Notes on the Atrocities
Like a 100-watt radio station, broadcasting to the dozens...

Tuesday, October 07, 2003  

Okay, I've about had it with the "rankings" showing Kucinich dead last. Kos and OSP have recent examples. But let's think about this for a moment. Upon what criteria do blogopundits depend when making these rankings? Dough? Weekly bon mots performance? Electability (and by that do they mean primary electability or versus George?)? Or maybe it's none--just whatever feels right at the time.

In fact, I think when people put these together they use shifting rationales. For one thing, there's really very little week-by-week variation. In the absence of a real event--a Clark (or Clinton?) entry, release of end-of-quarter money totals, a debate--it's really just horsing around. That's the only way to justify why Al Sharpton's not last. (I like Al, but he has no experience, he's a polarizing religious figure, and only regional support.) He's the only candidate who has no chance to win anything.

In the interest of hard political analysis, then, let me offer my own list. My criteria: electability. First in the primaries, then against George. Each candidate is ranked on the aggregate of these scores, which appear in parentheses next to the candidate's name (primary rank, general rank).

1) Dean (1, 1)
2) Clark (3, 3)
2) Edwards (4, 2)
4) Gephardt (2, 5)
5) Kucinich (6, 4)
6) Kerry (5, 6)
7) Braun (7, 7)
8) Lieberman (8, 8)
9) Sharpton (9, 9)

Obviously, not a single reader will agree with these rankings. Yet I've already established that I'm a nut, so I'm not going to start apologizing now. I will, however, offer rationales on the obviously bizarre choices.

All right, not so crazy, but some eyebrows may rise at the placement of Dean above Clark in the general election. Clark looks great now, but I think his political inexperience is a greater liability than people realize. Dean, on the other hand, is working through his rough spots now. He has a huge base, and no matter how often Rove goads the press into calling him "angry" and "liberal," he's neither. Rather, his straight talk will appeal after a term of lies.

Clark's weak on positions, and this will be exposed as time goes on. He came in to the primaries late enough that he avoided a lot of early scrutiny, but that means he doesn't have a huge, well-organized base, either. I think the weaknesses that look like tiny fissures now will start to gape by January. Expect him only to fade.

I haven't talked at all about Edwards, and neither has anyone else. Yet he's quietly put together a very credible campaign. His positions are his strength, and his gentle demeanor will win him converts as the field narrows. I can see Edwards flaming out, but I can also see him going all the way. (Experience, of course, is his weakness--but Clark's candidacy may obscure this. May.)

Gephardt's huge political machine will help him in the primaries. Armchair pundits forget that what wins elections (and primaries) isn't magazine covers or buzz, but good old-fashioned hard work. Gephardt has an impressive base, and this will benefit him in the primaries. He's been a weak leader, though, and his wishy-washy positions would hurt his credibility against Bush. I'm scared of a Gephardt candidacy in the general election.

I'm aware that Kucinich is marginal now, but he, more than any candidate, can claim to be the anti-Bush, positive progressive solution. Many of the candidates have very similar platforms with just shades of distinction. Kucinich offers an alternative. If he can get traction with the "throw the bums out" crowd (Dean's base) and convince enough progressives that he can win, he's a credible candidate. He inspires people, which is something many of these candidates fail to do. That's a big plus.

Kerry should be doing better, but he's not. He has failed to ignite interest in his campaign, and barring a miracle, I don't see him turning his USS Yorktown around in time.

Lieberman has all the name recognition, but absolutely no base. Worse, he has inspired active opposition among many Democrats--a unique trick among the candidates. Lieberman, along with Braun and Sharpton, will soon join Graham. He's done.

posted by Jeff | 9:07 AM |
Blogroll and Links