Tuesday, January 20, 2004

So, Kerry won the caucus with 38%, Edwards came in second with 32%, and Dean came up third with 18%. My thoughts? I'll work my way up from the bottom.

Most of Dean's support was supposedly in new voters, and the caucus system tends to discourage those. If you've never done it before, how likely are you to drive into town to spend a few hours talking politics with a bunch of strangers, especially when your candidate is the target of so much negativity? The fact that it was below zero in most of Iowa last night adds to the discouragement. His turnout was low enough to fall below the line of viability in many areas, which meant that his votes went to someone else (probably Edwards, but that's just a guess based on Kerry's negative campaigning against Dean), or weren't counted at all. If those votes counted, then the race might have looked more like 38/32/25, which is not nearly as poor a showing for Dean.

Still, a week ago, Dean was the presumed winner, so this is a blow, and a reminder to us all how hard it is to win when the press doesn't like you. We can complain all we want that the press are a bunch of shallow, image-obsessed Heathers (which they are, and I will), but to win, a candidate has to seduce them one way or another. The central problem here is seducing the press and the public at the same time, when so much of the public dislikes Bush and is looking for substance and integrity, while the press loves Bush and craves only the appearance of integrity and a veneer of substance. The real thing freaks them out, as it's completely foreign to them.

What about Edwards? I've always liked him, but frankly know very little about him. I suspect his success is based partly on a relentless positive campaign and partly on the fact that the press has ignored him. They won't be ignoring him anymore, and if Kerry stays true to character, I expect some flak will start flying his way (I've already heard about one crack Kerry made about Edwards' youth). Personally, I hope he stands up under the fire.

Now, onto Kerry. I've gotta admit, there's not a single thing about Kerry that gets me excited in a positive way. I'm okay with his policies, but they're just your basic generic Democratic stuff. The fact that he was a war hero is great, as far as it goes, but the fact that he showed great courage 35 years ago means nothing to me if I have to read that far back into his biography to find signs of courage, and I feel like I do. His campaign has been marked by boilerplate rhetoric and an enthusiasm for attacks that concentrated more on the way things were said than on the actual point. In other words, all surface and no substance, politics as usual. No wonder the media likes him so much.

If Kerry wins the nomination, I can't deny I'll be disappointed, but I'll still vote for him. If it's Dean or Edwards, however, I'd be out there walking the streets, handing out literature, stuffing envelopes, or whatever I could do to help.

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