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Monday, August 25, 2003


Simon & Brownstein on Dean & Clark on Meet the Press

posted by Trammell at Monday, August 25, 2003 permalink View blog reactions
From yesterday's Meet the Press discussion moderated by Tim Russert with Ron Brownstein of The Los Angeles Times and Roger Simon of U.S. News and World Report:

MR. RUSSERT: Howard Dean, former governor of Vermont, has been telling people, Roger Simon, that, you know, “The conventional wisdom said that the Democratic candidate had to support the president on the war in order to reinforce his national security credentials. But, ladies and gentlemen, come next November, I will be the only Democrat who will have the rationale to oppose the president, because by opposing the war in Iraq I was right and all the other Democrats were wrong.”
MR. SIMON: Well, Howard Dean has clearly shown himself not only to be far more in tune with his party than some of the other Democrats, but perhaps, if these poll results are correct, the nation as a whole. Dean said the strategy of supporting Bush on Iraq, getting national security off the table and fighting George Bush on domestic issues was a losing idea. It lost in 2002. He said, “Let’s energize the base of the party instead of going for the vast American middle, which we’ll not win anyway. Let’s go for our Democratic base.” And this whole campaign, in a few short months, really has evolved into a “Stop Howard Dean” movement on the part of the other Democrats. This guy is just tearing up the field.
MR. BROWNSTEIN: I agree largely, but I disagree with one point. First of all, I agree that Dean has become the driving force in the Democratic race. I mean, his ability to raise money off the Internet-the crowds that he is drawing this weekend—he’s on a sort of “sleepless across America” tour that he’s doing. It began last night in Virginia with about several thousand, 4,000 people, by some estimates. He’s going to be going across the country. They’re expecting to raise at least as much money in the third quarter as they did in the second, when they raised more money than any other Democrat. Extraordinary situation, Tim, where the outsider candidate has become identified before the insider establishment favorite.
The only thing I differ with Roger on is, look, it is still going to be a challenge for Dean, if he is the nominee, to explain to the American people why he did not think it was in our national security interest to remove Saddam Hussein. The threshold of being an effective and credible commander in chief is larger and more important after September 11 than it was before, and I still believe that it will be a challenge for Dean to cross that threshold, having opposed the war; not impossible, but certainly more of a challenge than it’s been so far, with Bush pushing back at him, not just Dick Gephardt and John Edwards.
MR. RUSSERT: You may have a perfect storm gathering right now that is not good news for President Bush: the unemployment numbers; the difficulties in Iraq, no weapons of mass destruction, no Saddam Hussein. On the other hand, if you find Saddam Hussein, find weapons of mass destruction, and the economy starts ticking up, then what does Howard Dean base his campaign on?
MR. SIMON: Well, Howard Dean and everyone else is in big trouble based on that scenario. And as you pointed out, Tim, the president’s relatively bad poll numbers are the president vs. a generic Democrat. The president isn’t going to run against a generic Democrat. He’s going to run against a real Democrat. If it’s Howard Dean, and there’s no reason to believe this early that it will be, the president might feel that he’s going to match up very well.
MR. RUSSERT: The group has a new poll out tomorrow in which they show the president matched up against the various Democrats. The president beats the Democrats but he’s below 50 percent against most of them. They also show that their man, Clark—in generic form, when you describe his biography against George Bush, they like Wesley Clark. Do you think Clark gets in?
MR. SIMON: I think Clark gets in, and I think he hurts a lot of people in the Democratic race, including Howard Dean. He’s anti-war but he has a general’s credentials. Also, he hurts those candidates running from the South, John Edwards and Bob Graham, because Wesley Clark is from Arkansas. Also, he hurts John Kerry, because he will become the second veteran, combat-decorated Vietnam veteran, in the race, and John Kerry loses his main talking point, which is that’s what John Kerry is.
MR. RUSSERT: Those McCain Independent voters in New Hampshire, some going to Dean, some going to Kerry, now would have a choice in Wesley Clark.
MR. BROWNSTEIN: Yeah. Well, look, I mean, if he does get in—and I think most people are feeling that he is going to—it would be a good time for him, because there is a sense in the Democratic Party that, apart from Dean, none of these candidates have really taken off this year. They’re all either flat- lining or somewhat losing ground over the course of 2003. On the other hand, having seen him speak, I think he is still much more confident and assured talking about foreign than domestic policy, and obviously, for a Democratic primary electorate, Iraq is only part of the mix. There’s a lot of people who
want to talk about health care, the economy, the budget deficit. And he has some work, I think, to do on those fronts. [...]
MR. BROWNSTEIN: ...and, you know, Dean, in particular, has established a following that really isn’t going away. I mean, he has got some ability to stay in this for a while past Iowa and New Hampshire.
MR. RUSSERT: Message, money and momentum? MR. SIMON: Right. He’s all got all that.
MR. RUSSERT: But is the Democratic nomination worth winning?
MR. SIMON: (laughter) Oh, it’s very much worth winning! MR. BROWNSTEIN: Yes.
MR. RUSSERT: This is...
MR. SIMON: This election is not a lock for the president.
MR. RUSSERT: It’s going to be wild.

NOTE from Scott: Dean as the "frontrunner" is the story and it's sticking -- in fact, it's cropping up everywhere. And it's based on hard work, not simple name recognition or "favorite son" status. Of course, this interview was taped long before Seattle. I bet they were floored when they saw those numbers! By the way, is it my imagination, or is Russert playing footsy with Dean these days? Finally, I've just added a list of "Talking Head Transcripts" links on the left column at Points West -- kinda handy.


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About Nation-Building

Nation-Building was founded by Aziz Poonawalla in August 2002 under the name Dean Nation. Dean Nation was the very first weblog devoted to a presidential candidate, Howard Dean, and became the vanguard of the Dean netroot phenomenon, raising over $40,000 for the Dean campaign, pioneering the use of Meetup, and enjoying the attention of the campaign itself, with Joe Trippi a regular reader (and sometime commentor). Howard Dean himself even left a comment once. Dean Nation was a group weblog effort and counts among its alumni many of the progressive blogsphere's leading talent including Jerome Armstrong, Matthew Yglesias, and Ezra Klein. After the election in 2004, the blog refocused onto the theme of "purple politics", formally changing its name to Nation-Building in June 2006. The primary focus of the blog is on articulating purple-state policy at home and pragmatic liberal interventionism abroad.