Play It Again Sam! (A Look Back on the Democratic Primary with John F. Kerry: February 11, 2004)
With Senator John F. Kerry’s big surprise win over Howard Dean in the Iowa caucuses on the night of January 19th, the Democratic presidential primary race has been thrown for a loop. The departure of former House Minority Leader Richard Gephardt (D-MO) from the race means that there are only seven Democrat dwarves left in the running. Kerry is clearly emerging as the “Stop-Dean” candidate around which the anti-Dean forces in the Democratic Party will rally. These anti-Dean party hacks believe that, despite his more centrist record at least on fiscal matters and his past support from the National Rifle Association, Dean has positioned himself too far to the left of Bush to stand a chance at winning. Indeed, Dean’s increasing looniness typified by his bizarre rant followed by an even more bizarre scream, which has become a major news story in its own right, at a rally following his Iowa loss to Kerry and Edwards has only served to reinforce that view. It has also served to increase a growing perception that Dean as a candidate is in the process of imploding.
Kerry’s win and Dean’s smashing defeat in Iowa and Kerry’s subsequent meteoric rise in the New Hampshire and national polls mean that Kerry is now the Democratic presidential frontrunner. Despite this fact, former Governor Howard Dean retains some of the trappings of his former front-runner status having broken previous fundraising records by raising $40 million last year and with the best competitive multi-state organization and has the potential to use his advantage in campaign funds and volunteers to score upsets along Kerry’s path to the nomination. Kerry on the other hands is virtually broke, having mortgaged his Boston mansion to throw money into Iowa. While his momentum should carry him to victory in New Hampshire, even if he wins there it is going to be difficult for him, without dedicating most of his time fundraising, to raise money fast enough to be really competitive in all of the important states which will be holding their presidential primaries during the next seven weeks.
The latest Reuters/MSNBC/Zogby poll released on January 25th, shows Kerry with a narrow three point lead among likely New Hampshire Democratic primary voters. Kerry’s Iowa momentum may well propel him to a narrow victory over Howard Dean in New Hampshire on Tuesday. Even if that happens, Dean still has enough money, overall popularity and volunteers to slug it out with Kerry well beyond Super Tuesday on March 2nd, ensuring that the final outcome will not be known until some time after that. If Dean wins a significant number of subsequent state primaries, there is a slight, but still unlikely chance that this primary race will not be completely decided until the Democratic nominating convention. This could potentially represent a nightmare scenario for the Democrats as it might not allow the Democrats enough time to unify and regroup to face President Bush and might allow Senator Hillary Clinton or even former Vice President Al Gore to step in to save the party from a weakened and wounded erstwhile nominee.
If Kerry wins, look for him to place Senator John McCain (R-AZ) on his short list for Vice President. Kerry and McCain are friends and both hate President George W. Bush. If Dean pulls out a hard-won victory, which would almost certainly require him to beat Kerry in New Hampshire, look for General Wesley Clark to be his number one choice for veep. Freshman Senator John Edwards, a supposed moderate, has run a positive though comparatively issueless campaign. He would likely be Kerry and Dean’s second choice for a running mate although Kerry might want to put Hillary Clinton on his ticket. Clark and Edwards may or may not win state primaries after the New Hampshire contest in which they are likely to place third and fourth respectively, but neither one has got much of a shot at the nomination as the race has now boiled down to a two person Dean-Kerry slugfest.
One interesting question is where the Clintons stand in all of this. Hillary Clinton had strongly considered running for President against Bush this year, but opted against it when his twin failures in Iraq and with the US economy (since improved) last year failed to sufficiently damage his standing in the polls. Hillary now plans to run for President in 2008. She would clearly love to run as the Democrats Vice-Presidential nominee in 2004 to give her added momentum to beat Al Gore in the 2008 Democrat presidential primary. However, Hillary has a vested interest in helping to ensure a Democratic loss to President Bush in this year’s presidential race because otherwise she will have to wait until 2012 to run for President when she will be 64 and may appear too elderly to run. Under this logic, the Clintons could be expected to support Dean who most political pundits believe has the lowest chance of beating President Bush. But because Dean has run in the primary as an outsider, insurgent candidate running against the Democratic establishment, they are opposing him so that they can retain their control over the Democratic Party
Instead, the Clintons have been pushing General Clark as the nominee. General Clark would have been the most formidable Democrat presidential nominee given his national security credentials which are far superior to those of President Bush. His gaffes on the campaign trail have been much exaggerated by his Republican opposition. It is General Clark, having opposed the US invasion of Iraq from the start, who has come out with the best plan for what the US should do to extricate itself from Iraq of all the candidates running for President on either side. Some of these Iraq policy recommendations are outlined in his excellent book, “Winning Modern Wars.” He is the most presidential of the seven Democrat dwarves and has the most potential as a candidate. Unfortunately for him, it appears that he entered the race too late to allow himself time to compete in Iowa and overcome the learning curve which could be expected from a relative political neophyte who has never before run for office. His most damning flaw is that he is an extremist on abortion-advocating a mother’s right to kill her baby up to the day that it is born.
Once Clark fades, there is a good chance that the Clinton’s will come out and back John Kerry, who on paper has the second most impressive resume to oppose Bush. But due to his treasonous past as an anti-war radical who organized militant protests along with the Communists against the United States (the subject of my next article), Kerry is even more unqualified to be President than Howard Dean is due to his hot temper and unstable personality. Finally, his record in office has been considerably more liberal than Dean’s relatively centrist record as Governor of Vermont. ***
David T Pyne currently serves as DUV-PAC Chairman, President of the Utah Republican Assembly, and as Vice President for the Association of the United States Army’s Utah Chapter. A former national security expert, he has served as President of the Center for the National Security Interest, worked as a defense contractor and International Programs Manager, as an International Analyst for the Office of the Secretary of Defense and Department of the Navy, and as a Research Assistant for the Center for Security Policy.