Pop quiz: If the Democrats are going to stand a chance of beating George W. Bush in 2004, they are going to have to put tremendous effort and creativity into winning over which of the following groups of voters: a) gay men and lesbians or b) people (gay, straight, whatever) who currently think that the post-September 11 United States is just somehow more secure in Republican hands?The New Republic was on board with Afghanistan, Iraq, and homeland security very quickly, arguing (correctly) that Bush was fighting what amounted to a liberal cause. To oppose the war in the name of opposing Bush, TNR argued, was dumb, short-sighted, and a betrayal of liberal instincts.
So back to the seven, er ... nine dwarfs, I'm not one to indulge in snap judgements, but here's how I see the field going into the first debate.
Howard Dean: This man might have gotten a bigger war bounce than Bush, since he was very nearly the only Dem not falling all over himself to revise his position daily. The devil over his left shoulder must have wished for a quagmire in Iraq. 15 to 1 with a soft up arrow that will get softer as Iraq fades
Lieberman: Pros and Cons here. Pro -- He's polling higher than Edwards in South Carolina. Con -- He's polling lower than "undecided" in South Carolina. The real hawk on the Dem side has name recognition, strong foreign policy cred, and a great moderate record to fall back on in the general election, but he can't seem to generate electricity. Maybe a hip-hop campaign ad? 5 to 1, steady
Kerry: The pre-war momentum is stumbling. Yes, the waffling hurts, but why on earth did he allow Dean to put him on the defensive? Chris Lehane is at his worst and nastiest playing defense. And note that, so far, he hasn't come up with anything better than the Vietnam card, which is going to be a hard sell in domestic policy debate. Still the only serious frontrunner, though. 2 to 1, down from 3 to 2
Gephardt: Speaking of domestic policy, Howdy Doody looks surprisingly strong. He's pushing his health care policy lately, while the others are pushing buttons. He'll have to write off New Hampshire, since Dean and Kerry are the local boys, but Iowa could obviously be a big win for him. And he's the only heartland candidate in the pack, which gives him some general election cred with red-country Reagan Democrats. 6 to 1, up arrow
Carol Mosely Braun: No odds. Only in the race because the DNC would rather not cut a deal with ...
Al Sharpton: Get real.
John Edwards: He's not leading the field in South Carolina? What part of the country is Senator Handsome expecting to pull? He's a question mark, to be sure, but every time I hear "up-and-comer" I think "Dan Quayle." 8 to 1, with a big down arrow if the S.C. debate doesn't put his numbers there through the roof
Dennis Kucinich: The Democrat that ate Cleveland likes to talk fiscal responsibility while touting a "progressive" agenda. As a pro-life Catholic, he'd have to scramble to make the party comfortable with him, which they won't be anyway. He's the epitome of a politician who has failed upward. 100 to 1, and gone before the primaries
Bob Graham: Positive spin: He'd carry Florida. Maybe. Negative spin: Bob who? 20 to 1