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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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Tuesday, January 20, 2004


A Few Thoughts

posted by Brian Ulrich at Tuesday, January 20, 2004 permalink View blog reactions
*In addition to a Kerry and Edwards surge, I'm expecting a Dean dip in the NH polls. Democrats are apparently thinking a lot about electability. Some people who believed he would rally the base will probably notice the lack of a rallied Dean base in Iowa. In addition, I don't think the Gephardt voters will go to Dean, at least initially. Despite the fact they're the two big "union candidates," their images are the opposite of each other.

*Seeing my comment here a few days ago made me remember just how skeptical of Dean I was even a few months ago. I could probably find stuff from over the summer where I was completely dismissive. When I made my final decision right after Thanksgiving, it was after I became satisfied he could handle foreign policy. But what really built me up to that was when I saw him in town meetings. It was amazing to hear him talking about issues like health care, education, jobs, and so on. He has ideas and programs and strategies for passing those programs so that I could just see it all happening.

Unfortunately, most Americans come to know candidates by their stump speeches and commercials. I don't know what's in the commercials, but in his stump speeches he devotes 80% of explaining the problems with Bush. This is important, but let's assume for the moment that partisan Democrats already know it all. Voters have got to wonder what Dean will do instead. And a lot of the things that rally his volunteers, like pointing at the crowd and saying, "You have the power" over and over again, simply look weird to the staid 40-somethings he needs to win. Can you imagine any President in American history doing something similar? There are reasons for that. I respect that Dean can connect with different audiences, but in the environment of the Presidential campaign the camera is always there, and he's always talking to every audience. And especially given the stereotype of Dean as the angry far-left lunatic, he needs to be especially non-angry and non-loony. He already has a certain East Coast bruskness that sounds short or angry out here in the midwest; I think on the campaign trail if he strives to be a block of uncarved wood, he will hit the right balance. And he needs to show himself more as the dynamic governor who led Vermont, is changing political organization, and can help change Washington and the right wing-oriented climate of debate in this country, or people will believe the campus radical rhetoric.

*Now that you've read the negative stuff, keep in mind we still have more resources both human and monetary than any other candidate. So once the campaign retools whatever it plans to retool, we can get the message out there quickly and all over the place, while other candidates will probably try to compete in only a few states. I still feel that in the end, this comes down to a battle between Dean and Clark. I'm also glad I don't get CNN, etc., because the constant obsession with instant reaction and predicting the future drive me nuts. Yes, Dean would be much stronger had he won Iowa. No, he is not dead. His chances of a comeback seem much better than, say, Kerry's did around New Year's. And I do think it's a fact that a lot of Iowans really focused after the holidays, when Dean was on the defensive. Now things will have shifted.

*Just a minor note in the larger scheme of things: I heard on C-Span last night (I have basic cable, just not expanded basic) that Dean and Gephardt were not viable in some precincts last night. This means that theit supporters probably went to Kerry and Edwards in those areas. So while the margin in the final count looks like a lot, the margin in the actual first-choice voter preferences was almost certainly closer. By how much, I have no idea. Those entry polls might give some indication, if they're accurate.

*I stand firmly by what I said here. This is far from over. It's been awhile since we saw a real fight for the nomination, which is what we have now. So buckle up. Every election year is different. Normally after New Hampshire we have a two-person race. This year, we're likely to have at least three, and if Dean and Kerry are in a dead heat for first there could wind up with five heading wouth, where Sharpton's voters could become a factor. Kevin Drum is suggesting this could go to the convention. I'm not sure how likely that is, since some candidates will run out of money long before then, but it just shows how unpredictable things really are.


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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.