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David Broder, in today's Washington Post, makes the same point as I did in my previous post -- that Dean is fortunate to still be running against eight other candidates:
With nine candidates contesting for votes, he doesn't have to persuade a majority to support him. He just has to turn out the true believers. Even modest plurality wins in those races would translate into a wealth of favorable publicity, and with more money to spend than any of his opponents, Dean could well run the table of the early February contests before anyone else effectively mobilizes a counterattack.
Eventually, of course, Dean will have to expand his support beyond the "true believers" that have lifted him to the top of a very crowded race, a campaign that seems stuck around the 24-27% mark amongst Democrats alone. As other candidates drop out, Dean has to find a way to attract their supporters without alienating his base, something that looked inevitable before December and the series of foolish gaffes he committed with his "plain speaking". The only way another candidate can hope to dislodge Dean, however, is still through the elimination of other competition and an emphasis on Dean's mistakes:
The nationally televised debate here on Sunday, sponsored by the Des Moines Register and Iowa Public Television, was essentially a series of attempts to make Dean explain -- or recant -- some of the remarkable things he has said in the past few weeks. ... To argue, as Dean did, on the day after Saddam Hussein's capture by American troops, that jailing the Iraqi dictator left America "no safer" was a classically ill-timed remark. ... His remark to the Concord Monitor that he did not want to prejudge the guilt or innocence of Osama bin Laden left Dean arguing a legalistic point that once again set him apart from public opinion.
Expect more of this, but David Broder missed the one issue that definitely will figure into a weapon of last resort among the Dem hopefuls: the failure of Vermont to properly protect their Vermont Yankee nuclear facility and Dean's contributions from the energy providers that benefited from the savings in their sale of the reactor. This may be too toxic even for a last-ditch effort to save the Party from Dean; after all, the betrayal of environmental groups may well drive them to vote Green in 2004. However, even if it doesn't get raised in the primaries, everyone knows that the Republicans will be happy to publicize it in the fall. The risk is there regardless of who spills the beans.
In the end, Dean can only be undone if the race quickly collapses to a single opponent in the primaries. The longer the other eight stay in the race, the more certain Dean's victory, no matter what else happens. [More on that in this post.]Sphere It View blog reactions
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David S. Broder: Dean: Dominator or Detonator? "Howard Dean is now racing the clock to see what comes first -- nomination or detonation... The voting can't come too soon for this accident-prone star." For Broder, Dean's "accidents" are his flip-flops, ... [Read More]
Tracked on January 7, 2004 10:12 PM
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