December 09, 2003

Presidential Campaign Roundup Well, no

Presidential Campaign Roundup

Well, no big surprises about where we find ourselves (well, except that a heretofore obscure, dark-horse candidate Vermont governor now appears assured to face off against an incumbent war President).

Indeed, the Presidential election looks to be a Bush-Dean face-off. Worth noting again, we've got two men from highly privileged backgrounds (as David Brooks has pointed out, Dean's even more so than Bush's) that will likely face off in 2004.

It's interesting how much these two men have in common. Both went to prep school (Dean St. Georges, Dubya Andover) and then went on to Yale. They both had rowdy youths. Both quit boozing (Dean, perhaps more precocious, at the tender age of 32, Dubya at 40). Both avoided Vietnam (Dean, with a bad back, which didn't preclude a 'ski bum' sojourn, Dubya with the TX Nat'l Guard). They both show flashes of hot temper now and again.

But, most important, they have the quality the French describe as being "comfortable in their own skin." That's ultimately why Dean is where he's at--and has so trounced his competition.

What do I mean? Well, none of the other candidates really had that elusive quality, did they? I mean, let's look at the rest of the field--starting with John Kerry.

John Kerry: There was always something a bit unconvincing about his whole high Boston Brahmin schtick. Part of that was that there was too much of the purposeful myth-making about him. The stressing of the JFK initials. The strained Kennedy accent. The, er, big hair.

You know, he looked "French" and all that. This, among other important factors (Hat Tip: Mickey Kaus), helped ensure he never bonded with the majority of Iowans and New Hampshire residents. He smelled a bit, well, Swiss boarding school via Beacon Hill via too much Heinz money.

Joe Lieberman:

The CT Senator had always merely been riding on the coattails of his enhanced name recognition stemming from his earlier run on the 2000 Gore ticket. Gore's endorsement (more on that later) of Dean kills him off--though he was pretty much dead already.

He never really had that indefinable Presidential timber aura (you know it when you see it) about him anyway. A likable fellow--a hawkish, cerebral, occasionally moralizing Democrat right-centrist--but never a candidate with a real shot at the big prime time.

John Edwards:

The freshman senator always struck me as too Clintonian, ie. a bit slick. A somewhat suspiciously sweet-talking pretty-boy type trial lawyer who had made a decent amount of cash--and never missed an opportunity to mention his textile mill working class father--in slightly disingenuous fashion.

And, I suspect, he revealed too much narcisism by his lack of patience. Did he really have to run for the big job in his freshman tour of the Senate?

Richard Gephardt:

Gephardt might still show us some surprises in Iowa. But he appears so, um, unreal--with his standard blue shirt/red tie Washington costume and face that appears composed of some unmalleable plastic substance.

His somewhat ossified paleo-Democrat views on matters trade (ie, his protectionist bent) won't help much either. Methinks he's a loser in all this too.

Wesley Clark:

Among the serious candidates (though I'll admit Al Sharpton, per his recent SNL gig, is growing on me with his manifold musical talents ), I guess that leaves Clark. But he basically peaked the moment he entered the race and has been heading down since. He confused many with his Iraq war stance (was he for? against?) back and forths.

Also, he appears a little too, well, intense (cravenly ambitious?). I get scared when, you know, his eyes seem to bulge out during interviews and campaign appearances.

And, regardless, given support he had voiced for Bush's prosecution of the war on terror in the past, he never seemed like a guy the Democrat rank and file could trust.

So, maybe Clark's a potential Veep to help Dean to bolster national security cred (though I'm not sure Wes Clark would be an asset for our national security interests--more on that another day) but, aside from that play, pretty much dead in the water.

The Gore Endorsement:

But back to Dean. The big news now is, of course, the Gore endorsement. This is being pitched as the major beginnings of the insider, establishment "crowning" of Dean as the man to beat Bush. And, of course, the NYT is getting breathless and doing some Gore cheerleading in the midst of all this too:

"It was a move of striking and discretionary boldness that would have been all but unheard of for the cautious, calculating candidate Mr. Gore once was."

Don't believe the hype. All this ignores Gore's very planned positioning of himself as the anti-Clinton candidate in '08 should Dean flounder.

In other words, this is standard Gore. Very cautious. Very calculating.

He can say, I supported the only truly major anti-war candidate early on in the process, before the primaries, and am a 'real' Democrat. Meanwhile, hawkish Hillary is selling out and wants more GI's in theater!

The problem with all this? The senator's son Gore will never make a convincing populist. That's part of what sunk him in 2000 (yes, he did lose the election folks).

The populist gig didn't ring true then. And it doesn't, even with the Dean endorsement, now.

It's good news for Dean, to be sure. The aura of inevitability around him has just gotten a healthy shot in the arm. But this won't really do much for Gore--unless Dean wins and hands him a plum post and he's that hungry to get back into the policy arena instead of making money.

And if Dean loses (which is quite likely) Gore hasn't done himself any real favors for '08.

Note, however, I'm not at all complacent. Dean could be a real threat.

Developing.

Posted by Gregory at December 9, 2003 10:25 AM
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