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Karl Rove's Nightmare?

Readers may have thought DR was getting soft on Dean, what with his recent post on "Dean: The Good, the Bad and the Ugly". Certainly, his old buddy, the Deanophobe thought so.

Maybe it's time to revisit Wes Clark, "Karl Rove's Nightmare", as Richard Cohen puts it in an interesting column today in The Washington Post. The latest ARG tracking poll has Clark only 5 points behind Dean in New Hampshire.

If Clark comes in second or even beats Dean in NH then he's probably really got a shot and the two person race many have predicted may emerge. We'll see. In the meantime, consider this quote from Clark that's in the Cohen column: "I don't think it's patriotic to dress up in a flight suit and prance around". Clark can say something like this with conviction and authority. Dean can't. And in what is likely to be a very tough election for the Democrats, they're going to need all the conviction and authority they can get in this area.

Call it the "flight deck test", a close cousin to the "Ohio test" (which candidate can carry Ohio?) Which candidate can most effectively hold Bush up to ridicule for his disgraceful flight deck "mission accomplished" episode? Let's face it: that man's name is not Howard Dean.

Comments

Ruy,

Well said. This Dean nonsense needs to stop, unless one thinks "strategically losing in 2004" is the way to go (perhaps not as ridiculous as it sounds, but not a strategy to pursue either).

Ben p

Chris,

Good point. I used to like Dean, and still do to an extent. But his supporters are making it hard. Its like a lot of them really seem to have lost touch with reality - is there candidate of choice Howard Dean or Lyndon Larouche? Seriously, BlogforAmerica is cult-like. I really worry 20% of the Democratic primary vote (hard core Deaniacs) are going to cause the Party to fail to nominate the strongest candidate. This is what the primary is about - getting together to nominate the strongest general election candidate. And that person is not Howard Dean. The failure of many of his supporters to address many of his candidacy's potential weaknesses has really alienated me from him. At this point, I'm quietely cheering Kerry's and Edward's rise in Iowa as well as Clark's in NH.

Hoping for the Dean campaign to fizzle.

Ben P

Which candidate can say, convincingly, "I opposed the war in Iraq when it seemed like political suicide to do so", rather than "prancing" around a CNN set? Hint: it's not Wesley Clark.

Which candidate can say, convincingly, "I governed effectively as a Democrat for six terms," rather than flirting with the Republicans just a few years ago? Hint: it's not Wesley Clark.

BOTH candidates have their strengths and weaknesses, and you're fooling yourself if you don't think Clark has some major liabilities and vulnerabilities.

I'll support either one, gladly.

Jimmy,

Fair enough. But I'm not so sure war opposition is a great attribute for a general election candidate. Clark's rather murky position (like Kerry's) actually mirrors my own feelings in many ways, as I think it does more people than does outright opposition.

Furthermore, I think Dean carries the baggage of having totally alienated the Lieberman/DLC crowd. I know they aren't a lot of people, but for a Dem to win, at least a good chunk of these people need to be on board. At this point, Clark is a much more credible unifying figure.

And BTW, the Clark is a Republican meme is not a line of attack that does anything for me. In fact, I think it might end up helping Clark in the long run.

Ben P

Sweet, all over it. Dean could take us great places but we need Wes for this one.

I think a more salient test for non-partisan voters that you are talking about in the general election is the who'd you rather have a beer with test. And in a match up between George Bush and Wesley Clark the obvious choice is George Bush. I'd look forward to spitting on his political grave and I'd rather have a beer with Bush. Wesley Clark's resume isn't running against George Bush. Wesley Clark is. He comes across as a nerdy, plaintive weiner. Has anyone bothered to watch this guy campaign? It's painful.

For Americans who are going to vote on Security over the Economy a choice between the Cowboy and the General is also a no-brainer. It's going to be the Cowboy. Especially when the Cowboy starts harping on the fact that the General was fired from the job that is supposed to make him so qualified to be Commander in Chief. Close your eyes and picture those ads. There is bunch of General's waiting line to record them.

It's also unlikely that someone who voted for Nixon, Reagan and Bush I and spoke at fundraisers for Bush II can survive the Democratic primary season.

More importantly, it's disappointing to see the lack of concern for party building on a site that is supposed to be dedicated to figuring out how to build a Democratic Majority. The decay that continued under Clinton should have disabused all of us by now that a large donor operation tied to one big charismatic leader will build a Democratic Majority. It didn't. It led to the Republicans continuing to become the party of the people. It led to the Republicans continued domination of the terms of the political debate. And it led to the continued decay in Democrats ability to win Governorships, statehouses and Senate and Congressional seats.

It's going to take organization and strategic thinking about party building to do that. And that's not going to come from someone who joined the party a few weeks ago. (and isn't charismatic, really he's not. I think Camille Paglia hit the nail on the head a few months ago when she was sizing the candidates up a few months ago in her off the wall way in Slate - paraphrasing - Wesley Clark: sexless eunich. Don't underestimate the importance of sex appeal for a President)

To repeat myself from a thread here a few days ago: When I think of the success of the GOP in the last fifteen years, the names Gingrich, Delay, Reed, Norquist and Rove come to mind. Who are the Democratic analogues?

Only Clinton and some newly emerging names: Rosenthal, Pariser and Trippi. Those are the people that I believe will be the prime movers behind an Emerging Democratic Majority.

If I were an Anybody But Deaner I would be trying to figure out how to give John Edwards campaign some legs. He has the best shot of broad appeal, making the general about the economy, not security and pulling a dead heat in the who would you want to have a beer with match up.

As for me, I think the campaign that has shown the most organization, recruited the most volunteers, raised the most money and pushed to the front of the pack despite a torrent of bad press has the best shot at winning the election. And just as importantly, it stands a chance of building a party that can win elections down the ballot as well. They've already shown their willingness and ability to lend their fundraising operation to needy dems in close races.

Ben P, your're statement that Dean's supporters are making it hard to like Dean is one of the more politically immature comments I've heard in a while. (That's not fair, but it is sad that it would have any impact on your opinion of Dean)

The Deaniacs are one of the best things to happen to the party in a long time. The Democratic Party has become hard to care about. And they care. But they are mostly new to the party or they've been around and their passion has been rekindled.

There are well over three thousand out of state volunteers who have paid their own way to slog around freezing cold Iowa for a week and there are voices in the Democratic Party saying that this phenomenon must be stopped at any cost? Their disenfranchisement will be the Party's grave loss.

apologies for grammar. it's obviously time to go to bed

Marc,
As an American citizen, a serious follower of current events, a fellow Democrat and all-around political junkie, I must tell you that in my humble but learned opinion: Wesley Clark is a hottie!

I am so completely SICK of hearing fellow Democrats carp about how much they need to run on muddled, unprincipled non-beliefs in order to capture some small remnent of the former Confederacy. In doing so, they lose sight of the fact that the majority of Democrats who live in the REST of the nation aren't particularly interested in APPEARING conservative only to lose the election anyway.

Have any of you noticed that Democrats are out of power in all three branches of government? Might it be because when voters are given a choice between a Republican platform and Republican-like platform, they will go for the one that's the real thing every time? It's a wimpy approach, plain and simple and voters see right throught it. If Ruy's book teaches us anything, it's that we actually have demographics and philosophy on our side. Of course, if we're afraid to express our philosophy because it might offend white men over fifty in the Deep South, then we've lost the election long before the voting begins. How about appealing to Hispanics, Blacks, women, the working poor, elderly, disaffected veterans, the uninsured and WEST COASTERS and NORTHERNERS?

Trying to appeal to the DNC and Joe Lieberman? I suggest you go ahead and switch parties and put the rest of us out of your misery.

Philly Guy, you have it absolutely right. We have to come out swinging for our beliefs. We need more of the James Carville - "We're right, they're wrong." I hope we can convince enough people in the short run to win this election, but if we don't do it (profess our beliefs) we will be doomed in the long run. And by the way, if WE articulate our beliefs, we can state them correctly, rather than having the far right mischaracterize them.

PhillyGuy:

We should distinguish between perception and reality. Dean has the style of a left-wing populist, but really he's not further to the left than most of the other candidates. Clark's tax plan is actually more progressive than Dean's.

American Woman:

We know who you would want to have a beer with! I find it hard to see how people could not like Clark personally. His IQ is stratospheric, but he doesn't show off about it. And he has this "gee whiz!" air about him.

Marc:

The volunteers Dean has brought into the party are great, but no, they don't entitle Dean to anything. Votes will. You worry about how 3,000 out-of-state Dean volunteers in Iowa will be disenfranchised? How about the Iowans, don't they get a say?

Deanies... please chill. It's tough for your candidate right now -- it always is for the front-runner. But it's nothing compared to what Rove is going to unleash on your guy if he wins, so let it make him tougher and stronger.

Ruy,

Never thought I would see the day I would quote Reagan, but in the words of the gipper, "there you go again." Once again you provide us with a shallow electability argument that is based more on hot air than real analysis.

If everyone in the Dem field is so much more electable than Dean, where are the numbers? At pollingreport.com, which summarizes all the polls, Dean consistently does as well or slightly better than the other Dems in head-to-head match-ups with Bush.

I am not saying you and all the others who agree with you are wrong, but I am challenging you to give us some analysis to back up your position. Assuming your conclusion and constantly restating your opinion without backing it up is lousy social science and even worse politics.

The irony is that constant repitition of this assumed argument may very well create a self-fulfilling prophecy. You and all the other Dem pundits chanting the "Dean is unelectable" mantra, are clearly having an effect in Iowa and New Hamphsire. We are probably in for a long, bitter fight and no matter who eventually wins the nomination, he will have a lot of work to do to bring our party together. Sometimes I think I belong to a party of masochists.

What about Kerry? DR -- I think it's about time you address him -- he may be the new front runner in a week's time!

Did someone say that George W. is sexier than Wes Clark!?

As a hetero male, I may be no judge. But that scowling, beady-eyed little worm strikes me as the least sexy thing imaginable. And he wouldn't be my choice to have a beer with either.

Dean is great, and as Michael Moore said "I'll work enthusiastically for any of the non-Lieberman 8", but....
Based on the military service, the honesty and integrity, "a uniter, not a divider," intelligence and strategic planning ability, the working class background, the compassion, etc., etc....
Clark is the opposite of Bush.
If you honestly believe that Bush is the worst president of our lifetimes and a grave danger to life on earth if he actually wins this election (I do, just in case I'm being too subtle here :-), Clark has gotta look good to you.
Eric

We have fallen into the trap of reading the SCLM too much. The only nonsense that has said is calling Clark a Republican.

I remain a Deaniac. I really like the idea of Dean/Clark.

However, I will work and give just as much money to Clark/Dean. Dean will bring the enthusiasm and commitment to the ticket that the Democrats need.

If you think this is an incompatible ticket, think about Kennedy/Johnson.

The problem wit the last paragraph is that is is based on the proposition that ONLY a recently retired officer in the USAF can be the Democratic nominee. That pretty well begs the question, doesn't it?

Wagster,

I absolutely agree. I don't think Dean is entitled to anything, I'm just baffled that a) so many Democrats look at the Dean campaign in horror b) so many Democrats want to nominate Wesley Clark without considering how that could win us the White House (Myself, I don't think he can win) and make the party weaker at the same time.

MoDem,

I fear that either Dean/Clark or Clark/Dean is a pipe dream. With both of them being "Washington outsiders", they're both going to need somebody who knows their way around the senate and the house and the establishment there in order to accomplish anything. I doubt that the candidate who emerges as the nominee will select another candidate for the VP slot......but wouldn't Clark/Kerry be a winning ticket if they would?

I think Clark/Dean or Dean/Clark are viable tickets. Yes, Marcia, they're both outsiders, but I think that would be a plus. Dean gives Clark an additional network of financial supporters and volunteers; Clark gives Dean national security credibility. It would help heal the party after what will probably be a bruising campaign. The big question, of course, is whether either of them can swallow their pride and say yes.

Of course, there are other choices with strong rationales: Richardson of New Mexico, Graham of Florida, and my favorite, Feinstein of California. She's a woman, a Jew, tough, moderate, smart with both legislative (Senator) and executive (Mayor of San Francisco) experience. She would help sew up California for us, which we need as a base for any strategic approach to the electoral map.

DR said:
"Which candidate can most effectively hold Bush up to ridicule for his disgraceful flight deck "mission accomplished" episode? Let's face it: that man's name is not Howard Dean."

Why not? Because Dean was not in the military? But Bush's record in the Texas Guard is full of holes. The media have not shown any inclination to go any easier on Clark just b/c he was a general. Look what happened to Max Cleland.

Some comments from out here in the mid-Pacific:

(a) RE: " ... [C]onsider this quote from Clark that's in the Cohen column: 'I don't think it's patriotic to dress up in a flight suit and prance around'. Clark can say something like this with conviction and authority. Dean can't. "

All this talk about who has "more credibility" to ridicule Bush's aircraft carrier photo-op is sheer nonsense. Since when has prior military service become mandatory for candidates who wish to criticize Bush's utter fiasco of a foreign policy?

(b) RE: "Which candidate can most effectively hold Bush up to ridicule for his disgraceful flight deck 'mission accomplished' episode? Let's face it: that man's name is not Howard Dean."

After the revelations of the past week (Hell, the past months!) any one of the candidates -- as well as any one of us -- not only has the right, but the duty and the obligation as loyal American citizens to denounce the Bush/Cheney Administration's criminal use of our military personnel as their personal campaign props.

CONCLUSION: I often appreciate your insight, Ruy, and your willingness to take a long-term outlook on politics, rather than focus on the immediate moment like the media.

That being said -- your apparent obsession about which Democratic candidate is "electable" and who isn't is nothing short of unsubstantiated speculation and conjecture. What's more, it is clearly counterproductive to our common goal of ridding the presidency of this ideologically-motivated fascist menace to our constitutional liberties.

If Howard Dean is as "unelectable" as you so contend, then what does that tell us about the other seven candidates who currently trail him in polls in three-quarters of the states?

Dean wasn't expected to even get this far, and the fact that he is the acknowledged frontrunner is a testament to his courage and fortitude, and the dedication of his campaign's grassroots supporters. He took a then-controversial position on Iraq in the fall of 2002 that the then-prevailing "conventional political wisdom" (such as it is) shunned as almost certain political suicide.

Only when Dean proved that so-called "wisdom" completely wrong -- as evidenced by the ever-growing numbers of Democrats and other disenchanted and disenfranchised who fueled his subsequent surge -- did other Democratic candidates start criticizing the Bush Administration in earnest.

Perhaps you should speculate on this consideration: would Gen. Clark be so bold in his criticisms of George W. Bush's defense policies (or lack thereof), had Howard Dean not first cleared that path?

Even as recently as last month, it was Gov. Dean -- not Gen. Clark -- who first noted that the capture of Saddam Hussein has not made Americans any safer. And it was Dean -- not Gen. Clark or any of the others -- who proved willing to take the subsequent hit from the political punditocracy (not just a few of whom went so far as to actually question his sanity) to articulate a position with which most thinking Americans undoubtedly concur.

I realize that many of us have our own personal preferences amongst the eight remaining Democratic candidates, but can we please re-focus on the real problem at hand -- George W. Bush & Co., Ltd. -- and stop forming up in yet another close-order circular firing squad?

Let's all agree that any one of our candidates would be preferable to the current fraud we have in the White House. And as a Democrat, I will gladly support whomever our party nominates in July -- and you all should pledge to do so as well.

This time, this year, any failure on our part cannot be considered an option. We do not have the luxury of being ideologically pure in our politics. nothing less than the fate of our American democracy is at stake.

I really like Gen. Clark, too -- but I'm willing to give Gov. Dean his due. Regardless of whether or not Dean wins our party's nomination, he and his grassroots campaign deserve our collective gratitude for tearing the blinders off our party's establishment, and for having been the first ones to boldly proclaim that yes, indeed, the Emperor Bush has no clothes.

And while the newfound aggressiveness of Gen. Clark, Sen. Kerry, et al., toward the Bush Administration is certainly welcome and long overdue, the truth is self-evident that -- up to this point in the campaign, anyway -- they have become Gov. Dean's "Amen Chorus."

The surf's up to 10 feet on Oahu's North Shore, and I'm outa here. Have a great weekend, everyone. Let's do our best (as opposed to our worst) to support our respective candidates, whomever we've chosen, then strive to make common cause and take our country back.

Aloha.

You all may be sick of hearing about the South, but that's not the only place where Dean's appeal in a general election would be limited. There's also places like Ohio, Missouri, Arizona, New Mexico - places that Clark could carry that Dean and Kerry just could not.

Clark trumps Bush on foreign policy and international experience, and he won his war in 78 days with no Allied casualties. By next year the $200+ billion Iraq debacle will be a huge embarrassment for Bush. Hell it is now, except they arrested Saddam. And it changed nothing.

But Dean trumps Bush on... what? He comes from a wealthier family? He was governor of a state whose population would make it the sixth (seventh?) largest city in Texas? Hell, everyone knows the Texas governorship is a joke but even so it means a great deal more than governor of Vermont.

If Clark can't beat Bush, none of the Dems can.

Its saddens me that your Dean comments from earlier this week caused such trauma between you and your good friend, Jonatahn Chait. Chait is a writer of rare quality whose insights and contributions to the Democratic party have been underappreciated over the past few years. In particular, his efforts to expose Dean for the fraud he is through his "Dean-o-Phobe" diary have been remakrable in their effort to forward the cause of the emerging democratic majority.

Simpy put, it was unfortunate that you felt a need to make a gesture to the people supporting Dean. As one poster said down below, this Dean nonsense needs to stop. Opposing the war and supporting civil unions are losing issues for Democrats. Unless we stand up and oppose those who opposed the war and those who support the expansion of right for homosexuals, the Democratic party will never go anywhere.

Whatever new money Dean has brought into this campaign can easily be made up for, and even far surpassed, by instead appealing to centrist business leaders. Whatever new volunteers Dean has brought into this campaign are irrelevant, since volunteers have no real impact on the outcome of elections. Whatever negative image his rabid, angry, hateful, freakish supporters have brought to the party will take years to overcome.

As you frequently posted, Dean is not a viable candidate. Unless someone has national security credentials to match Bush, Democrats are finished. The radical, naive, young supporters of the party must learn that their agenda cannot ever come to fruition. Unless they fall in line, real progress is unattainable.

Pop quiz:

George Bush Attack theme waiting to happen

A) Howard Dean endorsements: Al Gore, Bill Bradley, Tom Harkin, Ann Richards

B) Wesley Clark endorsements: Madonna, Michael Moore

Aloha: Here! Here! Good post.

I think Ruy's post goes to the question of credibility: who has the credibility to stand up to the Bush administration on the real war on terrorism and the strategic mistake otherwise known as Iraq.

Ruy says that Clark is the guy, and that Dean is "let's face it" not the guy. Clark's military service does given him professional credibility. On the other hand, the fact that Dean was the first , the most forceful, and the most consistent opponent of the war, gives him political credibility to criticize Bush. I think Kerry, Gep, and Edwards (who I like very much) having voted for the war would have less credibility.

I think many of the party insiders who are running around like Chicken Little saying, 'Dean can't win, Dean can't win," are missing the point. They think Dean has mobilized the liberal activist base by opposing the war and being angry. They fear he will be unable to build beyond this activist base. In fact, Dean has empowered a lot of people who were inactive by being willing to speak the truth, by having the guts to stand up to Bush's radical-right agenda, and by offering people a chance to "take back our country" from the corporate elite.

Bush's policy has been very radical: huge tax cuts and special favors for the rich; enormous deficits; environmental degredation; pre-emptive war and loss of respect internationally. We don't have to persuade everyone to agree with every element of the Dem platform. We just need to point out how extreme Bush has been.

I had an experience the other day that I think illustrates my point. I was in the Emergency Room waiting area of a local hospital for several hours earlier this week. There was a telivision tuned to CNN. A story about Iowa came on and I struck up a conversation with an older guy sitting next to me. It turned out he was a Teamster, but he really liked Dean and he wanted to get involved with the campaign. We started talking and other people started listening and chiming in. Before I knew it, I was basically leading a political teach-in right there in the ER waiting area.

I was amazed at how receptive people were to my message. They feel like their government has been sold-out to the corporations. They think Bush lied to get us into the war and that he should have been concentrating on Al Qaida. By the time I left, I had six names, phone #s and e-mail addresses to sign-up for the campaign. I used to be a professional community organizer, then Ex Dir of a citizen health care campaign. In twenty-five years of political activism, I have never seen people so responsive to a strong populist message.

Dean's record is largely centrist. Dean's positions are largely centrist. The reason Dean comes across more liberal is his populist tone. The insider Dems are freaked out by it, but I think the public may be ready for it after a four years of government of the corporations, by the corporations, and for the corporations.

I'm sorry, but how can anyone be enamored with Clark, the guy who went to GOP fundraisers to praise Bush, Cheney, Rummy and the whole sordid gang when real Democrats (that is, those not in Congress) were speaking out against his radical right wing agenda. If Rove had returned his phone calls, he'd still be singing Shrub's praises. This is why the Dem Party is fading -- all tactical politics and no convictions. It's a shame. Dean or Clark, or Kerry or whoever, we probably lose. At least with Dean we stand for something other than 'electability'. I'd vote for Clark, but only because I detest Bush. And as for all those new voters and small donors, I guess we're back to settling for a small slice of all that corporate money the GOP is awash in.

"Chris Bower": Dean's position on the war is identical to Pat Buchanan's. Does that make them wild eyed liberals? Dean's position of civil unions is identical to Dick Cheney's. Does that make them wild eyed liberals?

These are just rhetorical questions, so if you choose not to spew any more hate, that's fine with me.

There's a very interesting piece in the Washington Post this morning, which matches up campaign donation data to Claritas zip code profiles. Basically, the type of people making donations to Dean are [drum roll please] exactly who you would expect them to be...

http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/articles/A23634-2004Jan16.html

I have been thinking about Edwards' surge in Iowa.

Rather than being an indication that Dean can't build beyond his base, I think Edwards' surge comes from his ability to parrot the same populist message that has given Dean so much traction. In other words, I think Edwards is Dean-lite: all the good populism, but fewer calories. He brings largely the same content but packaged with a warm, folksy, southern smile.

I liked Edwards last spring but he never seemed to get any traction. He does offer less baggage than Dean, but he has some electoral vulnerabilities of his own, and I doubt he has the organization or the money to go the distance. Even if he finishes close in Iowa and, lets say, wins South Carolina, could he actually win the nomination? It seems doubtful, but I like the guy a lot. What do others think?

Assuming Edwards doesn't pull a huge upset but does well, does that give him momentum going to SC? Does a stronger Edwards take support from Clark in SC, or does he take populist support from Dean?

I think Gep is dead, but just doesn't know it yet. Even if by strength of organization he was able to squeak out a win in Iowa, he has nowhere to go. He is nowhere in NH; Clark and Edwards are likely to beat him in SC; and he has no money.

How about Kerry? If he wins Iowa, does he get enough mo (and money) to be competitive? It seems unlikely to me. I think this still boils down to a Dean vs. Clark race. I think they are the only two with the money, organization, and national poll numbers to compete in the front- loaded campaign schedule.

On another front: take a look at the Friday NY Times story about Chris Lehane. Lehane is a serious political hit man working for Clark. The article suggests that while Clark has been quietly staying above the fray in NH and SC, Lehane is likely responsible for many of the hit pieces on Dean over the past month. So, while Lieberman has been the public mouthpiece of the Empire Strikes Back, Clark's henchman has been quietly poisoning Dean. Politics is a nasty business. It makes me profoundly sad to see our candidates place personal ambition over the welfare of the cause.

One final note: today's NY Times has a piece on the media's relationship to Dean. It sounds as if some of the media are waking up to the fact they have been overly critical of Dean. If the damage isn't already too severe, and if Dean can survive Iowa and NH, perhaps this bodes well for the future.

Let's not forget that one of the reasons 'electability' is stressed is because the most important thing is that we ACTUALLY WIN SOME ELECTIONS. I don't see how Edwards is a weaker candidate in the general election than Dean, with the possible exception that America might not be ready for a trial lawyer President (Doctors aren't exactly preferable though). The organization that Dean allegedly has and Edwards doesn't hasn't helped Dean poll significanly higher in important early states than Edwards, and many of Edwards positions mirror Dean but Edwards has been much more consistent. Plus, voting for the war and against Bush's funding may turn out to be hugely popular, as it taps into a large constituency the media ignores -- those voters who have no problem with a show of military strength but don't think the US of A owes Iraqis or whomever anything, especially if they're attacking us daily.

Also, the idea that we liberals in the South, who have roughly the same goals as liberals elsewhere but different ideas and values as we approach those goals, somehow don't count or shouldn't have input into the Democratic party is a little insulting.

I fail to see how abandoning regional (Southern) moderates/conservatives in the Democratic party is going to lead to some grand liberal Democratic majority when, if we really want to point the finger at the lack of Democratic control of the Senate (to pick one institution Republicans control), how do you explain that if you'd just get your act together up North and stop electing moderate Republicans whose existence enables the DeLays and Frists to stay in power we'd have a pretty solid lead in the Senate. When you get down to it, Susan Collins and Arlen Spector alone are hurting the Democratic Party more than all the moderate/conservative Southern Democrats combined -- with the possible exception of Zell Miller who God Bless Him we'll never have to hear from again after next January.

I think the Chris Lehane article is very important because it draws an important contrast between the Dean and Clark campaigns. Dean's mastermind; Joe Trippi - modus operandi - grassroots involvement. Clark's mastermind: Chris Lehane - modus operandi - backstabbing.

I was very open to Clark when he entered the race. Like most people I liked the idea of a four star general running against Bush on the war.

Then I sat down and watched him do an hour town hall meeting in New Hampshire. He was lousy. He had a number of softball questions tossed to him where he should have had the crowd in the palm of his hand. Moments where you turn questions of policy into a moral question and the audience, with a lump in their throat thinks to themselves, "Yes, we can do better and we must do better." He couldn't do it. He was just getting his sea legs you say - there's a learning curve. Not really. What he was doing in that friendly town hall meeting was a locker room meeting and if a four star general doesn't already have that in his repetoire forget it.

I think that Clark supporters are as blinkered as some Dean supporters. He has a number of serious negatives going head to head with Bush/Rove. He was essentially fired from his job as NATO commander. They have footage him praising the Bush Administration. They have footage of him reversing himself on the decision to go to war.

But the more serious issues are structural. I don't think that the Democrats beat Bush on foreign policy. I think they beat them on the economy. The Republicans want to fight over National Security. Unless somebody gets some Watergate style traction on the systematic deception leading up to the war then national security has to be issue number two in this campaign. I think that Clark is going to have a heckuva time moving the debate of the "He's the General Who Opposed the War" story.

I don't think that he is cagey enough to beat Bush. He likes to make the claim that with Milosevic he was the only general in the twentieth century to have known his opponent personally. But he misread Milosevic twice (three times?). His personal history with the guy served him not at all.

The structure of his campaign also bothers me. The Wall Street/Hollywood Liberal fundraising and the Chris Lehane thing strike me as symptomatic of the Democratic Party's decay. A party rented by rich liberals on behalf of the American people rather than a party of the American people. As long as the average donation to the RNC is lower than the average donation to the DNC expect diminishing results. That formula worked for Clinton because he was an extrordinarily gifted politician. It hasn't been good for the Party.

I don't trust Republicans when they say they are most intimidated by Clark or Gephardt. I trust their actions and I haven't seen them working to undermine anyone but Dean. I think that the "Please Nominate This Man" NR cover was a psyche out.

On to Edwards. I like Edwards. Until this past week, I'd been baffled by the voodoo curse that has prohibitted him from gaining traction despite doing almost everything right. I have a lot of respect for the fact that he has eschewed negative campaigning. (With the exception of the Dean/Confederate Flag pile on - which was a pretty creepy appeal to Southern voters.)

I like a Dean/Edwards ticket even more and there are some signs that that may be in the works. Dean's reiteritation of his apology to Edwards coupled with Edwards conspicuous absense from the chorus of Dean attacks in that debate certainly was intriguing. How would they square their circle on the support/opposition to the war?

Edwards would be a help in the South but their are legitimate reasons why this doesn't matter. Only Florida and Arkansas are considered competitive this year. It seems that Louisiana should be on that list but it isn't. (I'll have to do some research into why that is.) I think Dean was right in sayin that the Democrats need to start to try to reverse their fortunes their by trumping cultural conservatism with economic populism. It's a shame that the other candidates promptly formed a circle for a firing squad rather than chiming in with plans to recapture the South.

Chris asks why Southern liberals shouldn't have input into the party. Given that the President and Vice President were Southerners all through the 90's and the party's nominee in the last election was a Southerner, I fail to see that they haven't had input.

In fact until the South finally became firmly Republican, they had inordinate input because of Southern provincialism. No other part of the country got the consideration that the South recieved. The question was always, "How will that play in the South?" You never heard: "A centrist Southern governor will never play in the Pacific Northwest." or "A four star general from Arkansas? Well here in New England, that dog don't hunt."

As long as Southern liberals aren't winning elections, Southern exceptionalism isn't going to play much role in the national political calculus anymore. And Howard Dean is the only candidate who said that that shouldn't be the case. In fact he seems to be the only candidate who seems to have an eye on the state of the party and not just his own political ambition.

Some strange feeling seized me when I read your comment, Ben.
Does Ben's post look strange here?
No. So Ben, what is the point in your comment?
There always has to be some point.
Nothing personal tho.
regards,
Anderson

Hello