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The Candidates: Howard Dean
In Dissent, Number One Hundred and Twenty-Two
by Brian S. Wise
11 July 2003Howard Dean

The fourth in an ongoing series briefly examining those Democrats running for president.

Fully considering Howard Dean would prove to be a much longer and more involved process than any standard length column (750 words) would allow, but here is what I think you need to know, in a nutshell.
Dean is an extraordinary, if not even slightly revolutionary, fundraiser; seven million dollars in the last quarter, a very large portion of it coming from internet donors, at an average of $110 per contribution.  Which means what?  That Dean will ultimately have much more money to spend, in that his campaign will have very few (if any) bills related to the trappings of traditional fundraising, e.g., room rental, food purchasing and preparation, wait staff, travel expenses, printing and mailing invitations, et cetera.  This will allow him to spend more money on State to State campaigning when the time comes, when other candidates are dumping tons of available cash on fundraising efforts.
An average contribution of $110 is also an extremely significant number, given that the most one person can donate this time around is $2,000; it means that when and if the times get tight, the Dean campaign can approach those donors and say, “We need more of your generous assistance in order to continue the fight against the Bush administration,” to the collective tune of $1,890 per average supporter, if need be, if financially possible.  And it will work, to Dean’s great credit, which is offered here in advance.
Second, Dean speaks directly to the hardcore heart of Democratism, which plays very well in States like New Hampshire and Iowa, known for their odd, almost loving support of the random political loony.  At the candidates powwow in Iowa a few months ago, Dean and Dennis Kucinich engaged in a rather provocative footrace to see who could go the furthest Left the fastest.  It was quite the effort, but Dean won, to the incalculable joy of those in attendance, who love both winners and far-Leftists.  Word got around, Dean won a poll of preferable candidates on MoveOn.org (it need not be said that those who frequent the site are also mostly far Left), and the rest is history.
The secret is that, if you lay your ear to the ground and listen hard enough, you will hear what is quickly becoming the general consensus among all of Republicanism, concerning the Democrats running for president: “Please God, please let it be Howard Dean.”  And with good reason.  No harm is done the campaign by appealing to the ravenous Left 16 months in advance of the general election, but it is only a small portion of Democratism resting that far out on the fringe.  The closer Dean gets to the nomination (this is assuming he gets past New Hampshire with some forward momentum; think of Paul Tsongas in 1992 and Pat Buchanan in 1996), the more to the center he will have to campaign if anything good is to happen for him.  Far-Leftist support can win you a lot of offices across the country simply by their working in concert, and they could even win you your party’s nomination for the presidency once in awhile, but it cannot win you the highest office.  There just are not enough of them, factoring in those Democrats who will look to third party candidates.
Moving to the center would not suit Dean.  It would take him away from his core beliefs and into areas where he may not be entirely comfortable, which represents no real weakness until he is backed into a corner and forced to deviate from the script, at which point something unfortunate will (you read it right, will) be said.  Among the relevant Democrats running for the presidency, Dean is most likely to stumble over anything in his path if the ultimate reward is he can say something really, really stupid.  And it certainly is an entertaining little psychological hang-up, but normally when a politician says something dumb it ends up being an exaggeration or a garden variety slip of the tongue.  Dean’s problem is that his campaign philosophy is, well, not an intelligent device.
That being said, Howard Dean will not emerge from the process his party’s nominee, but he will come out a recognized leader of his party at a time when it will need more prominent leaders.  This allows him approximately four years to polish the act, at which time he will almost assuredly run a better campaign on his behalf, but ultimately a most powerful campaign as Senator Clinton’s vice-presidential nominee.

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