Tuesday, July 15, 2003

re: Dean 

Nick wrote:

I think Dean hits a huge homerun in the general election with his critique of the Bush economic policy and the buzzwords of fiscal responsibility. *If* in fact he managed Vermont as well as he says he has, I think the Dubya is especially vulnerable for the record deficits his tax cuts have created. Dean has been the only democrat i've seen make this criticism of the President stick.

His foreign policy stance is really out of whack, but other than that Mrs. Lincoln, I don't see why Howard Dean can't be the star of this play. It's not as if we've never elected a president with a non-existant bordering bad foreign policy history before, right?
Most moderates aren't going to vote base on how bad Bush has been on domestic policy, they're gong to vote on foreign policy, and Dean won't get many votes from them. Let me find a few people who can say this better than I can. First is an article in Salon.com last week by John B. Jodis, who co-wrote The Emerging Democratic Majority.

If Dean himself can gather a modicum of support from blue-collar and minority Democrats, he might even be able to win the Democratic nomination for president and face George W. Bush in the general election. The Democratic field this year is pretty mediocre. But if that does happen, it could lead to a long and unhappy fall for Democrats. Some of the factors that make Dean attractive to Democrats will not endear him to independent and Republican voters.
According to Jodis, Dean won't be able to attract the white working-class voters:

In general, Dean's antiwar stance and his identification with gay rights would cause him difficulty among white working-class voters in the Midwest and the South. Democrats don't have to win majorities among these voters, but if they can't win at least 40 percent, they won't be able to win traditionally Democratic states like Arkansas, Louisiana, Missouri, Ohio, Tennessee, and West Virginia. Bill Clinton was successful because he could speak to professionals in Silicon Valley and autoworkers in Fenton, Mo. Gore couldn't win those states largely because he was too culturally identified with the Northeast, with college-educated professionals, and with postindustrial social liberalism. Dean suffers from the same political disability.
Bottom line:

To put it in regional terms: Dean, a culturally libertarian New Englander who opposed the war, could virtually forget about winning any Southern or border states. Southerners are willing to support a Southern Democrat like Clinton with whom they can identify, but they will not vote for a Dukakis or Dean. Dean would not simply get trounced in the South: His candidacy would allow Bush to take the entire South for granted and move all his resources into states like Michigan and Pennsylvania that the Democrats have to win. In the end, Dean would be lucky to hold on to Vermont, Massachusetts, Rhode Island, New York, D.C., Maryland, Illinois, Minnesota, California, Oregon, and Washington.

Wouldn't the other candidates do just as poorly? If Bush's popularity remains high, they might also be trounced. If, however, the economy continues to falter, and if Americans become skeptical about the benefits of the invasion and occupation of Iraq, a Democrat could defeat Bush -- though only if the election pivots on Bush's successes and failures and not on the qualifications of his Democratic opponent. The Democrats would be much better off in that case with a blander, more faceless, less exciting Kerry, Gephardt or even Lieberman (perhaps with Edwards, Florida Sen. Bob Graham, or retired Gen. Wesley Clark as running mate) than they would be with a fiery, controversial Dean. [emphasis added]
Jodis concludes his article by noting how similar Dean is with George McGovern. Another to make this comparison is Larry Kaplan of the New Republic. Writng in OpinionJournal.com last week, Kaplan notes the overwhelming importance of foreign policy in the last, and the next, election:

During the 2002 midterm election cycle, polls found that most voters rated national security as the country's top priority, even more important than the economy. And as defense and foreign policy issues have re-emerged, so too has the Republican advantage. Hence, numerous recent surveys have shown that once again Americans trust Republicans over Democrats on national security issues, often by a margin of 3 to 1 ... True, the economy will play a crucial role in the 2004 presidential election. But, as Kerry adviser Chris Lehane has put it, "To get to that issue, you need to satisfy [voters'] expectation and desire that you can handle national security."
And nominating Dean won't exactly close that gap:

The good news here is that, after a decade of touting microinitiatives, school uniforms, and Fleetwood Mac tunes, the party of Harry Truman has finally rediscovered its voice on national security issues. The bad news is that it's the voice of George McGovern ...

... despite the economy, the president still enjoys approval ratings of 60% plus. If the Democratic Party intends to run against a popular war, its leaders might wish to recall the lesson of a Democrat who ran against an unpopular war. He lost 49 states.
Conservatives like Rod Dreher are absolutely giddy with excitement:

... Dean's my favorite Democrat, for the same reason he's Karl Rove's. Go, Howard, go!
(Jodis article via Dan Drezner, Kaplan via Michael Totten).
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