Sadr double-dealing and other reactions to Najaf bombThere are good ways and bad ways for Democratic opponents to respond to the meteoric, rule-breaking rise of Howard Dean — and the relevance of their candidacies will likely be determined by the options they choose.
The returns for John Kerry’s campaign so far aren’t promising. His campaign manager, Jim Jordan, was quoted as follows in the Washington Post yesterday:
“He has sold himself as the straight-shooting candidate, the truth-teller, the one who will say what’s hard and unpopular,” said Jim Jordan, campaign manager for presidential candidate Sen. John F. Kerry (D-Mass.). “In truth, he’s a very crafty politician, very calculating.”This attack manages the difficult trick of being too obvious and forgettably bland at the same time. Ironically, he gets good advice from Dean himself:
“They won’t beat me by claiming I switched positions,” Dean said in an interview Wednesday. “They better come out with better ideas.”Exactly. Particularly in a crowded race, the benefits from knocking down the front-runner — for example, if some candidate is willing to derail his or her entire strategy for the sake of attacking Dean — will be reaped by someone else who wasn’t so unlikeably negative.
In a Los Angeles Times article today by Ronald Brownstein (one of the better political analysts writing for any paper), Jordan is quoted as he whistles past the graveyard:
“No campaign has ever put a lock on things in the summer,” said Jim Jordan, campaign manager for Sen. John F. Kerry(D-Mass.). “This thing will be settled somewhere in the snow.”The danger of adopting such a blase attitude is that it’s already backfired on Kerry, as the New York Times reveals:
The fluidity of the contest was underscored this week with a poll in New Hampshire that showed Dr. Dean pulling ahead of Mr. Kerry in a state that Mr. Kerry had all but taken for granted. The results, several Democrats said, were at least partly driven by the fact that Dr. Dean alone has been advertising heavily in New Hampshire over the past month and has been riding a positive wave of national publicity, including cover stories in Time and Newsweek.In that same article, though, Jordan clings to a similar pretense:
Still, it had the effect of gutting Mr. Kerry’s pretense of inevitability while thrusting Dr. Dean in the role that Mr. Kerry held last summer: the man most Democrats view as the candidate to beat.
“There’s at least a 90 percent likelihood right now that either Dean or Kerry will be the nominee,” said Mr. Kerry’s campaign manager, Jim Jordan. “And the race is as even as it can be. His advantages are purely stylistic. Kerry’s are substantive and experiential.”Keep dreaming, Mr. Jordan. Dean may yet be beatable, but it won’t be done by the wishful overconfidence and Nerf-ball stances your campaign is expressing — which are all too typical of the Congressional sausage-mill approach to candidacy that is likely to doom not only Kerry but Gephardt and Lieberman.