Monday | August 04, 2003
The secret of Dean's success
Lieberman attacks Dean. Kerry attacks Dean. The DLC attacks Dean.
And yet Dean only gets stronger, on the cover of all three major US newsweeklies (Time, Newsweek, and US News), and making leaps and bounds in ALL the polls. His Meetup numbers continue to defy gravity, as does the campaign's signup list. These are all facts, not spin. Whether you love or hate Dean, you have to admit that he has been the center of attention in this race for the past few months, and by all objective methods has got the most solid results.
While the other eight candidates issue press releases into the ether and struggle to reach voters, Dean speaks to hundreds, if not thousands, everywhere he goes. No one has ever seen anything like it. Perhaps McCain 2000, but not until after the NH primary.
Right now, we haven't even reached Labor Day (when Americans are supposed to start paying attention to politics).
The formula to Dean's success is simple: He speaks like a Democrat, particularly the part about opposing Republicans. That resonates with those of us who saw DLC-types lead our party to disaster in 2002.
"Don't attack Bush!" say the frightened DLCers. "He's too popular!"
All the while, the Democratic rank-and-file sits by lusting for some sign of life from our elected Democratic officials. Something to show they have the smallest interest in fighting for what's right, for our country, for our true security -- military and economic, and for the notion, quaint as it may be, that government can play a role in improving the quality of life of all Americans, regardless of their socio-economic status.
If you don't know by now, let me make it clear. I am a pragmatist. I have been often accused of throwing convictions aside for sheer strategy -- the desire to see Democrats elected above all else. And it's a fair charge, and not one from which I shirk.
As frustrated as Zell Miller may make me, I'd rather have him than a Republican with an identical voting record. Why? Because at the beginning of each session, he'll cast that all important vote, in the Majority Leader race, for Tom Daschle.
I may not agree with Lieberman, but I recently defended him against silly charges that he's Republican-lite. He's not. I'll take Lieberman over any Republican any day of the week, in the Senate or running for president.
So I'm no pie-in-the-sky idealist. I apply cold, hard calculus to every race and throw my weight behind the guy that has the best chance of winning. And I have no doubt in my mind that Dean is that guy.
Case in point, while the rest of the Democratic field scratches its head, wondering how to slow Dean's momentum (not realizing that every attack on Dean is good for thousands more MeetUp signups), Dean's team has been bold, daring, even exhibiting a bit of chutzpah.
How else to explain the ad campaign the Dean campaign will run in Austin this week, mocking Bush as he vacations nearby? Texas isn't a key primary state, and if it was, Dean couldn't win it, could he? And even if he could win the state's primary (and the nomination), he REALLY couldn't compete in Texas in 2004, could he?
Nah, Texas is out of reach. But this ad buy goes beyond that. It cements Dean as the star of the field. He fires up the base (ads in Texas? I was giddy when I first read about it!). He earns globs of free press as news programs and the cable news networks talk and talk some more about the ad.
Here we have a Democrat who isn't afraid of Bush. In fact, he's eager to take the battle to Bush when most of the others offer nothing more than tepid press releases.
I have been saying for over a year that the math looks good for Democrats. I have been saying the issues look good. I said before the war it wouldn't be a campaign winner, and I think I called it correctly. The economy is in shambles. This president has the worst job record of any since Hoover, with millions of jobs lost.
People will want an alternative to Bush. Not just disaffected Democrats. Or out-of-work independents. But people from across the political spectrum. And it starts with that grassroots and netroots army of his.
But for now, we're still waging a primary battle. Dean fans may profess outrage that Lieberman and Kerry have trained their guns on Dean. Don't be. While I would prefer a clean primary, it ain't gonna happen. And if Dean can't handle Lieberman's inept charges or Kerry's more pointed criticisms, then he has no business facing the Rove machine. At this point, a little dirt won't harm the party's chances in 2004.
I wrote that I am a pragmatist, and I reiterate it. No one is more electable than Dean. His approval ratings are amongst the tops, his ability to raise money is proven and he will be financially competitive against Bush. More so than the other candidates, Dean can sport the sort of electoral coattails that can sweep Congressional candidates into victory (just think of those hundreds of thousands of volunteers pulling for their Congressional, statewide, and local Dems). His voting record will fit nicely with battleground states such as WV, NV, CO and AZ.
The pundits may disagree, but they have failed to predict anything about Dean thus far. His success baffles, as it follow no other historical script (not even the tired McGovern one). So they are irrelevant to Dean's continued success (or lack thereof). It's a brand new world, and the rules have changed.
Oh, and note that I raise money for the DNC, not for the Dean campaign. I want a Democrat in the White House, and that will always be my top priority.