September 27, 2004


If Howard Dean Were the Candidate ...: Flip-flops wouldn't be the issue; Iraq would. A look at what might have been (PETER BEINART, 9/27/04, TIME)

Political punditry is harder than it looks. That's what a lot of Democratic voters must be thinking right about now. Last winter Democratic-primary voters played political consultant. They tried to step inside the minds of swing voters and figure out which Democratic presidential candidate could beat George W. Bush. With an eye cast coldly on November, they rejected the man who had first won their hearts, Howard Dean, and flocked to the more "electable" choice, John Kerry. Among New Hampshire voters who said beating Bush was their biggest concern, Kerry beat Dean by a whopping 52 points.

Democratic voters should stick to their day jobs. With just five weeks until Election Day, there's reason to believe they guessed wrong — that Dean would be doing better against Bush than Kerry is. Yes, it's too late for Democrats to switch horses, but imagining how Dean might have done sheds light on what's going on now.

Given the robust economy, an incumbent president and a re-conservatizing America, there was no way the Democrats were ever going to win this election, however Howard Dean would have been a better nominee because he's got the necessary executive experience, doesn't have the deadly Senate voting record, and has a much more palatable personal demeanor. It is an indicator of how weak the Democrats are though that the best candidate they had on offer was another Northeastern liberal who'd not have been able to contend in any state south of Maryland.

Posted by Orrin Judd at September 27, 2004 10:16 PM

The internal campaign polling must just be brutal. All this lefty wailing and gnashing of teeth would be an overreaction to the public polls, which certainly (once massaged) show Kerry within striking distance.

Posted by: David Cohen at September 27, 2004 10:51 PM

Dean would have equaled George McGovern. George was a decent guy with a clusless platform. Kerry could plumb new depths.

Posted by: Robert Schwartz at September 27, 2004 11:13 PM

Lieberman and Graham (even with his, um, eccentricities) would have been better, but they had no chance at the nomination. Gotta run right, donkeys. Personally, I'm serious when I say I wish there were a Miller-Bush matchup, where the question would be how much hellfire we call down upon our enemies, not whether or not we do...

Posted by: brian at September 27, 2004 11:59 PM


They were too far to the center to win the nomination.

Posted by: oj at September 28, 2004 12:05 AM

Right, that's what I said. It must be pretty depressing to be a non-leftist Dem these days, knowing that the party is being driven off a cliff, fairly needlessly...

Posted by: brian at September 28, 2004 12:09 AM

Brian it is not needless. Eleanor Roosevelt, Henry Wallace, the '72 convention and years of Kerry and his ilk toaddying to whatever communist dictator they could find, must be paid for.

Jackson and Jefferson can then come home, and joust with Lincoln and TR. And we can all sleep safely with knowledge that no matter what, they are all Americans, all true patriots.

Posted by: Robert Schwartz at September 28, 2004 1:21 AM


What Robert Schwartz said.

The Democrats may be driving off a cliff, but with the Left clearly at the wheel, it's they who will be most hurt by it.

We conservative(ish) Dems can afford to wait a few election cycles as long as it's the Ultra-liberals getting pounded.
And, while we're waiting, Bush is a great choice for Prez: He's solving a lot of long-term problems that Dems would like to see solved, such as education, health care, and social security reform, even if he's approaching it from a different angle.

Also, it's very unlikely that Congress will remain in Republican hands for more than, say, another twenty years, and it's easy enough to see how the House of Representatives could go Dem by '10.

Posted by: Michael Herdegen at September 28, 2004 3:21 AM

"it's very unlikely that Congress will remain in Republican hands for more than, say, another twenty years, and it's easy enough to see how the House of Representatives could go Dem by '10"

Perhaps you're correct. However, the House districts are very finely drawn so that there are few competitive races each election cycle. Second, as OJ is fond of noting, people gravitate toward the party in power. Moderate/conservative Dems may switch to the GOP to avoid being in the minority party. Finally, the 2010 census will probably show more migration to red states from blue states, helping the GOP. In would take a significant shift in the political leanings of the country or a GOP scandal to help the Dems retake the House.
Finally, as Michael hints at above, parties shift over time - if the Dems return more to the center then the policies a Dem House would push would be similar to moderate GOP policies now.

Posted by: AWW at September 28, 2004 9:23 AM