One last Gephardt thought

Tuesday, 20 January 2004, 20:34 | Category : Politics
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I haven’t heard anyone say this – except Mark touched on it – but I wonder if Gephardt’s results in Iowa maybe say more about the current political influence of organized labor than about Gephardt. Gephardt was endorsed by most unions. Dean was endorsed by two unions. Neither ended up turning out much in the way of voters (‘caucusees’). Unions have been declining as a political force for two decades now, but if Iowa is any indication, they’ve become almost a non-factor now. And if that’s true, then the Democratic Party has to come to grips with a new set of core constituents. And yes, I know that the Democrats have been a collection of liberal consitituencies for a while, but labor was their one tie to mainstream America. If that’s gone, they need to find a counterbalancing center fast, or they really will drift so far left that they’ll become irrelevant.

Iowa: What means this?

Tuesday, 20 January 2004, 12:20 | Category : Politics
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Self-congratulation time: nine days ago, I wrote that it seemed like Howard Dean’s support was softening. At the time, he was leading with a fairly comfortable margin, but it just didn’t feel right to me. I sure didn’t see Gephardt falling like he did, however. I expected Kerry or Edwards to make a push, but what they did was shove their way to the top. So, what does it mean? Here’s my guess:

Howard Dean now has to run as Howard Dean the Candidate, not as Howard Dean the Presumptive Nominee. And HDtC is, I believe, much less attractive than HDtPN, if you get my drift. He may still do well in New Hampshire, although that’s certainly not a given at this point. But beyond that, it’s hard to see where HDtC can pull many votes.

John Kerry goes into New Hampshire on fire, and poised to dominate if Dean’s support continues to fade. And the week after NH, there are primaries in Arizona, Delaware, Missouri, New Mexico, North Dakota, South Carolina, and Oklahoma. John Edwards will obviously be the favorite in South Carolina, but even there, Kerry’s military background will play well. And there are no obvious favorites in the other states. A Gephardt endorsement would help immensely in Missouri. Kerry could have things essentially wrapped up by the Michigan and Washington primaries on February 6. But…

John Edwards is also a hot commodity. And he has no expectations to meet in New Hampshire, so anything beyond single digits helps him there. And he has the advantage of playing on home turf the next week.

Wes Clark and Joe Lieberman are also in Hew Hampshire. For Lieberman, NH is his only real shot. Like Gephardt in Iowa, he has to have a respectable showing – meaning 1st, 2nd, or a very strong 3rd – to continue as a viable candidate. And I don’t see that happening. Wes Clark may be a strong contender in New Hampshire – he’s been there while the others, except Lieberman, were in Iowa. But it will be interesting to see how he does, with John Kerry now bringing momentum and a strong military background himself, into the mix. Clark was widely seen as the Not-Dean candidate when he entered the race in September. Now that there’s is another, mainstream Democrat alternative, Clark has a new set of dynamics on his hands.

More later…