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January 20, 2004
Clark: The Big Iowa Loser

Now that the dust has settled from the Iowa caucuses, some lessons can be taken from the results. First, the obvious damage was mostly done to Howard Dean, and the obvious benefits went to John Kerry and John Edwards, two candidates who weren't even close to Dean up until two weeks ago. Dean had the ground organization, the national recognition as front runner, and also sucked up most of the political oxygen leading up to last night.

How did Kerry and Edwards do it? They stayed on message and continued to quietly plug away while Loud Howard made stupid mistake after stupid mistake. Going to Plains to suck up to Jimmy Carter on Sunday was probably a mistake, especially since he came away with no endorsement and only a lukewarm greeting from the former president. Yelling at senior citizens during Q&A sessions may have been the last straw for Iowans looking at Dean, and if so, a Republican can take credit for derailing his campaign. However, the wheels have been coming off the Dean campaign ever since we got Saddam Hussein in custody, and it continued straight through to the end. Dean's strange speech after the caucus, featuring Dean screaming and pumping his fists with that strange smile of his, may put the final nails in his political coffin, but we'll see what happens in New Hampshire.

Dean can still come back by winning New Hampshire, but the biggest loser yesterday didn't bother to campaign in Iowa at all. Feeling that Dean had the state wrapped up, Wesley Clark surrendered back in November. Establishment Democrats clearly wanted Clark to be the un-Dean, predicated on their belief that Dean was virtually unstoppable in the current field. The Clinton contingent drafted Clark into the party and into the race -- possibly not in that order -- to bring in an outsider that they could control. Now that both Kerry and Edwards stomped Dean, they're the un-Deans and no one needs Clark now, and they have the advantage of actually being Democrats. Clark has no niche in this race any more, and you can expect the Clinton/McAuliffe faction to swing to Edwards, who may be a stronger candidate than anyone thought before, especially in the South. Clark is finished.

The end result? There is a strong possibility that if Dean takes New Hampshire and Edwards takes his home state of South Carolina, then we may see a catfight all the way through the primary season, where Edwards takes the South, Kerry the Midwest and establishment industrial North, and Dean picks up the West. Under that scenario, no one winds up with a majority of delegates prior to the convention and the Democrats have an August donnybrook on their hands.

Mark Noonan at Blogs for Bush has some good thoughts on last night's results as well.

UPDATE: Just to show you how wrong I might be, Joe Carter at Evangelical Outpost lists five reasons why I'm all wet on this one. He makes a good argument, but Clark's demonstrable falsehoods about his position on the war and his ludicrous until-the-birth-certificate-is-signed position on abortion will kill him, and like I said earlier, those looking for the anti-Dean no longer need Clark. Of course, Joe predicted we'd all be wrong about Iowa ... so his track record is better than mine this week!

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Posted by Ed Morrissey at January 20, 2004 6:17 AM

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» The Big Winner in Iowa? Clark from the evangelical outpost
With all due respect to the Captain, I have to disagree with his analysis. Clark, not Kerry, was the big winner in the Iowa Caucus. While Kerry won the “anybody but Dean” vote and Edwards made all the cornbelt ladies... [Read More]

Tracked on January 20, 2004 1:12 PM

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