Tuesday | July 01, 2003
Dr. Dean and the $6 million
By Steve Gilliard
While I'm officially neutral on the Presidential race, I think a lot of people, including the sneering Chris Matthews and clueless Howie Fineman need to go back in the memory bank and recall how Democrats win presidential elections.
The media were slow to have figured out the Internet and slow to have picked up on Clinton's appeal. They have forgotten that Democrats win when they stand for something. And they win when they are insurgents. No one predicted Clinton would win against the Washington insiders they drank with. No one knew who Jimmy Carter was, except that he was no Lester Maddox.
Dean has done two things, raise a lot of money from a lot of people and do so very efficiently. That's more important than the amount raised. Lieberman and Gephardt are going on the traditional rubber chicken circuit and not making the kind of money they need to be viable. They just aren't resonating with the money people.
The idea that Dean is some doomed charge is well, really, really silly. First of all, he's got a credibility plus which will come into play against the other Dems, forget Bush: he's a doctor.
People hate lawyers, but use them. People don't like or trust businessmen, but people trust doctors. Calling Dean a liar or weak is going to be very hard, because he's a doctor and he can deliver bad news and clear options with an ease Karl Rove wishes he has.
Second, he's found a way ro raise money cheaply, efficently and in a targeted way. Bush and his cronies can't hope to do that in the next year. He still has to travel to collect those checks and that will ultimately turn against him.
Third, Russert and the rest of the Beltway Kool Kids are doing him a favor. By knocking him, they make him likable. Americans hate reporters as much as they hate lawyers. Maybe Maureen Dowd learned her lesson from the Clinton era, but the rest of them haven't. Russert helped Hillary Clinton get elected with his hamfisted questioning of her, and his questions of Dean just pissed people off. Russert, like a lot of Beltway folk, think they understand campaigns and they don't. They're consistently wrong and never admit it. They were wrong about Clinton and the war.
Dean's chances depend less on his perceived weaknesses than Bush's problems. If Iraq turns into a full-blown disaster, if the WMD are not found, Dean's campaign will explode. People forget two things about the McGovern campaign, which they could remember if they read Fear and Loathing on the Campaign Trail '72 by Hunter Thompson. One, Nixon cheated. He used dirty tricks, played the race card and did his best to hamper McGovern. Two, the Dems were still split over Vietnam. Many Dem office holders had backed the war. McGovern's campaign was crippled by a divisive convention and a VP candidate who was found to have had shock treatments and he had to change horses in midstream.
Barring some kind of incredible collapse or scandal, Dean is not going to be inflicted with any of those problems.
Bush, however, may well have any number of problems, starting with the collaspe of state economies, begining with California, followed none too shortly by Texas. Bush took a real hit on a lot of his iniatives, regardless of the war. With the war, he could be in serious, serious trouble. History is not kind to presidents running failed wars. During Korea and Vietnam, the sitting presidents didn't even run for another term.
I think the idea that Bush is going to steamroll his way through the 2004 election is based on June 2003 thinking and little else. His popularity is declining, the war is growing more unpopular by the day, and the economy is stagnant. Ressurecting the Reagan/Clinton "Are you better off today than you were four years ago?" is a done deal. Bush's whole adminsitration hangs on a successful conclusion to the Iraqi adventure. Which requires allowing the Shia clerics to take over.
I think the pundits are going to look as stupid next year as they did in November, 1992.
Steve GilliardPosted July 01, 2003 02:09 AM | Comments (73)