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Thursday | June 26, 2003

How they can win: Dean

Welcome to Part V of the six-part series "how they can win", featuring the six "serious" candidates: Dean, Edwards, Gephardt, Graham, Kerry and Lieberman.

For purposes of this scenario building, I'm assuming all six candidates are running strong, without the presence of a major scandal or foot-in-mouth incident.

This edition features Dean, the "protest", "maverick", "straight-talking" candidate.

District of Columbia: 1.13
This is a new wrinkle to these "how they can win" -- the early DC primary. It's still early to gauge how this will affect the campaign, but I'm suspecting it will be irrelevant. All candidates but the bottom tier will probably avoid DC, lest they anger parochial voters in IA and NH who jealously guard their "first in the nation" status.

CW is that DC is Sharpton's to lose, but it could easily be won by Dean, Kerry or Gephardt. But if it is won by a top-tier candidate, expect little gloating. Iowa and NH will loom larger.

Iowa: 1.19
Gephardt is the odds-on favorite, but Dean is perhaps the only other candidate that has a chance to take the state. Dean has shown its ability for grassroots organizing and mobilizing -- traits essential to winning any caucus. At this stage of the game, I think Iowa will go to Gephardt (who has never stopped running in the state), but a Dean victory is not out of the realm of possibilities.

A Dean victory would immediately finish off Gephardt and offer irresistable momentum in NH. More realistically, Dean needs the number 2 slot. Third place may not be terminal, but it would be close. I have been talking about a Dean/Kerry dogfight, and it will be resolved in these two states. Dean has to take second place.

New Hampshire: 1.27
With a second-place IA victory, Dean can ride high into NH, where the independent vote that handed McCain his surprise victory may yet again decide a NH winner. You have noticed the wide discrepencies in vote results between various NH polls. Those discrepencies are based on the percentage of "independent" voters the pollster expect to turn out and vote. Zogby thinks they'll be out in force. ARG thinks they won't.

Dean needs that independent voter to turn out and vote for him. Assuming it does, Dean wins, Kerry is labeled "loser" by the national press and it abandons him in droves. Just like the Kerry scenario but in reverse.

Dean can now take a breater as the "moderate" candidates go all out in:

South Carolina, Delaware, Missouri, Arizona, New Mexico, Oklahoma: 2.2
Dean will have a realistic chance at taking Delaware and perhaps NM (the Richardson endorsement will be huge), but it's not an important day for him. This day belongs to Lieberman, Edwards, Gephardt and Graham.

Michigan, Washington (caucus): 2.7
We now have Dean vs. the "moderate". If Gep is in the race, the two candidates split these states. If it's Dean against anyone else, then Dean wins both. The calendar is quite friendly to the "liberal" candidate at this point. (And yes, Dean has positioned himself on the field's left flank).

Maine: 2.8
Dean wins easy. Note that it's not really too relevant, since the press will assume it's Dean's to take.

Virginia, Tennessee: 2.10
This day belongs to the "moderate", though VA might be competitive. It's not a crucial day for Dean, regardless.

Wisconsin: 2.17
Easy win for Dean. Again, no one will care too much.

Idaho: 2.24 and Utah: 2.27
Readers of this series know that these states have me perplexed. Do they go for the "moderate", in tune with the general "conservative" status of the states? Or do their small but vocal lefty activists deliver the states to Dean? I confess a level of ignorance about these states' dynamics that makes it hard to answer this question.

Still, I don't think it's too relevant, as the candidates will be focusing their resources on the Big Day:

California, Connecticut, Georgia, Maryland, Massachusetts, Minnesota, New York, Ohio, Rhode Island, Vermont, Hawaii, North Dakota, Texas (tentatively), Washington (primary): 3.2
I've been arguing this is the day the nominee is elected. It's a schedule that clearly favors Dean, so the "moderate's" strategy will be to limit loses and either maintain parity, or fall only slightly behind.

Dean wins the nomination if he takes California, Connecticut, Maryland, Mass, Minnesota, New York, Rhode Island, Vermont, Hawaii and Washington. He could lose Georgia, North Dakota, and Texas, and still sew up the nomination. The "moderate's" task will be to steal at least two of those states.

Bottom line: My scenario is fairly CW, not too controversial. It assumes that the NH loser in the Dean/Kerry battle will be forced to drop out because of waning media attention. Remember, the media has every interest in culling the field as quickly as possible in order to save money. It's expensive to cover so many candidates.

However, I have an alternate scenario that could play out given the emergence of the Internet. With the Internet, more and more people are less likely to take their cues from broadcast stations or even newspapers. Dean has used the Internet to build a fiercely motivated and loyal group of partisans, extending to all 50 states and self-organized with little input or central control.

Se let's assume Dean loses NH. His campaign plane, formerly packed with journalists, is suddenly empty. Dean is traveling in an old 1972 VW van, because it's the only thing he can afford. We then have:

South Carolina, Delaware, Missouri, Arizona, New Mexico, Oklahoma: 2.2
Kerry wins these "liberal" states. Dean decides to fight on.

Michigan, Washington (caucus): 2.7
Washington is strong Dean territory, and the caucuses play well to his strengths. Given Kerry's lack of comparable ground operation, Dean could pull a surprise victory here. It doesn't put him back on the national radar screen, but it energizes his partisans elsewhere -- their man can still win, regardless of what the media says.

Maine: 2.8
Another Dean-friendly state. Maine loves the mavericks (Perot had his best results here). A Dean victory here shocks the nation, and the media is forced to start paying attention, albeit tentatively.

Virginia, Tennessee: 2.10
Nothing doing here, but Dean is campaigning full-time in:

Wisconsin: 2.17
I have been dissing WI as irrelevant in these scenarios, but in this alternate scenario, WI is suddenly the hottest battleground in the nation. Dean is putting everything he has to rescue his floundering, yet surviving campaign. Kerry cannot afford any more loses to Dean -- the horror-movie zombie who doesn't know when to stay dead.

Idaho: 2.24 and Utah: 2.27; and Super Tuesday: 3.2
By this point, Dean is bloddied, broke, but still alive. Super Tuesday is a money day, and it's hard to see how Dean could pull it off. His candidacy would probably die in a flood of Kerry money.

But here's the kicker -- as Kerry and Dean split the lefty vote, the "moderate" candidate has an undivided share of the centrist vote. He wins the election right here and now.

Posted June 26, 2003 03:57 AM | Comments (127)


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