In 2003, i was impressed with how Dean seemed to always be one step in front of his opponents, whether it be on the war, NCLB, calling for "re-regulation" of business. but he can't seem to do anything right in 2004, whether it's the Iowa commercial calling out his anti-war stance when nobody cared anymore to going to get anointed by Carter in Georgia to his absolute passive stance regarding "electability" when we knew that was all NH voters cared about and it's all they care about now. Meanwhile, Kerry has adapted brilliantly to the electorate's whims. His "Dated Dean, Married Kerry" and his "Don't send a message, send them a president," were extremely effective. it was the message voters wanted to hear. Dean couldn't even win health care voters in NH for god's sake. That is an utter failure of PR. he could only win "those wanting to change washington." all 10 of them.
Now he's still on a message about "leadership is doing what's right no matter what the polls say or how unpopular" and "Kerry is a handmaiden of special interests" and "we need a change in Washington." this message is WRONG, WRONG, WRONG. most Democrats have already credited Dean for injecting the Dems with a spine, they are grateful he took a strong stance against the war, but they now want solely someone to BEAT GEORGE BUSH. they don't need self-righteous Nader/Jerry Brown crusades about the inherent evils of Washington (Trippi's theme). The Dean campaign has utterly failed to address this fact of life head on. Calling Kerry a special interest tool is stupid because 1. it's not true. a guy with a 95% rating from the LCV and the ADA is no handmaiden and 2. does nothing to weaken why people are voting for him: he looks presidential and experienced, is a war hero and will give bush a fight. The message needs to be "Why I, Howard Dean, am the most electable and best able to beat George Bush" and that has nothing to do with "changing Washington" and cleansing the place of special interests.
i got into Dean in the summer 2002, way before Iraq, when i read John Cohn's New Republic piece about the fiscal tightwad conservative doctor from VT who had cut income taxes twice, balanced the budget, gotten through the first bush recession, was more conservative with money than the GOP, was a big states rights person on guns and education, stood up for civil unions, and had provided universal health care to residents. i read that and said, hell, THAT is the message we need against Bush. those stances are what are gonna make him play in Tennessee and Arizona while also energizing the base. most of America right now has no idea about that Dean and his record. they only know the angry, anti-war, tax-raising, rabble rousing, populist, anti-corporate revolutionary out to reinvent American politics when Democratic voters are in no freakin mood for that message. Dean is not Nader and he shouldn't try to be. he needs to attack in a fair and realistic way why Kerry is weak against Bush: "Senator, how can you be against the first gulf war and for the second and defend those votes against Bush? How can you attack NCLB when you voted for it? how can we have a gun-control loving, anti-death penalty liberal go against Bush? Massachusetts has extremely tight gun control laws. Vermont has none. that is what makes me way more electable, in addition to my conservative money management, my cutting income taxes while balancing the budget. i can show why i'm not the tax-and-spender Kerry is. i can show why i have real convictions vs. mr. change with the political winds. i'm also funded with real people's money vs. Kerry's mansion and $2000 checks." and that is a fair attack instead of this ridiculous one about Kerry being a republican.
but sigh. i'm not very hopeful that this message is the one getting out.