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The Democratic Strategist

Political Strategy for a Permanent Democratic Majority

Will Ho-Ho Have the Last Laugh?

When Howard Dean first started running for President, he was an object of considerable derision among political observers.  “Who does he think he’s kidding?” was the general reaction.  Well, they’re not laughing now and more and more of them are taking very seriously the idea that Howard Dean could actually get the Democratic nomination.  (For an idea of how this might happen, check out Daily Kos’ very plausible scenario by which Dean could beat the rest of the field.)
There are a lot of reasons why people are taking Dean so seriously now, but one is his second quarter fundraising totals: $7.5 million from 59,000 donors, much of it over the internet, where he’s clearly outdistanced the other candidates.  Garance Franke-Ruta argues, however, that his fundraising success is only partly about technology; it’s mostly about the message that technology is helping get out.  More on Dean’s message may be found here in another article by Franke-Ruta.   Also, check out David Kusnet’s “Seriously Now: Howard Dean’s transformation from protest candidate to populist” and Joe Klein’s “Why Dean Isn’t Going Away”.
If the other Democratic candidates (John Kerry, are you out there?) hope to stop the Dean express, they better figure out a message that’ll inspire voters in the way that Dean has.  To use a phrase that was popular in a slightly different context in 2002: you can’t beat something with nothing.  Maybe it’s time to stop campaigning so cautiously and realize that message counts….a lot.