Wednesday, February 18, 2004

Dean's Done.

I don't usually punctuate my headlines, but this one deserved it. And rather than rehashing all of the stories about the end of Howard Dean's run for the Democratic nomination, let me give you all some of my impressions on Dean.

As some of you may remember, I started as a blogger over at Dean Nation. The campaign was a blip on the political radar, yet a number of us flocked to Dean as a new kind of Democrat. Even though I left the blog and wound up supporting Wesley Clark, I still thought Dean was a new kind of Democrat. It was Dean's boldness that attracted me. He was gutsy. He didn't mince words or pull punches.

In 2000, I voted for Ralph Nader. Now before you all go gaping and gasping, let me say that I only did so because Al Gore was going to win my state of New Jersey with or without my vote. If I had lived somewhere else, or if the race had been close, I would have voted for Gore. In retrospect, even though my vote for Nader didn't really hurt Gore, I wish I had voted for Gore. Even so, I still know that my vote counted toward the progressive mandate that was robbed from all of us that winter.

Howard Dean's candidacy didn't bring me back into the Democratic tent, but it did get me excited about being there. It wasn't Dean's anti-Iraq pitch that got me--it was his promise of universal healthcare. It was the fact that he talked about the great political lie, in which politicians promise you the moon and tell you not to worry about paying for it. It was his demeanor, his attitude, and his optimism. It was the fact that he wasn't a Beltway guy.

I moved away from Dean Nation before I left Dean. The campaign noticed the bloggers and started to mobilize us in a big way. Campaign staffers--Joe Trippi included--started sending us e-mail. These people clearly cared about cultivating the netroots in a way I don't think any of us had expected. Some of my fellow Dean Nation posters started the Dean Defense Forces, which was a completely grassroots effort aimed at shooting down any negativity directed at the Dean campaign. I took part for a while and then quickly left. I didn't want to defend Dean for the sake of defending him. I wanted to defend him because he was right. And I certainly didn't really want to be part of an arm of the campaign posing as a grassroots collective of bloggers. DemWatch was already up and running, Dean Nation had more than enough writers, and so I quietly stopped posting. To this day, I still have login and posting access.

When I read from the pundits that Dean failed because the campaign focused too much on the netroots, I want to laugh. There seems to be a theory about Trippi that isn't unlike the 'evil genius' theories about Karl Rove. Trippi and Zephyr Teachout and Mathew Gross didn't form the netroots out of clay. They found us. We were already there. The Dean campaign just had the insight to understand that there was untapped power on the web and the guts to tap that power.

Howard Dean now speaks of his campaign's success in reshaping the Democratic Party. He's absolutely right. Kicking Ass. MeetUp. From The Roots. Online Fundraising. Deanie Baby Candidates.

Back in November, it became fashionable to ask whether Dean was the Democrats' Goldwater or the 2004's McGovern. I simply asked, "is Howard Dean merely a candidate? Or a movement?"

Today, I think we have our answer. He was and hopefully will still remain a movement.

posted by Scott | 2/18/2004 | |

...And Now For The Good News

It's going to be a long, slow, arduous process, but, starting in Kentucky, the Democrats have begun to take back the House. In a special election for the Kentucky 6th, Democrat Ben Chandler beat his opponent, Alice Forgy Kerr, 55% - 43%.

Both parties turned this election into a proxy war, essentially making it a bellwether for November. Dubya cut TV ads for Kerr. Chandler tapped national Democratic bloggers to run fundraising ads on their sites. GOP House speaker Dennis Hastert threatened the people of the Kentucky 6th if they didn't vote for Kerr. The DCCC sent buses full of activists to Kentucky to help mobilize voters for Chandler.

Sounds pretty even, huh? Neither party was really slacking on this one. Everyone on both sides put their game faces on and fought hard.

When the dust had settled, our side won. That's gotta tell you something about this moment in American politics.

The next test of the Dem'Mo will be on June 1 in South Dakota, where Stephanie Herseth is running for the seat vacated by GOP'er Bill Janklow who, uh, killed someone. Right now, Herseth is leading the GOP challenger Larry Diedrich at 58% - 29%. We should win this one, too, but Steph can't do it alone, so do what you can to give her a hand.

Let's give Tom DeLay something to cry about.

posted by Scott | 2/18/2004 | |

Tuesday, February 17, 2004

Wisconsin Shocker???

The following is my update on tonight's earlier post, which I accidentally erased. Oops.

Well, I was right. No one saw this coming. Kerry was supposed to beat John Edwards by at least 24%. The latest numbers, now with 83% reporting, have Kerry beating Edwards by a mere 4%. Not exactly the 'dead heat' I called earlier, but it's pretty damn close.

And I do stand by what I wrote earlier tonight. You do have to wonder what even a close race means for Edwards beyond Wisconsin. For the time being at least, the race has gone from being a Kerry shoo-in to being a two-man race.

Howard Dean is now effectively done. During tonight's speech, he sounded very vague in terms of where DFA was headed next. It was all very open-ended, as if to say, 'we are going on, but it may not be as a presidential campaign.' Over at my old, old home of Dean Nation, Matt B. wrote that "It's All Over," expressing his view that Dean should drop out and endorse Edwards. Matt's not alone in feeling that way. There are others, of course, who say that Dean should drop out and not endorse anyone. And still others who believe that Dean has every right to stay in the race. Interestingly, not many seem to saying that they want Dean to stay in the race.

I was wrong about one thing, though. The night turned out to be just about as short as it was supposed to be. But it also turned out that John Edwards didn't need a long night to make a big impact on the outcome.

posted by Scott | 2/17/2004 | |

Last Minute Wisconsin Polling

I think we all know what the numbers say, but here they are anyway:

Zogby

Kerry - 47%, Dean - 23%, Edwards - 20%

ARG

Kerry - 53%, Edwards - 16%, Dean - 11%

What's interesting to me here is the discrepancy between Dean and Edwards in the two polls. Kerry's going to win it. There's no real question there. But if Edwards comes in strong second (and by strong, I mean beats Dean handily, not necessarily that he might finish close to Kerry), he can use that placement to claim momentum, aiming at Super Tuesday.

Say what you will, but that strategy worked for Edwards coming out of Iowa and it may yet work again. Increasing questions about Kerry's actual electability and Dean's wisdom in staying in the race might give Edwards a boost going into March 2.

Or maybe Kerry's got this thing wrapped up and I'm just spinning myself a yarn so I have something to write about.

posted by Scott | 2/17/2004 | |

Sunday, February 15, 2004

Dean Hinting At End To Campaign

There's nothing concrete to tell you on this one, but the word on the political street is that Howard Dean is in the final days of his bid for the Presidency.

Here's a sampling of the chatter:

Boston Globe: This one's the most overt, with its "Dean bid shows signs of ending" headline. The most telling evidence that Dean's getting ready to pack it in? "His calendar for next week is not booked beyond Wednesday, when he plans to return home to Burlington, VT." Or how about this? The campaign "has not sought a new contract with the main air charter company that has been flying him around the country." Pretty serious stuff. But not as clear as Dean's own words. When he was asked if he'd still be a candidate by Super Tuesday, Dean responded, "I don't know the answer to that question yet."

New York Times: There's a lot less evidence and a lot more conjecture here, but the conclusion is the same. Rather than pointing to air charter contracts of public schedules, The Times writes of the changing tone and scope of Dean's campaign, which has become smaller, more personal, less serious, and in certain ways, more fun. He commented, "I think it's a little early to be writing the postmortems yet," but he certainly didn't seem to think that the postmortems wouldn't be coming sooner or later, anyway.

Reuters: According to this report, when asked by a TV news reporter how long his campaign would continue, Dean answered, "you'll find out Wednesday." The rest of the piece talks about dwindling crowds and lack of enthusiastic support from other elected officials.

Doesn't sound good for the Deaniacs, huh?

posted by Scott | 2/15/2004 | |

Kerry Wins Nevada, DC Contests

Nothing really to report here, but I felt I'd be lax if I didn't at least mention it. Not that it's really going to help his campaign, but Sharpton came in second in DC, lending him a touch of credibility.

posted by Scott | 2/15/2004 | |
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