Tuesday, January 20, 2004

Three Surprises: Well, a lot of us didn't get the message, eh? My guess last night was that the "Kerry surge" was real. But who the hell expected Gephardt to fall to fourth? Not me, anyway. Gephardt's being classy and leaving the stage quietly. Honestly, it may have been over for him when AFSCME swung behind Dean. Gephardt's labor is the old labor of the AFL-CIO, the guys who break their asses in line jobs. Dean's labor, new labor, is the labor of middle management, local bureaucrats who -- far from being eggs-and-hash types -- are solidly middle class, lace curtain even. Sam's Club bobos. Gephardt is a relic.

Another huge surprise was Dean's nosedive. It will take some time to figure out what happened, but it's possible that the Deaniacs stayed home and listened to their world beat records and drank fair-trade coffee last night. It's also possible, though, that they were shut out of Iowa's byzantine style of apportioning delegates. I'll take a pass right now on some of the glib explanations, such as "Kerry has more of a chance to beat Bush" (not really) or "Dean's starting to look a little strange" (starting?). The explanation could turn out to be just as surprising as as last night's results. Don't count Dean out, though. Des Moines isn't exactly Seattle.

The final surprise of the night was Edwards. From nobody to 2nd place, and he did it without key political endorsements (though he did get the Des Moines Register's nod) and the kind of instant ground campaign that the labor and Harkin endorsements brought Dean. Bush shouldn't sweat Kerry any more than Dean. In fact, Dean is the greater threat, really. He brings first-time voters with him. (Kerry is Dukakis without the height issue.) But who really gives Karl Rove nightmares? Edwards: A charming Southern boy buying votes with incrementalist social policy and an up-from-the-sticks life story. After all, isn't that how Poppy lost?

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