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Monday, June 30, 2003

The Mean, Green, Dean Machine-Things are looking good for Howard Dean's candidacy. He raised $6 million in the second quarter and won the Move On primary, but with only a 44% plurality, denying him cash from the organization that would have come from a majority vote. The voters don't seem to be too representative of the Democratic electorate, for Dennis the Menace got runner-up honors with 24%. Dean’s starting to look like the real deal on the left, getting more and more support from liberal activists. Six months ago, many of us snickered at his chances, comparing the former Vermont governor with the fictional ex-governor of New Hampshire, President Bartlet. However, with the rest of the field more driven by ambition than concern for the country, Dean seems to stand out as a no-nonsense leftist. As screwy as it sounds, he may have a better chance that Kerry or Edwards or Gephardt of getting the nomination. Dean's hard-core secular stand, including presiding over the implementation of same-sex civil unions in Vermont, will hurt him in the general election, but unless someone calls him on it, it won't harm him in the primary. If all of the candidates are kissing the rings of the gay-rights and abortion-rights crowd, Dean will get a free shot up to the general election. In a crowded field where 25-30% will win primaries, would there be a Democratic candidate bold enough to distance himself from the libertine wing of the party? I don't know if Lieberman has the courage to run such a strategy, but if he makes a concentrated effort to come across as a moderate on moral issues, he could pick up a lot of blue-collar voters who are old-school on morality but liberal on other issues. Kucinich could have filled that niche before he flip-flopped on abortion. Gephardt has a moderate history that he has left behind as he's become a national figure. It's a dicey strategy, for it is guaranteed to P.O. the liberal activists. However, if the liberals are split five ways, the moderate wing of the party might rally around someone who presents something other than NARAL and Human Rights Campaign press releases and get their guy in on a plurality. Instead of sucking up to the liberal wing of the party, as he did as the VP nominee, Lieberman stands his best chance of winning by differentiating himself from the pack of hard-core liberals running. It will be an interesting half-year leading up to next year's primaries.

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