Thursday, February 19, 2004

A couple of thoughts on the evolving political landscape. First of all, I think Tim Noah comes perilously close to diagnosing exactly what was wrong with the Dean campaign. Tim's thesis is that there were two Howard Deans: the real centrist and the fake liberal, and that what killed his campaign was the tension between the two. There's a certain truth in that. What he doesn't say is that there were also two campaigns: New Media and Old. The Old Media campaign largely featured the liberal Howard Dean, which was slightly at odds with reality. The New Media campaign was a grassroots swelling of support for the real Howard Dean. I've long since given up on Old Media, so all I saw was the real thing, which led to confusion whenever I talked about Dean to my friends that still watch cable news or read newspapers. Could he have won if he'd stuck to the center-left? I dunno. Conventional wisdom says you run to the left for the primaries, then back to the center for the election, but with a high-stakes election like this one, I'm not sure that's the best strategy. Electability turned out to be the key, and he didn't beat that drum hard enough or soon enough.

But I'm glad to see he plans to keep his organization intact in order for them to remain a force in the Democratic party. Lord knows somebody needs to shake things up in that organization. And then there's the post-primary season. Kerry, at least isn't shackled by spending limits, but he doesn't have Dean's ability to raise money from the general public. And if Edwards wins the nomination (which I'm kind of hoping for), then he'll be muzzled from the convention onwards, while Bush cuts loose with a firehose of money.

Josh Marshall says more or less the same thing. In fact, that's what spurred my thinking on the topic. But he doesn't say anything about Dean's organization or MoveOn.org, both of whom will be, as I understand it, free to attack Bush as much as they'd like, as long as they don't say nice things about the Democratic candidate. And that could make this a very interesting race.

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