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Tuesday, December 09, 2003  

Conservatives Regretting Karl's Wish

For reasons even I don't understand, I sometimes see what they're saying at the National Review. Why would I care what conservatives think about Dean? Still, I found myself reading nonetheless. You know what?--it's sort of interesting.

Cliff May: "And do you remember a few years ago when the Democrats were battling for the California gubernatorial nomination? It was Jane Harman vs. Al Checci vs. Gray Davis and most Republicans wanted Gray Davis to win because they thought he'd be a terrible candidate. Turns out they were wrong. He was a good candidate, even though he became a terrible governor.

Howard Dean could be cast from this same mold."

Ramesh Ponnuru isn't convinced and offers up something you would only hear from a pundit: "There has been a spate of revisionism to the effect that Howard Dean would really be a strong general-election candidate against President Bush." (That's a trick--revising the future. Arnie's influence, I imagine.) But Ponnuru rebuts Jonathan Rauch of Reason Online, who is: "The point is not that Dean, should he win the nomination, will beat Bush. The point is that Dean is no pushover. Republicans chortling that Dean would be the next McGovern had better watch out: He may be the next Clinton."

But the most interesting is Robert George, who offers some fairly insightful, fairly unWashington analysis.

Looking at Dean now, one can see that he is the energetic/passionate/populist successor to Gore. Like it or not, that emotion resonates with Democratic voters. Will he be too hot for swing voters? Perhaps. But those folks weren't necessarily turned off in 2000. Also, its more likely than not that Dean will appeal to the bulk of the Ralph Nader supporters next time around. Besides, Gore was the epitome of the "establishment" Democrat for years. In fact, one of the reasons why Clinton picked Gore in 1992 was because he was part of the Democratic elite (as well as being another southern member of the Democratic Leadership Committee). Gore's blessing will now free other wary establishment Democrats to feel comfortable joining Dean....

If Dean goes on to win the Democratic nomination — as now seems likely — the partisan and geographic split in the country will be almost complete. A candidate of the blue northeast — with likely appeal to the blue Pacific states — will be running a tough campaign against a president clearly identified with the red south and mountain states. The various values of each region could hardly be more different. It's uncomfortable to think that even after 9/11, America could conceivably be just as polarized as ever. Given what occurred in 2000, expect a general election battle royal in the midwest states (where at least a couple are annoyed with the president because of the steel tariff flip-flop).

Karl Rove said he wanted Howard Dean. It appears he's got him. It might not be Bush-Gore II, but it could be the second-best/worst thing.

posted by Jeff | 3:04 PM |
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