really matter this year. Now is the time to bone up on your rules of delegate selection -- and look at some of the large states and how they are trending. (that is not Iowa and New Hampshire) -- in fact, I can see Iowa's vote divided four ways at this juncture given the trends. Talk about Dean as inevitable is in some measure, just a bit of propaganda -- get on the train before it leaves the station. Well, when we still see 20-30% undecided, It is too early for that tactic.

I suppose it's not inconceivable (given his inexperience on the national stage) that Howard Dean could commit some ghastly blunder that would instantly alienate enough people to cost him the nomination. Or he could die in a plane crash.

But absent this kind of political catastrophe for the Dean campaign, I think they have it wrapped up.

My saying that is not a "tactic" -- I am not a Dean partisan. It is a recognition that only person who could change the chemistry at this point is Dean himself.

And no, I'm not consuming any champaigne over this. I'm just trying to make the best of it. Since I expect to be running on the Democratic ticket (for a county office) with Dr. Dean in November 2004, I had BETTER make the best of it.

I've been involved in Democratic politics for more than thirty years, worked in multiple states, and I can reminisce with the rest of you about how a tiny little gaffe about farm price policy could undermine a candidate in Iowa and change the outcome in later states. This year, there isn't time for state-to-state dynamics like that to develop. The ship of state can't turn on a dime.

It's a cruel fact that due to the front-loading, actual votes in primaries and caucuses have been devalued, in comparison to polls and the national media. As I keep saying, that is the inevitable consequence of making every state "early".

The delegate selection process isn't winner-take-all, but 15% per district is the minimum to get any delegates at all. Right now, none of the non-Dean candidates is consistently above 15%.

Speaking from bitter experience, it doesn't work to have other like-minded candidates withdraw and endorse you. Their supporters came together for diverse reasons, and cannot be delivered en masse.

I'm not calling on Clark or anybody else to give up just yet. But given the unlikelihood of any other outcome, I do come down pretty harshly on anti-Dean attacks and divisive tactics which will only be used against us in 2004.

Brilliant Idiot:

My, my, my, aren't we a bit testy today:

"some of us look beyond polling toward issue positions and how they play out out among the general public... your singlemindedness and sureness is grating... your efforts will be appreciated when you let a little uncertainty, a little humility and a little experience and objectivity into your writing."

Hmm, where to start? It is tempting to pull my Dean bat out and beat you with it verbally. It might be entertaining and no doubt it would cheer me up. However, that would be self-indulgent and accomplish nothing. The arrogance and dismissiveness of your own post is clearly evident. You seem to have a serious case of the "pot calling the kettle black."

Anyone who has actually read my posts over the past couple of weeks knows that I have not been dismissive of the points of view of others on this board. I have repeatedly attempted to draw others into a thoughful discussion of the electability issue. I have repeatedly stated my argument that the convetional wisdom is wrong and have tried to lay out an analysis of voter behavior and candidate positioning that justifies my critique.

Not once, in the past two weeks, have you or anyone else on this board addressed the substance of my arguments as to why the CW is wrong. Sara and a few others have shared thoughtful posts about their reasons for supporting Clark, but no one has bothered to respond to the substance of my analysis regarding populism, character, and voter behavior.

Look, the electability issue is very important. You and I may not agree on everything, but I do hope that we agree that the Dems cannot afford to screw up this year and nominate the wrong person. We need to beat Bush. Therefore, we need to have a thoughtful discussion of these issues.

You may be irritated by "Dean triumphalism."
I am irritated by the dismissiveness and arrogance of many Clark supporters. You seem to take it as a given that anyone who disagrees with you is ignorant and niave. I have twenty-five years of experience in politics: I have worked in campaigns at all levels; I have been a professional community organizer; a lobbyist in three states; the chief administrator of a legislative committee; a health policy analyst; and an upper level administrator of aging services programs. I would like to consider myself reasonably well read on issues of political strategy. I say these things not because I want to toot my own horn, but because we all need to respect one another and not make too many assumptions about who we are talking to in here.

It is not a given that Clark is more electable. It is not a given that Dean will get the nomination, although most knowledgable observers think that it is becoming harder and harder to construct reasonable scenarios for other candidates.

Let's get back to a thoughtful discussion without a lot of name calling. I would be very pleased if any of you would actually respond to my substantive criticisms of the CW on the electability question.

Yikes, you're right, Upper Left, I'm sorry. But I do have too much experience with Deaniacs that are quite different from you.

I actually think there's no way to really objectively argue electability. It's just personal gut, and experience has shown me my gut is good (judging personality/likeability, issue positions, voter preference). My gut says Dean is a maybe, and Clark is significantly nore appealing. Now that's not gonna score any points with you or bloggers. Most of the political people in the real world whose judgement I respect most agree with me. But we all acknowledge that we could be wrong. Because nobody knows. You did say, "Face it," Deans gonna win.

And I think any triumphalism is naive. But I've certainly seen much more of it from Dean supporters on the net.

Thanks for the apology, Brilliant Idiot.

I too should apologize for my "face it, Dean is gonna win" comment. I got a bit carried away with my enthusiasm. It would have been more accurate to say, "Dean's momentum just keeps building, in spite of Saddam's capture, and in spite of all the attacks from both the right and the left."

You are right that it is difficult to objectively argue electability. Sometimes I worry that my desire to see Dean pull-it-off and beat Bush is clouding my judgement. Wanting something doesn't make it so.

I agree with your assertion that many Dean supporters don't understand the obstacles that he will have to overcome. When I got involved with the Dean campaign a couple of months ago I was really struck be the fact that many of the grassroots people are very new to the political scene.

I think it is a "good news," "bad news" situation. The bad news is that many seasoned activists are still sitting on the sidelines or backing other candidates. The good news is that Dean's message it really resonating with a huge number of people who are usually on the sidelines. I realize that it is taken as established fact by political strategists that candidates cannot significantly alter turnout, and that the political preferences of non-voters are not much different than those who do vote, but it is sure tempting to believe that people-powered-Howard is going to bring knew people and especially young people into the process.

Every time I go to a campaign meeting of event, what comes to mind is the famous lyric "something is happenin' here, what it is ain't exactly clear." It feels like a movement more than a campaign. I keep coming back to to the power of populism and my argument that it is more of a top/down thing than a right/left thing. It is part of the reason that I think Dean can draw in many of the disaffected voters who supported Perot and McCain.

The thing I worry about the most is Dean getting defined as extremist and unelectable before he can really get his message out to the voters. I hope that the other Dem candidates don't do too much of Rove's work for him.

I just cant see voting for a guy who is GOING TO RAISE MY TAXES for my family of four from $1500.00 obligation to $2900. This on a income is less then $50,000 a year. Also the 2 million poor people who DIDNT have to pay taxes last year, under Deans plan will end up being back on the Federal tax plan. I think people need to stop listening to the Dean anit war hate Bush rethoric and TRULY EXAMINE this mans ideas. I far as Im concerned he aint got it for the middle class folk like me. As far as sticking with what he says. Just go back to the Chris Mathews show were Dean looked like a complete Idiot. After I wathed that show I started taking a close look at this mans flip-flopping to pander to whoever will give him a vote. Im not a Bush fan, but of the 9 dwarfs possible, It looks as though my Democratic party will further shrink from its already lowest registared voters to a non existent party. Its a sad day when all we got is Dean.