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The Democratic Strategist

Political Strategy for a Permanent Democratic Majority

The Dean Debate Continues!

Yesterday TAPPED responded to DR’s response to TAPPED’s response to John Judis’ Salon.com article about Dean’s (non)electability.  It appears we’ve reached unity on some the problems likely to beset a Dean general election candidacy  As TAPPED puts it:
[There is] much that is appealing about Dean, but we’d have to agree that his ability to resonate with moderate voters in center-right swing states will probably be the acid test of whether his straight talk can overcome his geographic undesirability.
Exactly.  That is where the case for Dean has to be made.  An interesting contribution along these lines was made recently in &c., The New Republic‘s blog.  The post is essentially a response to a column by The Los Angeles Times‘ Ron Brownstein, where Brownstein argues that Ho-Ho’s fervent denunciations of Bush play great with Democrats but are probably frightening away centrist voters Democrats need in the general election. 
&c. reasonably points out that any successful candidate for the Democratic nomination winds up frightening at least some centrist voters, due to the nature of the process: you’re marketing yourself to Democrats not the general electorate.  The question therefore is not whether there’s damage but how much there is and how fixable that damage is.  &c. argues that Dean’s liberalism is more tonal (he let’s ’em have it!) than based on policy (many of his policies–though not Iraq, which is a big exception–are relatively conservative for a Democrat).  And that’s good because tonal liberalism is much easier to modify for the general than policy liberalism, which tends to box you in with commitments that are hard to keep if you want to appeal to moderates. 
&c. argues further that there are aspects of Dean’s aggressive tone that could even help with some moderate voters, especially white men, since many of these voters see Democrats as hopelessly wimpy.  Dean may be many things, but wimpy he’s not!
There are problems with this argument, but it is crisply put and again focuses us on the central question that has to be convincingly addressed to make the case for Dean’s electability: can he really get those moderate voters in the swing states–and can he get them better than the other Democratic candidates? 
Well, maybe more on this tomorrow.  DR’s spies tell him that The New Republic‘s two Jonathans (Cohn/pro and Chait/con) will weigh in tomorrow on the Dean electability question and they’ll no doubt have new and interesting things to say. 

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