Monday, July 28, 2003

More Dean: For an interesting follow-up to my post on VodkaPundit's Dean-as-Goldwater construction, check out Cohn and Chait in TNR having a similar debate. Cohn gives the first convincingly honest reason to support Dean that I've heard:
If there were some dream Democratic candidate out there suffocating because Dean was sucking up all the political air, then I might favor "stopping" Dean, too. But, dear lord, have you seen these guys? While some of them have perfectly respectable records as public servants--and a few are peddling some intriguing policy ideas--they're awful campaigners. Either they can't connect with audiences, or they have nothing interesting to say, or they're hopelessly (and transparently) led around by consultants, or some combination thereof. And as we learned in 2000, there's nothing like a bad candidate to undermine an otherwise strong political position.
If I were a Democrat, I think I'd be pretty convinced by that argument. The other candidates themselves are Dean's greatest asset at this point. Chait, on the other hand, thinks that Dean is so doomed in a general election that he's not worth the time:
Dean's foreign policy message is a straightforward attack on Bush from the left. It will only work if he can convince the American public that Bush is too tough and too willing to use force--an impossible task. In your response you offer a couple reasons why you think Dean's foreign policy message could work. First, you argue that blue-collar voters have only seen "some caricatured version of his opposition to the war." Well, so far Dean's position on the war has received only light and infrequent criticism from his Democratic opponents, who know they need to win over antiwar voters. You think his view is being caricatured now? Wait until he GOP tears into him in the general election. If he's nominated, by next year most Americans will think he's a dues-paying member of Al Qaeda.
Chait either agrees that there is no Goldwater-esque optimistic wilderness after Dean or he hasn't considered the possibility. I think Chait's too smart not to have entertained the idea of a spectacular but galvanizing loss, and I think he probably has the same doubts I do that Dean can lead to a major restructuring of the party, except as a repudiation of a platform he rides to defeat.

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