Go, Dean, Go!!!

By Mark Publius

August 09, 2003

Who could have thought that a 54-year old doctor and ex-governor of sleepy Vermont could send all of the Democratic presidential contenders scrambling for cover?  There are lots of reasons for Republicans to wish Howard Dean all the best of luck in his quest to become George Bush's opponent in 2004.  It makes a true Republican want to send a campaign donation his way.

Howard Dean is such a thorn in everyone's side because he disrupts the delicate balance of power that has been so cultivated by the "front-runners."  It was expected that Dick Gephardt would easily sweep the Iowa caucus since he is from nearby Missouri and because of his close ties to labor groups who helped him sweep Iowa in 1988.  Instead, Dean is giving Gephardt his biggest challenge in the corn state and could pull off an upset.

Conventional wisdom also had it that John Kerry would easily sweep New Hampshire, given that his home state of Massachusetts is just to the south.  It is here that Howard Dean could pull off the biggest upset.  Voters in New Hampshire are just as familiar with the ex-governor of Vermont as they are with the junior senator from their neighbor to the south.  John Kerry MUST win New Hampshire to keep himself viewed as the leading Northeast liberal candidate.  It is his niche and a failure in New Hampshire could jeopardize his chances in New York, New Jersey and other states that Kerry has expected to form his base.  Right now, there is an unexpected dead heat where Kerry cannot afford it.

Dean has also been surprisingly strong in South Carolina, the third contest in sequential order.  This threatens John Edwards, who otherwise would benefit by being seen as a moderate southerner from neighboring North Carolina.  South Carolina is Edwards' must-win state.  It is where he has to start his counter-attack in the south.  The question-mark here is where the state's large black voting base will turn.  The liberal, maverick message of Dean is only just starting to be heard and could tip the scales to the renegade candidate.

But where Dean has an ace in the hole is with his fund-raising machine.  In the most recent quarter, he picked up $7.6 million, almost $2 million more than runner-up John Kerry and almost twice that of the labor-backed Gephardt.  Many of his contributors have given small amounts of money, so if the Dean train steams up, they can keep donating more.  Many of the wealthy contributors to Edwards or Lieberman have already maxed out their $2000 contribution limit.  All this money buys more organization and adds in Iowa, New Hampshire, and South Carolina. 

Certainly Howard Dean has a long way to go.  His organization in the South and West is not as cultivated and deep as some of his opponents' and party regulars are opposed to him becoming the party's nominee.  A good look at his record will tell you why.

Dean stands for legalized gay marriage, a repeal of George Bush's tax cuts, universal health care paid for by government - the list goes on and on.  He will pull the party dramatically to the left, off in fringe territory.  Even Democrats realize this.  Indiana senator Evan Bayh, the head of the Democratic Leadership Council, a moderate voice of Democrats, has been openly warning his party of the damage Howard Dean can cause, the rift that will split the party into opposing factions and cost it the White House.  The DLC's chosen candidate, Joe Lieberman, has attacked the anti-war forces in the party, a clear swipe at Dean. 

All of this is music to the ears of the Bush team.  They might be facing a re-run of the election of 1972 again.  A popular Republican president re-elected because the opposite party chooses a far-left-of-center representative who is out of touch with the electorate.  Let's just hope that this time the only leaks that need plumbing are from Howard Dean's squeaky mouth.

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