Dispatches > The Buzz


Issue: "Iraq: The other caucuses," Jan. 31, 2004

A-changin' race

Let's not forget that Howard Dean was supposed to be the internet candidate. What did the official Dean blog (blogforamerica.com) have to say about Dr. Dean's stunning defeat? Just remember, it's never too early to spin: "Those of you who've lived in Iowa have seen and heard negative spin about Dean regularly-nitpicking, angry name-calling, a sense that the others have joined forces to resist the change that you are serious about making happen."

Robert Tagorda (tagorda.com), though, noted that other Democratic candidates had picked up much of the Dean message, so the campaign was boiling down to image: "If the three candidates shared the same message, and Dean came out last, what does that say about his image? Basically, the public dislikes the messenger. His organizational superiority, high-profile endorsements, and other advantages were not enough to overcome his high negative ratings. Maybe likability is a bigger concern than originally thought to be."

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Finally, Gregg Easterbrook (tnr.com/easterbrook.mhtml) penned a song to the tune of "The Times They Are A-Changin'" for Kerry supporter Peter Yarrow (of Peter, Paul and Mary) to sing on the campaign trail: "Come writers and critics/Who punditize with your pen/And swallow your hats/You've been wrong once again/And don't speak too soon/with your heads/still in spin/ For there's no tellin' who/Voters are namin'./Could the Democrat now/Be later to win?/For the race it is a-changin'."

Waterloo, not just a city in Iowa

Andrew Sullivan (andrew sullivan .com) saw Wesley Clark as the real loser in Iowa: Gen. Clark "was supposed to be the anti-Dean, but adopted Deanish rhetoric. Both positions are now somewhat redundant. The Iowa voters-not exactly centrists-picked Kerry and Edwards to be the anti-Dean candidate, and the shrillness of the Dean-Clark message (the shrillness that so appealed to Paul Krugman) was just as soundly rejected." Shrillness? Jeff Jarvis (buzzmachine.com) described Howard Dean's cheerleading "concession" speech as "[an] unearthly squawk ... like the last angry cry of the last dodo bird."

Deanophobe Jonathan Chait (tnr.com/deano phobe.mhtml) could not make up his mind whether Dr. Dean's loss was a good thing or a bad thing for Dean haters. Immediately after the news he was pessimistic. "Now the anti-Dean vote is terribly split. And Dean's vote is not going to go away. We could be looking at a long slog, and Dean has the money and intensity of support to stay in that game.... The best scenario (from my Dean-o-phobic perspective, of course) remains getting down to a two-candidate race as soon as possible. That day is now farther away."

After more thought Mr. Chait gave himself a little room to celebrate: "I hadn't realized how big an impact Dean's speech made. When I saw Dean make his crazed, pro-wrestling-style rant I had the same reaction I always have to Dean: This is a man who should not be allowed anywhere near the White House without security guards dragging him off the premises immediately. But last night's speech was more viscerally wacky, and more widely disseminated, than any other he'd given. I think Dean irrevocably turned off a huge number of voters. That speech may go down as his Waterloo."

Comeback Kerry?

With his comeback victory in Iowa, Sen. John Kerry may have finally settled a score with Mickey Kaus (kausfiles.com). In early December, Mr. Kaus sponsored a contest to find the best excuse for a Kerry withdrawal. The day before the Iowa caucus, Mr. Kaus wrote that his Democratic preferences were "Edwards / Dean / Gephardt / Lieberman / a Bush-Clark tossup / the complete telephone books of all major American cities / Kerry." Any surprise that Mr. Kaus titled his post on Sen. Kerry's victory, "Iowans Reject Kerry by 62-38 Margin"?

Mr. Kaus looked forward to New Hampshire with a look back to 1984: "The Kerry victory in Iowa reminds me, not unsurprisingly, of Gary Hart's come-from-behind victory in New Hampshire in 1984 ... the rest of the campaign did more or less correspond to a scenario in which Democrats found out more about Hart and decided 'on second thought, no.' ... The idea of John Kerry is appealing. The reality is less so (and a lot more less so than was the reality of Hart). As the primaries proceed, my guess is voters will learn more about Kerry and his support will fade."


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