Tuesday, May 13, 2003

Dems for '04: I've been thinking about Peter Beinart's op-ed in the WSJ yesterday on Joe Lieberman. I really think he's nailed it. Lieberman is the Dems' best hope for 2004 for a number of reasons. First, he's a hawk. Second, he's got built-in name recognition. Third, he's historically a bit of a maverick (though you wouldn't know it from 2000). He's positioned to run the McCain campaign this cycle. Beinart's thesis is that Lieberman is a natural to buck the traditional liberal line with issues like vouchers and (to some extent) taxes, hoping to cobble together a new coalition within the party -- blacks and moderate whites. I think it's possible, though maybe a long shot, due to several liabilities. For one, Lieberman is on record as a theoretical, if not active, foe of affirmative action, a stance he had to spackle over in 2000. For another, he's very pro-Israel, whereas the traditional activist base is not. If Lieberman can peel away the black vote and energize the less-traditional white base, he'd have a good shot without coddling the unions and the fringe cases (though he'd still have to kiss Sharpton's ring, which may be incompatable with pulling suburban white vote).

In any case, he would be the best one to put up against Bush. He's the least priggish of the crowd, the least liberal -- at least in a way that's easy to caricature. Kerry can be tied to the tax-and-spend post. Dean is looking less and less thoughtful everyday, though I think he'll still strip enough of the activist base from Kerry to be a minor spoiler in the Northeast. If it all goes well for Lieberman, his only big challenge will be Dick Gephardt, who is looking mighty fresh for an old warhorse. I don't think his health care plan will sell in a general election, but he's hitting the right primary buttons. What's your take from the position of a potential primary vote to be captured?

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