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"America has two great dominant strands of political thought - conservatism, which, at its very best, draws lines that should not be crossed; and progressivism, which, at its very best, breaks down barriers that should never have been erected." -- Bill Clinton, Dedication of the Clinton Presidential Library, November 2004

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Thursday, March 25, 2004


The Front-Runner's Fall

posted by Aziz P. at Thursday, March 25, 2004 permalink View blog reactions
via Dean Nation alum Karl Frisch, The Atlantic Monthly has an in-depth article on the Dean campaign, written by insider and pollster Paul Maslin. It's an even-handed look that portrays Joe Trippi as a genius-enfant-terrible, Dean as an impetous and often unpredictable candidate, and the overall operation as one characterized by flashes of brilliance puntucated by - in hindsight - massive oversights. Maslin does not shy away acepting blame, either. Here's an important excerpt:

We were acutely conscious that any sustained flight of television advertising—we were considering running ads for two weeks—was going to take a big bite out of our cap. I assumed that we would proceed carefully and not consider airing anything until after the Fourth of July. So imagine my surprise when Howard Dean burst into our Burlington headquarters on the afternoon of Friday, June 6, followed not long after by Joe Trippi, and announced that we were going to "go up" in Iowa.

"Kerry's planning to go up," Dean said. "We've got to be there first. We can't let him get the jump on us."
Howard Dean and Joe Trippi, although their work styles were such that they rarely spoke to each other (and they would ultimately part ways), were nevertheless on the exact same tactical page most of the time—if not always for the same reason. And when they were, bold action usually ensued.
We learned dangerous lessons from those ads: that we could work fast, with virtually no preparation; that it paid to be bold; and that we could spend money at a time that no sane campaign ever would or ever had. In late August, after Dean had completed a triumphant national tour, Trippi decided to push more chips onto the table and persuaded us to spend a million dollars on advertising in Arizona, New Mexico, Oklahoma, South Carolina, Washington, and Wisconsin. Jeani Murray, our Iowa state director, had a simple and blunt reaction: "And nothing for Iowa?"

This is a painful read in some ways. In hindsight we recognize the genius of Trippi's Iowa-New Hampshire gamble, given that it was exactly how John Kerry succeeded. The game plan was thus proven valid - but our team was the one that ddn't follow it. There's a lot more in this lengthy article that reveals how the flaws in execution, and the simple human flaws of the candidate and the campaign manager, combined to keep ultimate victory just out of reach.

It's essential reading. If you read nothing else today, read this essay now. And somehow, despite it being painful, it also comforts me... perhaps Dean's role all along was indeed to influence Kerry, and forge him into the better candidate. For the first time, I start to wonder if the Dean campaign could have taken on Bush after all.


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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.