January 20, 2004

"Comeback Kerry" Takes Iowa

Embarassing the entire punditry class (including this very humble blog) who were busy chronicling the Dean coronation (or occasionally looking over Dean's shoulder at Wes Clark), Kerry (38%) and Edwards (32%) put in extremely strong performances in Iowa. Kerry, of course, goes to New Hampshire with major new energy to face down Dean/Clark. Gephardt, given his poor showing in Iowa, has dropped out. We will have more on Edwards' strong showing another day.

I actually think Kerry's Iowa's victory is the worst outcome for Bush. Kerry is a strong campaigner (having fended off strong contenders to defend his Sentate seat like former MA governor Bill Weld) and has a distinguished personal history including his Vietnam service. We will be taking a very close look at Kerry's foreign policy views and his team of advisors in the coming weeks. There is much rhetoric emitting from the Kerry camp that has been overly hyperbolic and that needs to be analyzed. Such an exercise will also provide some hints re: what a Kerry foreign policy might look like.

But, seeing his victory speech tonight, I would note immediately that he is smart enough to be pre-emptively avoiding Rove's likely attempts to tag him as a Massachusetts, Dukakis-style liberal (looking risible in a tank). He said that, unlike Dubya, he "knew something about aircraft carriers" and that Bush should "bring it on" on national security matters.

This just got much more interesting. Which makes, for political junkies like us, for some fascinating months ahead.

A last note. As much as we hyped Dean too much, let's not count him out down for the count just yet. As Iowa showed--just about anything could happen in New Hampshire (and beyond) in the coming days.

So, and very much so, developing. But still, a very, very big night for the Massachusetts Senator.

NOTE: Despite most Iowa caucus voters being against the Iraq war--they handed a major defeat to the main antiwar candidate Howard Dean. I think this is because this is still, all things considered, a 9/11 election. National security looms large. Some of Kerry's nuances on the Iraq issue (unlike Dean's intemperate and sometimes idiotic utterances) and his Vietnam record helped in all this when people really stopped and took full stock of the key men in the race and what their various positions portended vis-a-vis their respective approaches to national security.

But Kerry's, er, front-runner status (isn't that the case now?) will also provide Dubya major openings. More soon.

UPDATE: Let me briefly mention another major factor in the big Kerry win.

It appears Democrats voted pretty rationally in terms of gauging the electability of the various candidates in the field. And here, Dean came up short (and his speech last night, wild spasm-like gesticulations and all, likely won't help much going forward).

MORE: Here's a cautionary note worth keeping in mind if you are a Kerry fan:

"Tradition holds that a victory in Iowa can be worth percentage points in New Hampshire. But the two states have chosen different winners in all but 3 of the 13 competitive nominating contests since 1972."

Posted by Gregory at January 20, 2004 04:29 AM
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