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Tuesday, December 09, 2003


"Attack me. Don't attack Al Gore."

posted by Trammell at Tuesday, December 09, 2003 permalink View blog reactions
Early AP report of tonight's debate in New Hampshire, with my notes throughout:
Eight Democratic presidential contenders on Tuesday strongly disputed that Howard Dean was the party's best chance for beating President Bush, or that former Vice President Al Gore's endorsement of the front-runner would seal the nomination.

"This race is not over," declared Sen. John Kerry of Massachusetts as the candidates gathered in this first-in-the-nation primary state for the year's eighth and final debate. The first votes will be cast in Iowa's Jan. 19 caucuses and New Hampshire's Jan. 27 primary.
Well no, it's not over for everyone John -- just for you.
One after another, the field ganged up on Dean, who holds a double-digit lead in New Hampshire polls, and Gore in an effort to take the luster off the newly minted endorsement. They appealed to the independent streak of voters here, and suggested the endorsement smacked of old-style party machine politics.

Joe Lieberman, Gore's spurned 2000 running mate, asserted that "my chances have actually increased today." The Connecticut senator said people had stopped him in the airport to express outrage over Gore's backing of Dean.
When you pay your kids huge salaries to work on their Daddy's campaign, you can get them to say just about anything!
For his part, Dean told the others: "Attack me. Don't attack Al Gore. I don't think he deserves to be attacked by anybody up here."
Now, this was brilliant. It's the soundbite of the night, and it says in three short sentences -- that will play over and over on the news tonight -- a host of things. 1). Al Gore endorsed me. 2). Al Gore didn't endorse you. 3). I'm the frontrunner. 4). You are not. 5). Be man enough to attack the frontrunner, ya bunch of chickens. 6). To do otherwise is petty. 7). You are doing otherwise, and you are a petty bunch of chickens. 8). Al Gore is a hero. ... and finally... 9). Any one of you would have cut off your left (fill in body part here) to be endorsed by Al Gore. Best of all, Dean conveyed this while appearing -- and being -- good, fair, humble and brave -- and underscoring that perhaps the "attackers" were none of the above.
Clearly Gore's endorsement overshadowed the debate. In 2000, Gore won the popular vote by half a million votes but conceded to Republican Bush after a tumultuous 36-day recount in Florida and a 5-4 Supreme Court vote against him. The endorsement of Bill Clinton's No. 2 was a coveted prize for the Democratic hopefuls.

The response to Gore's stunning decision was precipitated when one of the debate's moderators, ABC's Ted Koppel, opened the debate by inviting the field of nine candidates to "raise your hand if you believe that Gov. Dean can beat George Bush."

Only one, Dean, raised his hand.

In endorsing Dean earlier in the day at campaign stops in New York and Iowa, Gore urged Democrats to unite behind the front-runner and said, "We don't have the luxury of fighting among ourselves."

That touched off an avalanche of criticism from Dean's rivals. [...]

Said Sen. John Edwards of North Carolina: "We're not going to have a coronation."
I had no idea Edwards was so perceptive, and educational -- I was under the impression that once Gore endorsed Dean that he would become King!
Democratic strategists said Gore's endorsement had an immediate impact, if only by giving Dean's rivals something to complain about other than Dean's policies and campaign miscues.

"It was not the pile-on that Dean expected. Dean came with his best teflon suit, but he didn't need it," said Donna Brazile, a former Gore adviser who is not tied to any of the candidates. [...]
So in the final analysis, and despite our lack of screen time, the whole debate was dominated by Dean. Though they had their various critiques of Gore and the endorsement -- what else could they do? -- having one figure dominate to such a degree is not good for any of them and simply great for us. They were all pretty stunned and off-kilter as the reality continues to sink in, and the attacks on Dean directly were surprisingly reserved and relatively mild considering.

I'm glad Dean kicked back, didn't say much, didn't argue, didn't horn in, and didn't hog time or cameras. Why bother? The night was his going in -- why eff-it up? The voters know who will decide this election: them. In fact, Dean has been the one saying that all along, and that's why he's where he is today. No amount of complaining to the contrary will convince them that Dean is trying circumvent Democracy when he's the one who's done his best to bring it directly to the people from the very start -- ironically, that's why he received the Gore endorsement as opposed to anyone else.

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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.