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The Democratic Strategist

Political Strategy for a Permanent Democratic Majority

A Victory for Electability?

DR’s made no secret about his doubts concerning Dean’s electability. Now it appears that a good chunk of the Democratic electorate may share some of those misgivings.
Indeed, there’s a case to be made that the Iowa caucus results are a victory for electability as a criterion for selecting the Democratic nominee. It’s not just that Dean got hammered; it’s that Gephardt also got creamed.
Polls have persistently showed that repealing all of Bush’s tax cuts, including those for the middle class, is an unpopular position, even among Democratic voters. Of course, this was Dean’s position….but it was also Gephardt’s position, in spades. He not only wanted to repeal all of Bush’s tax cuts but he proposed to spend all the savings from repealing the cuts on a very, very expensive $2.3 trillion health plan. Target practice for Karl Rove, in DR’s view.
Then there’s the Iraq war. Sure Americans tend to be critical of the way the Iraq war has been motivated and conducted by the Bush administration and are very worried that the war’s overall result might not be worth the casualties and money it is costing. But they also see the vanquishing of Saddam Hussein as a very good thing and support the way we used military force to do that. A muddled position kind of like…..well, like that of John Kerry and John Edwards, the winners of the Iowa caucuses.
The Iowa entrance poll results cast further light on the role of the war in caucus voting. Caucus voters overwhelmingly said (75 percent) said they disapproved of the war in Iraq. These voters unsurprisingly gave little support to the most pro-war viable candidate (Gephardt, 9 percent) but also gave only 24 percent of their support to Dean, the anti-war candidate. They gave most of their support to the “muddlers”–34 percent to Kerry and 24 percent to Edwards (probably understated, since Edwards fared better in the final causus results than he did in the entrance poll).
The poll also shows that the ability to “beat Bush” was a significant determinant of the caucus vote–26 percent selected this trait as the most important quality guiding their choice of candidate. These voters gave two-thirds of their support to Kerry (37 percent) or Edwards (30 percent).
In fairness to Dean, slightly more voters (29 percent) selected taking strong stands as the most important quality determining their vote and, of these voters, more voted for Dean (31 percent) than for Kerry (26 percent) or Edwards (23 percent).
But other bright spots for Dean were few and far between. Those who described themselves as very liberal were more favorable to Dean (32 percent) than any of the other candidates. So were those who selected the war in Iraq as their most important issue (14 percent of caucus-goers). Finally, those who chose their candidate more than a month before the caucus favored Dean over Kerry by a slim 32 percent to 28 percent margin.
That’s it though. Not exactly a record that inspires confidence in Dean as a viable general election candidate. Or in his ability to garner the Democratic nomination, for that matter. We shall see what voters in New Hampshire and beyond have to say. But for the time being it looks like electability is here as a serious factor in selecting the Democratic nominee. Electability fever: catch it!

47 comments on “A Victory for Electability?

  1. Beth on

    What Republicans understand is that perception is more important then truth, and how to tell people what they want to hear. Eliminate large scale agra-business which is controled by a few. The majority of small town rural voters see no bang for their buck. On a state level they get everything last, if they get anything at all. Even something as small as snow plowing in the winter, there state roads get less attention than do the urban areas. Does it make sense-yes. But it still riles the rural voter who sees himself paying for the other guys snow removal. I have read the blogs for all the Dem candidates and in the end the Dean bloggers have a fatal flaw of self-righteousness. The electable candidate is the one who can see the issues through the eyes of all the voters he is trying to attract, not try and prove that he is the most right. And voters are not going to respond to being called names. I have seen a lot of Dean supporters blaming the voters of Iowa for being too ignorant to vote for their candidate. It is all about “Grace Under Fire” on the part of the candidate and his supporters, not about who can be the most shrill.

  2. The Fool on

    Beth: the previous poster is right. The red Republican rural states suckle at the teat of the blue Demcoratic states.
    Taxpayer perceptions are different because the Republicans have been systematically lying about budget and tax facts for at least a generation.

  3. Sara on

    On electability — I am less interested in unfootnoted polls (who took them, when, where do I look up the details?) than I am in measures of electability that apply to Democratic leaning Independents and even moderate Republicans, and I am particularly interested in these in states that Gore won by less than five points, and in those Bush won by less than five points. If you really are interested in defeating Bush — those are the yard lines between which the game will be played.
    Ruy has provided us with numerous variables that are part and parcel of Bush’s vulnerabilities. Right now the question should be — which candidate makes major contributions to playing on these in ways that attract more votes in the right places?
    And yes, the saga of Iowa has many lessons for us all, and it would be wise to look for the commentary by wise observers who comprehend Iowa political culture before assuming you know all the answers.
    Some have suggested some sort of “conspiracy” in the fact that people changed their registeration at the door. In Iowa that’s fine — most of what it actually indicated was dissatisfaction with Bush and the hearty desire for a Democratic Alternative they could support. Iowa is not a polarized state — one Senator is Harkin (very popular) the other is Grassley (equally popular). Four of the five house members are Republicans, apparently two are very vulnerable and Iowa has good Democratic challengers. The Governor is Democratic — very popular. People traditionally move between parties and from Independent to a party. You need to know that before you jump to Conspiracy Theory. I know a couple of people who worked for candidates in Iowa and they are telling me the real story is turnout — it was huge — and it represents a determination to do in Bush.

  4. The Fool on

    Chris said:
    Fool: If I have your logic down, if we’re going to lose to Bush you’d rather it be your guy. Well, I don’t think someone like Edwards/Clark (possibly Kerry) is going to lose and I do think Dean would.
    Hey Chris: well, damn, if you don’t think that Dean would win then I guess there’s no reason for you to actually address my arguments to the contrary. Case closed good buddy. Why, if I had known that “Chris” didn’t think Dean would win, I would never have supported Dean in the first place.
    Actually, Chris, you don’t have my logic down. You really should read my detailed posts below, but here it is in bite size points that you might consider actually responding to:
    1) Recent poll show that Bush is a vulnerable incumbent who has low approval and low re-elect numbers
    2) Recent polls show that Bush in fact loses to an unnamed Democrat
    3) Recent polls show that when named Democrats are tested against Bush, Dean does better than any other Democrat
    1 + 2 + 3 = 4) That means Dean is the MOST electable of all the Dems.
    And that makes even more sense when you realize that Dean poses a clear contrast to Bush. Dean also has the balls to go after Bush.
    The other candidates do not pose as clear a contrast wth Bush. They are less inclined to go after Bush when they are not following Dean’s lead. They are less able to go after Bush since they have pursued a stragey of posing as Bush lite in hopes if gaining ground on Dean. The Bush-lite strategy may work for them in the primary but it will come back to haunt them in the general.
    That’s my logic, Chris. Now see if you can deal with it.

  5. Sebastian James on

    I still think the big fight will be between Dean and Clark. Watch out for Edwards. Kerry? I dunno, but I don’t see much for him (at this very moment) if we’re forced to go too far past the Michigan primary.
    Dean has done wonders for the party; activated a base, idenitified new voters, and shown that the internet is more than a place for porn and spam.
    Dean’s problem may be that although he is a centrist governor from a conservative state, the fact that he was adopted by the anti-war portion of the party means he’s guilty by association. Not fair, yes. True nonetheless.
    Dean needs a dose of “vision.” He needs to tell us what America can be under a Dean administration. Skip repealing the full tax cut. Democrat or Republican, the average guy wants to see rich people pay more, and to have a chance to keep whatever few dollars they can. It’s untenable if he were elected.

  6. Ed Zeppelin on

    Beth wrote –
    “Rural voters hate taxes, particularly state and fed. for the simple reason that the money for the most part goes one way out of their pockets and into meeting the needs of the urbanized areas, a place many rural residents never go.”
    You do realize that this is pretty much the opposite of how things really work, right? In reality, tax revenue flows from the urbanized coastal areas (in mostly blue states) to the red state “heartland,” and not in the other direction.
    I’m not saying Dean didn’t misread the voters in Iowa – it’s quite possible, and even likely, that he did. But I am saying that your specific hypothesis is flawed on its face.

  7. Hank Essay on

    Fool, I like your tenacity for Dean. I am Dean supporter, but not fully committed and willing to entertain other candidates. I want to beat Chimpy’s ass in the worst way. Kerry has some good things going for him, and those can’t be ignored. However, part of me wants a Kerry and/or Edwards to get the nod and get blown out by Chimpy (on the assumption that things can’t get any worse in this country). Then, what are the Dean detractors/DLC/electability crowd going to say. I think Dean has made a great start in rebuilding the Democratic party, both in spirit and process. But, one must understand that this can be a long process that takes years rather than one election cycle. Maybe the best thing for Dean and the revived grassroots is to let the “electablity” crowd have their ticket and run with it, and watch then fail. These dudes couldn’t carry Clinton’s jock strap politically, so their model (sans the best politician/President of this generation) really hasn’t been tested in a while. So lets test it. I think the important point is that what Dean wants to accomplish requires a long-term committment and we owe it to ourselves (and our country) to think long-term as well as short term.
    Pinning all of our hopes on Dean in one election cycle might be fool hearty. However, we might win by losing, in some respects, though it would require Dean supporters to continue working the system like the right wing thug mafia did over the last 20 years. Sometimes things take time, and Dean’s young supporters need to know this. If they aren’t willing to lose a little before quitting, well, then, they don’t deserve it anyway…
    (Though of course this puts the future of civilization at risk, but that’s for another post.)
    One way to look at it.

  8. Greg Priddy on

    “Keep our eyes on the prize” – I think that’s the one thing all of us should be able to agree on.
    In a few short weeks from now, we’re all going to be rooting for the same team…

  9. Chris on

    Also, I think you very narrowly define “the balls to beat Bush” as “voting against his war resolution.” Dean’s got balls, I don’t doubt it. But he doesn’t have the rest of the package to take on Bush. In Dean’s example, balls actually do more harm than good.

  10. Chris on

    Fool: If I have your logic down, if we’re going to lose to Bush you’d rather it be your guy. Well, I don’t think someone like Edwards/Clark (possibly Kerry) is going to lose and I do think Dean would. That’s where we differentiate. I’ve yet to see serious proof that Dean can a) hold the Gore blue states with ease and b) win in places like Tennessee, Arkansas, Ohio, Arizona, Nevada, New Hampshire and West Virginia. Hell, after Monday I don’t think he can even hold Iowa.
    At some point you’ve got to start wondering whether you’ve just been beleiving a hype that’s increasingly diverging from reality.

  11. The Fool on

    I pose the question to you again: without Dean around will your boy have the balls to beat Bush? Past history would suggest that the answer is no.

  12. Whisper on

    I’m shocked that people think Kerry is electable. He doesn’t have the vision or the courage for the ugly fight that’s going to happen this year. Joshua Micah Marshall points out in today’s TPM that Gore briefly campaigned with real vigor and decisiveness in 1999 in response to the challenge from Bradley, only to become a tentative and uninspiring candidate again when the threat passed. I think we can expect the same from Kerry. I think Ivins is spot on saying Kerry could “suck the excitement out of a soccer riot.” The only prayer he has in the general election is bad news for Bush right before election day.
    Edwards’ lack of experience is a concern, but probably the only one. His charm is impressive, not only with voters but he’s someone who can probably charm the Washington press corps – and how the press corps feels about the candidate is incredibly important. I wonder if he does nicknames.
    Clark’s a one note candidate. If Rove can come up with a way to denigrate his military record – and there’s fodder out there for the distorting – he’s toast.
    I’m not ready to write Dean off yet, but his whining about the attacks and his inability to play the relaxed confident front runner pose major concerns. So does his inability to charm the press corps cool kids. Something will need to change for him to win the nomination; much less the election. Still, he’s the only one in the race who seems to realize that the rules of our political game have changed in the last decade. We need a leader who sees that.
    Although I’d support Kerry or Clark if they won the nomination; I fear that long-term that they might be worse for the party than losing with Dean. I fear that 4 years of Kerry or Clark would shift focus away fromt he party’s long-term decline. The party needs a vision and a fighting spirit; and that’s not something Kerry or Clark can lead.

  13. JSB on

    Not so fast on the “victory for electability” bit . John Kerry has a number of serious liabilities of his own.
    “Bush would hammer Kerry for his opposition to mandatory minimum sentences for dealers who sell drugs to children and for voting against the death penalty for terrorists. They would mock his efforts to provide cash benefits to drug addicts and alcoholics, and his onetime opposition to a modest work requirement for welfare recipients. They would trash him for supporting more than half a trillion dollars in tax increases-including hikes in gas taxes and Social Security taxes on ordinary Americans-while accepting free housing and other goodies for himself from friendly influence-peddlers. They would even point out that, when Kerry served as lieutenant governor under one Michael S. Dukakis, Massachusetts famously furloughed more than 500 murderers and sex offenders under a program Kerry later defended as tough.”

  14. Chris on

    Fool: I quickly concede that you are right, Dean led the way in showing the other candidates that attacking Bush was OK. But for this we/I owe him the nomination?
    Is a girl supposed to marry the first guy who tells her she’s beautiful?

  15. The Fool on

    Let me tell you what will make a Democratic candidate electable in 2004: They need to strike a clear contrast with Bush and they need to be willing to confront Bush without apologies.
    Kerry and Edwards are too timid and too prone to posing as Bush-lite. Edwards’ little nice southern boy routine gives him a niche in the Democratic primaries, but he will get his ass kicked by not-so-nice southern boy George Bush.
    The Democratic candidates finally grew some spine recently, BUT — and this is the crucial point — they did so only under the pressure of Howard Dean. Without Howard Dean’s leadership, they would still be spineless.
    And, if Dean falls by the wayside, it is very much an open question whether they will continue to stand up strongly against Bush or if they will revert to their natural state of thralldom.
    All of you anti-Dean folks ought to ask yourself this tough question about electability: without Dean around will your boy have the balls to beat Bush? Past history would suggest that the answer is no.

  16. beth on

    One thing I haven’t noticed being mentioned in the analysis, is how Dean a gov. of a rural state failed to understand the thinking of rural state voters. Rural voters hate taxes, particularly state and fed. for the simple reason that the money for the most part goes one way out of their pockets and into meeting the needs of the urbanized areas, a place many rural residents never go. How could Dean have overlooked this in forming his tax message? I think because Vermont is a rural state with no major cities. This fact really limits Dean’s administrative and domestic experience. He may have been a gov. but for a homogenetic state that has few complex issues. No rural-urban conflict issues, no crime issues, no race issues, no economic development issues, no urban renewal issues, no welfare issues, no massive growth or decline issues. Vermont is simply not a good testing ground for a President, even limited to domestic policies.

  17. Chris on

    I’m a former Dean supporter who is quickly becoming a former Clark supporter in favor of Edwards (Kerry also looks good to me).
    The fact is, perception counts in politics, and second only to perception is a survival instinct. I hate to say it, but if your stance on an issue isn’t defensible, it’s time to change your stance.
    A perfect example is Dean’s position on tax-cut repeal. Now we hear that Dean will be coming out for his own version of middle class tax cuts (or preservation of Bush’s middle class tax cuts) any day now…assuming he makes it long enough to formulate a new policy.
    It’s the right move — but why did he waist SO MUCH time and money on the pointless “Bush Tax” advertisments/strategy? On the merits, the “Bush Tax” may be correct, though unlike other candidates who parade out a real life example of someone they’ve met on the stump (something Kerry does pretty well), Dean hasn’t even produced a single “This is Charlie and Diane, their federal taxes went down XXX while their property taxes went up XXX.”
    Even if he did, the fact remains that most voters know they did get a small tax cut from the federal government, even if it’s just $100, and Dean’s basic message was “I’ll need that back.”
    In fact, Dean’s message was “you didn’t even get a tax cut” BUT “i’ll need it to balance the budget.” Well, what is it – either it wasn’t a substantial tax cut in the first place OR it was – that’s why he needs it back to balance the budget. You can’t balance the federal budget with a few pennies here and there. Voters know that. At least when Gephardt proposed repealing the tax cuts he linked it to something new – healthcare reform, instead of just basically saying “I’ll take your tax cut back just to continue providing the same level of services you already get.”
    It became clear to me many months ago that Dean wasn’t electable. He provided a valuable service to the nomination process as he will likely not survive but in “taking a bullet” he opened up the door for other candidates to find their footing in their criticisms of Bush. For this I’m grateful. But for this service Dean and his many faithful supporters aren’t owed anything.
    We can bitch and argue all we want about Dean’s electability vs Kerry or anyone else based on an outlier poll (another poll the same week showed Bush with a 20+ point margin over Dean) taken weeks before Iowa even voted.
    Or we can argue this on the actual merits — not on some poll, not on the number of people who’ve attended a Meetup, not by the support of party activists who make up less than 1% of the actual electorate.
    I wish Dean good luck — he deserves a chance to prove himself correct and annoint himself the comeback kid. But after he loses New Hampshire and South Carolina, I hope we can all sober up and remember that the real opposition is George W. Bush, and whether his opponent is Howard Dean or not, it’s Bush who we must truly set out targets on.

  18. The Fool on

    electability was the top concern in IA? Uh, yeah in the sense that it wasn’t the top concern for 3 out of 4 caucus goers. And in the sense that none of the candidates was really advantaged among electability voters.
    BTW: Anyone who deigns to post here arguing Dean isn’t electable and doesn’t respond to my earlier posts is being, well, unresponsive.

  19. Ashami on

    I still think Dean is the ONLY candidate that can be elected. Why? Because Bush won’t even have to attack the others…he can just say, “Kerry/Clark/Edwards has supported my agenda and the agenda of the GOP for years, so you should support me too.” And he won’t have to lie to say it. Dean is the only viable candidate that can truly say he is an alternative to Bush. Add the fact that he has shown that he walks his talk (he has done it all in Vermont already), voters won’t have to worry that he’s just telling us what we want to hear.
    Actually, considering that Dean got the worst press coverage (a documented fact) and was the punching bag for ALL the candidates, it’s amazing that he came in 3rd. Geppy was especially harsh in his desperation, but he’s out now. I don’t see Clark using Gep’s tactics, and few will listen to Lieberman if he tries. Look to see a very different outcome in NH…

  20. Hardie on

    Electability is a trap. It has the Dem primary voters voting for the guy they think will be least offensive to the Republicans. None of the Bush fans are going to cross over to vote for the Dem anyway.
    We need to nominate the guy who can best motivate the base and the disaffected. We will not win on national security, but on domestic issues.
    Don’t discount Dean just because you think the red states won’t vote for him, cause they won’t vote for Kerry or Edwards or Clark either.

  21. Marcia on

    Iowa’s over. Polling of the caucus participants there indicated that their top concern was electability…….the topic we Clark supporters have been harping on for weeks. Maybe now it’s time to look at the pluses and minuses of each candidate that’s still viable. Allow me to begin by asserting my own humble opinion:
    Kerry – marginally electable. Pluses include his experience in in Congress (and that is important if you want to get something done) and his stance on issues (most fall pretty much within the mainstream). He’s a decorated war hero, which is a plus when you figure his opponent will be the Bush Action Toy Figure. And his wife would become First Lady, a definite improvement over the Stepford First Lady we now have.
    On the minus side, his campaign style is pretty much like Al Gore’s. He can do fine in a town hall type meeting or a small gathering where he can connect with the group. In a more stump speech-wholesale political situation, which they’ll be facing after NH, he can put you to sleep very quickly. He didn’t campaign very well when he was the front runner. I sort of worry that he’ll “get lazy” again if he re-takes that position. He’s also a “Washington insider”. We haven’t elected one of those since 1988.
    Edwards-probably a little more electable. Edwards has the charm of Bill Clinton without the morality “baggage”, which does matter to a lot of Americans. He can connect with every day people, either in a small setting or a large speech. He’s from the South, which is a definite plus.
    On the negative side, he lacks leadership experience. He spent one term in the Senate. I guess we all need to take a closer look at the man.
    Clark-still the most electable, imo. He stance on the issues is fine, he has a good record in terms of leadership and foreign policy, he is not only a decorated war hero, but a 4-star general with an impressive resume. He’s also a southerner. He’s a Rhodes scholar and has an advanced degree in economics. He has impeccable character and integrity and when you compare all that with what we have now, even Karl Rove can’t make Bush look better than Clark.
    Negatives: He’s never held an elective office. The presidency is really not considered to be an entry level position. It also means that campaigning for him involves “on the job training”.
    Dean – still a viable candidate, albiet unelectable in a national election. If Dean can get back on record as a fiscally conservative governor who is concerned with the rights of ALL people he governs, he has a slight chance for the nomination. For all intents and purposes, I think he left that message behind far too long ago to make a believable case for it now. I was originally a Dean supporter, but when the message became more about the campaign than the candidate, I switched to Clark. He still has a load of money for advertising and organization, but his ads have evidently not been very good. National electability? None. I look for him to last another 2-3 weeks, then do the Gephardt/Graham speech.
    Lieberman – is the only candidate with fairly high negatives in NH and at this time next week will probably be back at work as a senator, after making his withdrawing from the campaign speech.

  22. Oleary on

    I wonder if we can take the Iowa results at face value. I have heard several reports of a surprising number of new voters who were switching their registration from republican to democrat at the door and voting for Kerry and Edwards. If this is true, was this part of a dirty tricks, Karl Rove, operation?or was it the harbinger of republicans dissatisfied with Bush and willing to vote democratic for Kerry or Edwards?
    In any case, I believe the Iowa, “register at the door” rules carry very much of a “moral hazard” as we say in the insurance business…
    I also question whether anyone can say “who’s electable” right now. It may be that no one’s electable and I say, go for you man and MAKE THEM ELECTABLE.

  23. wvmcl on

    I don’t think the matchup-with-Bush polls taken at this point really mean all that much. The main point is how the challenger is going to fare through the coming Republican assaults. I think many of us are coming to realize just how vulnerable Dean is going to be. Sure, they will try to take down Kerry or Clark too, but it will be much tougher with their military records to give them instant gravitas.

  24. AS on

    On the money issue: I know this has been posted before, but I don’t see it here, and so here goes. The matching funds decision is ONLY FOR THE PRIMARIES! No matter who the Dem candidates is, he and Bush will each get $87 million or so to conduct the general campaign, from the taxpayers. That money is deposited the day after the conventions are over.
    As for the period between the deciding primary and the convention, there are Democratic oriented organizations currently raising a large kitty for defending our guy, and we should be at least competitive with Bush.

  25. Lead Balloons on

    I’m a big DR fan. But to assert that voters will appreciate Kerry’s muddled Iraq stance because their own stance is muddled defies common sense. First, voters appreciate clarity and tone much more than they care about how their positions match up with the candidates’ positions. If voters actually voted their positions, Mondale would have won it 1984, etc., etc. Second, if you think that the way to win against Bush is to present a nuanced, muddled position on any issue, instead of presenting a clear contrast, then I disagree.
    Even if Dean is not the nominee, he has changed the race for the better by making all the other Democrats understand that they need to present a clear contrast with Bush, and cannot concede any issues to him, including Iraq and the war on terrorism.

  26. glichte on

    another observation–lot of chat about who has the money, which is important. I wonder who has the organization? How well camped out are these guys in states coming up? Can they get out the vote? Nobody is in Missouri as it was Gephardts.
    That said–organization DID NOT have that great of an effect in Iowa with the exception of Kerry’s commitment to veterans.

  27. The Fool on

    Most importantly, my original point still stands uncontroverted. Whatever your speculations about Dean’s electability in fact against George Bush, the poll numbers PROVE that electability did NOT drive Kerry’s vote.

  28. The Fool on

    If Howard Dean is unelectable and Kerry does worse against Bush than Dean, then what does that make Kerry? Completely unelectable?
    Its ridiculous to simply dismiss the head-to-heads as meaningless. They are not mere tests of name recognition or Joe Lieberman would win every one. The rest of the candidates are roughly equal in terms of name recognition so they are a fair test onm that score. Can you make a prediction basedon them? Of course not, but you can’t say that the guy who does the best in the head-to-heads is unelectable.
    You want to know who is unelectable? John Kerry. Bush will tie Kerry in knots and gag him. Kerry will not be able to criticize Bush on Iraq since he supported it and sometimes implies that he still does even now. Kerry’s position is so complicated Bush will make him look like a waffling hypocrite. And after making him look like a fool, Bush will make him look like a traitor for tossing his medals over the fence. It will be absurd that AWOL Bush will be able to do that to war hero Kerry but he WILL do it, just lie they did Max Cleland.
    Kerry will also not be able to attack Bush on tax cuts because, in his fervor to attack Dean, Kerry has adopted Bush’s own bullshit arguments about tax cuts. So take that off the table too.
    Kerry is unelectable.

  29. Ryan on

    Gingle Bells is right. The Dean candidacy is so obsessed with process and the virtues of its “revolutionary” movement that it lost sight of presentation, tone, and the finer arts of politics.
    And Deaniacs, even now, continue to focus on matching fund restrictions, an issue that really needs further investigation beyond “Rove will destroy anyone who has to abide by spending limits” (I’ve taken an unsuccessful stab at taking apart this meme on my blog).
    The last thing is these matchup polls have very little relationship with “electability”. It’s largely a name-recognition contest, which explains why Lieberman tends to do well in them. Folks who comprise that 10% swing vote historically don’t start paying attention until the debates. So these matchup polls prove nothing in terms of comparative electability. That doesn’t stop Deaniacs from challenge people to empirically prove or disprove Dean’s electability, or to point to those poll numbers as signs that he is electable. The thing is, like everything in politics, “electability” is really a judgment call, based on observation and experience. And experience tells me Ruy’s been on the ball concerning Dean’s comparatively weak viability. Which doesn’t mean Dean’s a “sure loser” but that there are at least two substantially more viable candidates in the race.

  30. Sara on

    Yes — in all sorts of ways Iowa pushed “Electability” into the top tier of considerations Democratic Voters bring to their choices. It intrigues me that most Dean supporters sumply assumed that “organization” was their organization, and that an on-going Iowa political organization did not exist. In fact, that is what moved Kerry forward. The Governor’s wife — and probably her husband represented normal organization — and without special hats or all that much futuristic technology, they arrived at their normal caucus, and selected between Kerry and Edwards. It was the judgment of those who have fought many campaigns at the local and state level making a candidate assessment. The ordinary party democrats came out for the electable Kerry or Edwards — the unrooted orang hatters never really penetrated the Iowa Democratic political culture.

  31. BrilliantIdiot on

    Fool, you miss the fact that in the national match up polls with Bush, the public has minimal exposure to Dean. As you can see, nobody pays much attention until 2-3 weeks before election day. In Iowa, voters saw plenty of their candidates and made their judgments. Nowhere else, except NH is that true today, Tuesday. In a few days Feb 3 states click into view.

  32. The Fool on

    Dan: thank you.
    In response to your question, I am upset that Dean did poorly overall, but the answer is no, I’m not upset that Kerry did better than Dean among war voters and the young for the same reason that I am not upset about how Dean did among electability voters.
    In the entrance poll, Kerry got a 37% overall, 35% among 17-29 year olds, and 29% among war voters. In other words, Kerry did worse than average, i.e. 37%, among those voters. That means being young and voting on the war made you less likely to vote for Kerry, regardless of whether Kerry got a higher percentage among those subgroups than Dean.
    Likewise, Dean got 20% overall, 25% among 17-29 year olds, and 37% among war voters. In other words being young or a war voter made you significantly more likely to support Dean.

  33. Dan Perreten on

    The Fool: “. . . arguing that Kerry won because he got 37% of those who were voting for a candidate who can beat Bush.”
    Thanks for pointing this out. Juan Williams on NPR this morning was blathering on about this, too, and I had the same reaction you did: this proves nothing!
    The fact that Kerry did better among anti-war folks and the young, however, does give one pause, doesn’t it?

  34. The Fool on

    I’m very disappointed: I expect higher quality analysis on this site. The Dean is unelectable argument fails on at least two counts.
    First, in the most recently released national poll with head-to-head match ups (NBC/WSJ), Dean did better against Bush than any other Democratic candidate. Looking at all the polls released this year with head-to-head match-ups, the results have been varied but Dean has done better on average, than any other candidate. That is the definition of electability. Dean has it.
    Second, I’m particularly disappointed that Ruy Texeira, whom I respect, made the same analytical error as Bill Schneider, whom I don’t respect. Schneider got on the air last night with his pie chart arguing that Kerry won because he got 37% of those who were voting for a candidate who can beat Bush. This is a simple misinterpretation of the crosstab. Kerry got 38% overall. That means he did slightly worse than average among electability voters. Whoops.

  35. Barry Schwartz on

    The money raising now is, I believe, for campaign spending before the conventions. If Clark (say) gets the nomination (which would make me very happy), whether he did it with or without federal matching funds will be largely immaterial.
    Dean’s position on taxes is in my opinion worse than just an issue of electibility. Dean has a scientific graduate education, but only half the population has an IQ over 100 and many fewer than that have such a fancy education. Yet Dean expects people to follow a line of reasoning where having “tax cuts” taken away leaves you with more money. This is not a guy who lives in the other guy’s shoes.
    I’m among the many people who are breathing a sigh of relief because Dean’s engines appear to be on fire. Even as a Clark fan, I’m not worrying that much whether Kerry or Edwards is going to be a tough candidate. It doesn’t matter that much. My fear was (and is) that Dean would get the nomination and it would prove disastrous.
    (Lieberman or Gephardt getting the nomination would also be disastrous, by my figuring, but I figured there wasn’t much chance of either happening.)

  36. Dan Perreten on

    I’m running up the white flag! The scales have fallen from my eyes!
    I suspect that the Dean-is-toast predictions are correct, and I say that as a (formerly) committed Deaniac. I can no longer blame anti-Dean media bias for his miserable performance. I’m deeply disappointed in his poor campaigning in the past few weeks (fuzzy message, bad advertising, etc.). I’m kinda freaked by his screeching speech last night. I predict that a lot of Dean’s support will wither very quickly.

  37. Gingle Bells on

    The thing about Dean’s money is that he will need it MORE than the others because his electability in other departments is so weak.
    But ultimately this is not about money. The Dean people are too obesessed with money and process and are missing overall meta issues like tone, message, likeability, presidential bearing etc.
    New voters did not go for Dean. Young voters did not go for Dean either. That speaks volumes about his ability to beat Bush.

  38. nosensei on

    But what about the money? Dean’s camp is pushing that, rightly so imo, as a major electability hurdle. Only he and Kerry refused Fed matching funds, so it seems to me that Clark and Edwards have a very tough question to answer: if they win the nomination, how will they pay for their campaign?

  39. Greg Priddy on

    The other big question mark hanging over both Kerry and Edwards is funding. With such a compressed primary schedule, can they bring funds fast enough to keep up with Clark in TV time?
    And can they put in place the on-the-ground infrastructure in other early primary states which they currently lack. Kerry has plenty of presence in New Hampshire, and Edwards has plenty in South Carolina, but how quickly can they deploy their ground troops elsewhere?
    Only one thing is certain – it’s getting interesting!
    PS- Hate to indulge in schadenfraude, but I don’t see too many followups from the Dean-supporter camp today!

  40. taoless on

    i’m betting that iowa ends up providing the biggest bounce for edwards. for starters, all he has to do in nh is finish fourth, ahead of lieberman, because he’s got no expectations to beat there. meanwhile, he’s all set to enjoy the same float up the center he did in iowa while dean, kerry, and clark take potshots at each other. if he beats any of those three the story is all about how he beat expectations once again. clark and kerry are competing for many of the same voters (an advantage for kerry in iowa), or at least running on similar aspects of their biographies, so they maybe cancel each other out, and if dean doesn’t seriously kick ass he’s just about done. new hampshire is, after all, right next door, and if he can’t carry a state in his own neighborhood, then all the electability questions resound all the louder. i’ve believed all along that dean was basically running a tent revival for liberal dems pissed off at w, which plays great when there aren’t any impending votes and the only people paying attention to the campaign are political junkies and people who are really genuinely horrified at the direction the country is taking and want to do something, even if it’s only blogging and donating money. however, now that campaign season is in full-swing and the masses are turning their attention to the contest, we start to see just how limited dean’s appeal is (after all, only one in five americans hate george w. bush). never mind that he’s still not ready for prime time.
    as a footnote, i’d like to say that i think new hampshire will do for lieberman what iowa did for gephardt.

  41. CADem on

    Seems to me that the Iowa results prove, if anything, that flying under the radar screen while other candidates get attacked consistently over months (most true of Dean, but in Iowa also true of Gephardt) is a great way to win the first caucus. Will Kerry and Edwards look so good (and “electable”) once the fire becomes trained on them? Too soon to tell.

  42. Noone on

    DR, you have talked about the questions of electability of Dean, and the electability of Clark (high for the latter, low for the former). But I have not seen you talk much about Kerry–the winner last night. What do you think are his prospects in the general election (independent of his chances in the primary)? And does the fact that he has a reputation of being, well, boring have any effect?

  43. BrilliantIdiot on

    Dean is considerably less viable than I imagined, but for all the old reasons which proved true. It would, IMO, take a greater turnaround than Kerry pulled for Dean to pull this out.
    I think we will get the best candidate – whoever figures out how to win and is liked by a wide enough swath of voters. I predict Clark or Edwards. Edwards impressed me as a brilliant message-er from day 1.

  44. Glichte on

    so much for Iowa not holding much importance…
    Not that Lieberman matters, but he and Clark were no-shows in Iowa. It will be interesting to see how Clark looks a week form now. And…where will the Gephardt supporters turn–probably not Dean. Will NH be as un-predictable as Iowa?” This race has shifted the meaning of UNpredictable back to its truest sense. Who cares about the Super Bowl when we have this. oh..and is what’s his name giving a speech at the Capitol tonight? I wasn’t paying attention.

  45. Upper left on

    As one of the most frequent posters here and one of the staunchest Dean supporters, I suppose I am due a sizable slice of humble pie. Yum! Yum!
    Allow me a bit of a post-mortem over the corpse of my candiCATEGORY: Ruy Teixeira’s Donkey Rising
    I don’t believe that Dean is/was inherently unelectable. He is after all a fiscally conservative, centrist governor with a strong, consistent record of achievement. His positions on the death penalty and guns would have removed two of the strongest wedge issues from Rove’s quiver. His stand against the war was right on principle, right on the facts, and increasingly in line with the views of a majority of the voters. His argument on the need to stand up to Bush was basicly right and has been increasingly adopted by the other candidates.
    His populist rhetoric has been his strongest asset and again has increasingly been adopted by the other candidates.
    Dean has certainly contributed to his own demise. He gave his opponents and the media a few too many openings, and they have responded by gleefully distorting his every comment from the past ten years. He screwed-up on taxes. He screwed-up by going negative one week before the caucuses. He should have responded sooner and then gotten back to a positive message for the last two weeks. Finally, his “concession” speech the other night was simply inexcusible, not for what he did, but for his failure to see how it would be pounced on by the media.
    The bottom line is that my guy is in free-fall. All his media coverge is about his problems and not about his message. The “unelectable” tag is self-reinforcing and almost impossible to dislodge or disprove. I wish Dean well. If I was in NH, I would still be working my butt off for him, but I fear the damage is done. I hope he proves me wrong.
    I do hope that all you anti-Dean folks will resist the temptation to crow. The Dem party owes Howard Dean a huge debt of gratitude. He showed the party the way forward: a new way to organize; a new way to fundraise; and a powerful, principled opposition to the radical-right.
    So where does this leave us? Kerry, Edwards, or Clark? (Note: I look forward to tap dancing on Lieberman’s political grave. I detest the man. He is a whiney, sanctimonious fool draped in false piety.)
    Kerry: I just can’t bring myself to get excited about the guy. He strikes me as a tall Dukakis. He talks about experience, but so did Gephardt. I have seen politician after politician talk about experience, but unless the candidate’s message and overall image are right, experience seems to be meaningless to voters. Kerry is a standard issue, old-school, north-eastern liberal. He has the fig leaf of his military service, but he has a twenty year voting record for Rove to exploit.
    Clark: Nice resume. OK, but not great, on the stump. Vulnerable on his firing. Vulnerable on charges of opportunism for recent switch to Dems. Vulnerable on his complete lack of experience with domestic affairs. Can a guy who spent his entire adult life in the military relate to the concerns of average voters? I am not saying it is impossible, but I think it is a very tough sell.
    Edwards: Last week I wrote that Edwards was Dean-Lite; all the yummy populism, but less cultural and geographic calories. The guy is awesome on the stump. He has incredible charisma. He has a way of speaking directly to voters concerns that seems to really resonate. He has a wonderful up-from-the-working-class personal story, and the very touching story of his son’s death. He has twenty years of experience persuading juries. He looks people right in the eye and seems to know how to connect.
    On the other hand, he may be vulnerable on the gravitis front and the foriegn policy front. On the practical side, I wonder if he can put together the money and organization to compete in the front-loaded primary schedule. I don’t know that much about his voting record, but I plan to find out more. At this point, I think Edwards is the most compelling option, but I need to know more. I especially like the image of Edwards, one of the top trial attorney’s in the country, cross-examining Bush in debates in the fall. It makes me tingle.
    No matter how it shakes out, let’s keep our eye on the prize.


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