Wednesday, January 28, 2004
What will the "I hate Kerry" Dems do?
That's the question of the hour. I'm thinking of two in particular: Martin Peretz and Mickey Kaus.
Peretz' preference is the only logical explanation for The New Republic throwing away their endorsement on the no-chance Joe Lieberman. The magazine staff was so upset by the endorsement that they gave space in the magazine to four counter-endorsements by writers: one for Dean, one for Clark, one for Edwards. One for each of the conceivably viable candidates for President. Except John Kerry.
So TNR - and Marty Peretz - must hate John Kerry. They certainly seem to, because since he came back from the dead TNR has been publishing a continuous loop of Kerry-bashing material. (See, for example, the cover of their latest issue - article here, but you've got to be a subscriber to read; see also here for a Noam Schreiber blog entry that you can read for free. And the Dean-o-phobe has conspicuously failed to rally to Kerry's side or call on good patriotic Democrats to unite behind the new front-runner and against Dean.)
So what are they going to do if Kerry gets the nod? What are they going to do between now and when Kerry gets the nod? How willing are they going to be to put their preference for a Democrat above their obvious concerns about the quality of the nominee?
And then there's Mickey Kaus, who announced his preference for President in the following order: Edwards / Dean / Gephardt / Lieberman / a Bush-Clark tossup / the complete telephone books of all major American cities / Kerry. Last time around, Kaus amused legions of readers by hesitating until Election Day to declare for Bush or Gore (he voted Gore, in the end, as everyone knew he would). What's he gonna do now? At what point is he going to stand behind his stated preference list and declare for Bush - in spite of the host of policy disagreements they have, and in spite of the serious character issues that Kaus has about Bush.
And then, there's Howard Dean. He's quickly positioning himself as the Jesse Jackson (circa 1988) of this race: the self-proclaimed custodian of the party's soul who will not quit because he doesn't have to, who will fight all the way to the convention. Dean, who clearly despises Kerry, has no incentive - none - to make things easy for the presumptive nominee. And he will have opportunities to win - in Arizona and New Mexico, on Feb 3rd; in Michigan, Washinton and Wisconsin thereafter; and in California on Super Tuesday. And even if he doesn't actually win these contests, he can make life painful for Kerry. Think he will? The Democratic Party, on the other hand, has a really strong incentive to get everyone to kiss and make up at the convention. So: what does it take to placate the Deanster?
Edwards should still be considered the favorite to win South Carolina . . . but so what? He's not even going to compete seriously anywhere else, which means someone else wins Missouri, Arizona, New Mexico. Why should South Carolina be the be-all and end-all? Unless Kerry collapses, how does Edwards compete in New York, California, Ohio, etc.? The optimistic spin on the Edwards campaign is that he's the Al Gore circa 1988 of this race: he'll pull out some wins on his home turf, and then he'll run aground in the big Northern contests where he won't have the resources to compete. The pessimistic spin is that Iowa was a fluke and he vanishes without a trace after Feb 3rd. If Edwards had come in close to Dean in New Hampshire, he'd be in a very strong position to be the anti-Kerry, repository of the hopes of DLC types, and Clark would be out of the race. But he didn't, and he isn't.