July 03, 2003

Is Howard Dean Electable?

Is Howard Dean electable? This could well be the question of 2004. The Economist has weighed in.

So would Mr Dean be able to repackage himself as a centrist if he won the nomination? Hardly. His views on guns count for little compared with his strident opposition to war in Iraq and his determination to repeal “every dime” of Mr Bush's tax cuts. For good or ill, Mr Dean has decided to climb on the back of the leftist tiger. He cannot climb off without being eaten alive.

I'm so sure, but I certainly not going to say they are wrong. Howard Dean is a centrist, but will he be able to communicate it? What's more is will he be able to connect with the majority of voters in a general election? Hard questions to answer. I think he has a strong shot at winning the Democratic nomination, but what then? He shuns the press, looks like crap on TV and hates to do the Bill Clinton handshake routine. That bodes poorly. If he doesn't improve his TV skills tremendously he's in big trouble. Nixon 1960 trouble. The good news for him is that he's got time to learn the ropes of communicating well on television.

But beyond that is the question of the big switch. Dean is appealing to the leftist side of the democratic party. I think its deliberate. And I think that part of the plan involves a switch. Win the left wing and then transform back into the centerist he's been all along. Can he do it? So far I've been impressed with every aspect of his campaign that doesn't involve Dean in front of a TV camera. Lets see how they perform over the next year.

[Economist link via WatchBlog]

Posted by Abe at July 3, 2003 05:58 PM


He's a fiscal conservative. That's the card I think he'll play.

There is also that "A" rating from the NRA. If it gets used right it could be very effective. Think he's trying to keep that in the bag until he's got the democratic nomination. After that he'll be best if he can get the word out selectively in pro-gun areas...

"So far I've been impressed with every aspect of his campaign that doesn't involve Dean in front of a TV camera. "
I am sincerely curious. Do you base that on any appearances beyond the now in-famous Meet the Press episode? And did you actually watch it?

I ask because every review of Dean before a live audience, dating back to last year's California Dem convention, has reported that he consistently lights up that audience. And his current TV ad (running in Iowa and available in multi-formats on the web-site) is pretty impressive. And in reading the columnists that have panned the MTP appearances I have been struck by the quotes they cite. Where they see evasiveness and brittleness, I see a reasoned attempt to avoid being pinned on issues that are not at all black and white. Are you for or against the Balanced Budget Amendment? the Death Penalty? the Senate's Medicare Prescription legislation? YES or NO! Well it is not that simple.

Take the last. Dean tried to make the following points: 1) I support prescription coverage under Medicare 2) I don't believe the Senate's plan, relying as it does on private insurance companies, is the right path 3) I recognize that Senator Kennedy has been our party leader on this forever and that he believes this is a worthwhile first step and so 4) I am not sure it would be useful at this point to actively oppose him on this one.

Columnists singled this out as a case of Dean waffling. I see it as a simple case of clear political reasoning. After all unlike Bush, nobody died and made Dean God's infallible messenger on earth.

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