Like most of us political junkies, I've been bingeing on the blogs, the 'bates and the c-span bleats, and am feeling that anxious-at-the-eighth grade dance feeling, prepping for imminent humiliation or consolatory surprise. It's only fitting that Wes Clark has chosen Journey's Greatest Hits
for the soundtrack. "Don't stop believin'" and all that biz...
But it's clear my guy has had a rough week. Shaken at the debate, having insufficiently prepped for the Fox ambush, the media is sidelining him. Expectations are low, the pundits dismissive, and it appears that Clark is every bit the green politico that folks said he would be. A man with a good heart, a ton of brains, an outstanding resume and exceptional charater...but a rookie at the hustings. His internal campaign organization has failed him at a critical time, though it's impossible to say things are over altogether.
There are still some possibilities...
The Clark campaign has reached the monetary goal it set for itself in advance of New Hampsire: $2 million. It's leading in one of the three polled Feb 3 states (OK) and is within the margin of error for first in the two most recent Arizona polls. Campaign emails say that Clark is aiming for one of the top-four spots in New Hampshire, for 'viability'. Barring a massive independent turnout and a Lieberman surge, Clark should get that.
The best scenario I see for Clark in New Hampshire is a Dean/Kerry tie for first and a Clark/Edwards tie for third. This would effectively regionalize the results, showing that New England voters chose to support New England candidates. A narrow Dean win or tie hurts Kerry's momentum, strengthens Dean a bit, but does not necessarily pull on any of Clark's support in the Feb 3 states. If Edwards and Clark are within a point or so of each other, it offers a choice between southern alternatives in advance of the first super Tuesday. And hopefully this'd effectively knee-bat limpin' Lieb altogether. At that point Clark could concentrate on trying to win Oklahoma and at least one of the SW states. Two states on Feb 3 would give him renewed purpose, and help him toward winning Tennessee and Virginia on Feb 10.
This is a reasonable scenario, but also an optimistic one. It's possible that Clark will finish a weak fourth or worse in NH, and the media wil not forgive him for it. He would then likely slip back in the Feb 3 states, and have to drop out after next Tuesday. In that case, I know where my loyalties will go, as attenuated as they'll be at that point.
...or Clark perishes.
I'm not adverse to a Kerry/Edwards ticket. Regardless of how Dean finishes, that'll be the product the media sells, and I'm just not sure where they'll be buying consumer-alternative Dean in the Feb 3 states...Delaware, North Dakota...it seems like Kerry, Edwards and Clark all inherited the Gep loot...so I don't see Missouri in the cards. Maybe New Mexico. Personally, I think if Clark fades, so does Dean...maybe slower...but the lights go out eventually. Whereto goes the outsider, other outsiders will follow.
But as I say, I'm not adverse to a Kerry/Edwards ticket. It offers regional balance and experience, and it seems stronger to me than a Gore/Lieberman ticket. I would only hope they would consider Wes Clark for Secretary of State or Defense...both of which it often seems he's running for anyway. He would be a great choice for either position.
But should Clark fade, and a threeway race emerge between Kerry, Dean and Edwards...Kerry will not be the guy I'm rooting for. Frankly, it'll be hard to root anyway, but if I'm to root for another, it'll be the fella who perplexes and vexes the GOP the most. And I think that candidate is clear among those three: it's sunny John Edwards, Clinton 2.0. It's hard to run against a man who is 5% personal record and 95% optimism and populist rhetoric.
Should Clark fade, I'm going to be pushing the tile down the rut for an Edwards/Richardson ticket...regionally balanced in the right way...and a quick innoculation to Rove's guileful Latin-liberation strategy. It's close enough to Clark/Richardson to suit me, and if Edwards installs Clark at State or Defense, the net effect is the same. In fact, a trio of Kerry/Clark/Zinni at State, Defense and Nat Security Advisor isn't a bad thought.
Most appendages on this Clarkie are crossed and clustered for tomorrow...and I have hope that first and third in New Hampshire cross as well:
- Lieb over and out.