Alex's Outlook

Wednesday, January 14, 2004

Iowa coming down to the wire

After the months of Kerry leading an obscure field, and then Dean usurping Kerry, the leader's seeming overwhelming advantage has evaporated, and the race is neck-and-neck once again, with six days to go.

Howard Dean has the support of 24% of those polled; Gephardt and Kerry (where did he come from?) with 21% each; and John Edwards (?!) with 15%.

A lot of Democrats are obviously reconsidering their support for Dean, which to me seems unfortunate. But with no Clark, anti-Deaniacs are failing to coalesce around a single alternative. Dean has hit a gold mine of endorsements, with Al Gore and Tom Harkin having endorsed him already and ol' Jimmy Carter evidently planning an endorsement one day before the Iowa caucuses. [Update: Carter has made clear that he does not intend to endorse Dean. However, joke candidate Carol Moseley Braun plans to endorse him instead.]

If Howard Dean wins Iowa with about 35% and the rest of the vote is split between Gephardt, Kerry and Edwards, that would probably be just as good for Dean as sweeping Iowa entirely. Gephardt would get knocked out, but Edwards and Kerry would feast on the hype of respectable finishes. That would seriously destabilize Clark's momentum as "the" anti-Dean candidate, and Dean would still command the largest single bloc of the Democrat primary electorate while Clark, Kerry and Edwards thrashed out the anti-Dean primary. That would surely be preferable to Clark having all the anti-Deaniacs to himself, as far as conservatives are concerned.

On the other hand, a Clark-Dean bout might be in Dean's favor, depending on how heavily he wants to hit Clark's previous Republicanism. (It amazes me that Democrats are willing to tolerate someone who has voted for Nixon, Reagan and both Bushes, and raised money for Bush 2, and said that Iraq had WMD, and then said he was against the war in Iraq, and then said that he was for it, and then decided that he was against it.) But what do I know? I thought Clark would trip up in his political novice-ness and slowly fizzle out. I was wrong.

If Dean can win Iowa barely and let Edwards and Kerry share the spoils of respectable finishes, he will be sitting pretty for New Hampshire; if he sweeps Iowa, he can't complain, either.

If Gephardt wins Iowa, I don't think he will be going anywhere else, but he will damage Dean's New Hampshire momentum, helping out Kerry/Clark.

I thought the Dem primary race was over a while ago, but it seems to have gotten interesting again.


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