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
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.
Brian S. Wise
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