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Saturday, September 27, 2003


Why Dean and not Clark?

posted by G at Saturday, September 27, 2003 permalink View blog reactions
Todd at Independents for Dean beat me to saying why Clark is not as strong a candidate as we expected. Here's a part of what he wrote:
I have been intrigued by Clark, but have come to the conclusion that Dean has better odds of beating Bush than Clark does. Why?

Clark is a "resume candidate". But so is Kerry, and that hasn't worked so well for him, has it? Clark's support is currently more abstract than real: "Pollsters note former Gen. Clark leads only in surveys where he is named by his military title." This support depends on the linking of "credibility" and "strength" with the title "General". However, it is clear that Clark has many enemies within the Pentagon. This doesn't mean anything, due to the normal internal politics of the place, but you can bet the Bush/Rove campaign will trot out four star generals to smear him, using their $200 million war chest. This will have success. Thus, Clark can't depend on his title and military background to be enough. He'll have to equal the Bushies in campaigning skills and resources. And I have not seen evidence that he can do that.

That's not to say that he can't. But we already have a candidate who has shown courage and steel by standing up to Bush back when it was unpopular, who has shown he can energize people, and who has begun building a grassroots infrastructure that might actually compete with the Republicans. Plus the power of the idea: millions of regular Americans contributing small efforts and dollars versus the big money and special interests behind Bush in order to take our country back. This idea needs to continue to grow, and switching support to Clark will interrupt it. He might be able to replicate it, but it seems unlikely in the short period of time available.

The main thing Clark supporters say against Dean is that he is unelectable because people will think he's soft on national security. But those who look at the facts know that 's not so. And those that go by superficial "impressions"? I submit that if they see the fire/steel in Dean's eyes when he is unfairly attacked, as in the debate last night, their impression won't be that Dean is soft. Sure, this is shallow. But the voters the Clark supporters are worried about are shallow. (Here is an example of young Republicans being impressed by Dean's "steely resolve".)
I agree that if Clark runs against Bush, we will see a string of stories pouring forth from the Pentagon from every general who ever had a gripe with Clark. As this Washington Post article makes clear, he has lots of enemies. I suggest reading this account by Nation editor Katrina vanden Heuvel of one incident that, fairly or unfairly, earned Clark a reputation as a hothead.

I would add that every sign I've seen suggests that Clark's campaign is being colossally mismanaged, which reflects not so much on Clark but on the people he's put in charge. From the move to dismantle the grassroots Draft Clark organization to the decision to drop an unprepared Clark in that 1 hour interview with four reporters the day after his announcement, I think these people are blowing whatever chance Clark might have had.


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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.