Two men enter, one man leaves...
When Dean had his huge lead, I wrote that if anyone can take him down, they deserve to be the nominee. I don't think that there is much behind Kerry besides momentum and resume. But he is the front-runner. Whoever can take him down, deserves the nod.
I think that Kerry has to seal the deal over the next two days. If he doesn't, then he could be in the same fix that Dean is in now. No money, nasty press, and declining momentum. He has a reputation as a Velcro man-someone who gets everything to stick to him. Johnny Chung, the mansion, the special interest money all work and all piss the candidate off. If those messages are given time to get into the voter's heads, then the momentum could be lost. I think "Bob Dole" should shadow Kerry the way "McGovern" shadowed Dean
However, for Kerry to win, he really just needs to cruise on happy and hope that the money people in Washington and New York are giving generously. The magic question for John is "how much money is in his account?"
Dean wants this to be the Thunderdome strategy. Two men enter, one man leaves. I think Thunderdome has been in the wings since the Iowa debacle. NH was recovery and it needed as much money as could be used to recover. It worked. It sucked the oxygen and money out of clark and Edwards. Edwards had no momentum coming out of NH and his sleight of hand second in Iowa seems to fade. Clark didn't get the bounce he wanted out of ignoring Iowa. Now, the two of them (without Deaniacs) are fighting to continue. I think it might be sinking in on the press (see Sullivan) that they want this fight to continue, but Dean might be the only one who can do it credibly. If I look at it that way, NH was a victory of the Thunderdome strategy. We'll see if that pans out in Wisconsin.
(OT Campaigns are about redrawing the original plan, going to Plan B and having the wherewithal to do it. Kerry and Dean have tossed out the original battle plans and are trying something new. Edwards, Clark, Gep, and Lieberman haven't given up on Plan A)
I am afraid that Edwards and Clark (my 2 & 3) are trying to stay out of a negative campaign and backup into the Thunderdome, but don't have the money or the media love (Dean) to make up for it. They are being passive and waiting for Dean (or Kerry) to just implode. Dean did and he still stands. Kerry hasn't yet and may not before the oxygen runs out.
I bet Dean survives, because of the Deaniacs. Noone else has a core of support quite like them. This week's goal (and the whole change of heart at the Blog) has been keeping the Deaniacs happy. The point of MTP and the red meat these days is the care and feeding of 25,000 contributors. The next ad cycle is so important. If they are interesting and creative, then more money will come. Too many people don't want to see their money wasted on bad ads. I think a variation on MoveOn's strategy would work here. Post all of the ads under consideration on BFA and have the members vote. Have them vote with their money.
I bet this will turn into a mudfest in one week. I bet Kerry fires back on Dean and Dean returns the favor. Then we really get the insurgent against the party. If that is the Thunderdome strategy, Dean couldn't have picked a better opponent than Kerry. And Kerry couldn't have picked a better opponent than Dean.
For Kerry to win, he needs to keep his skirts clean. He needs to keep rising up above the mud and picking up delegates. Kennedy is such a great supporter for Kerry, because every state that Dean wants to get him at is one that Kennedy has credibility. He has to keep treating Dean as if he were Kucinich. I don't think he will be able to do that.
These next two weeks will be fun.