January 19, 2004

What it all means  

A couple points about the caucuses. For obvious reasons, Kerry was the only one whose rhetoric escaped the context of the primary, but I wasn't terribly impressed with the message - he seemed almost afraid to attack Bush directly, and used the abstraction "special interests" far too many times. But he knew he was the frontrunner, and it will be interesting now to see how he wears that expectation into NH.

I see Gephardt's votes going to Edwards, but they won't help much in NH, where Edwards needs to at least show up - polling fourth would look bad, and I'm guessing that's where he appears in tomorrow's polls. I still think Clark missed an opportunity in Iowa, but the real question is how he does in NH, given all the free press Kerry had tonight. Bush may help with this tomorrow - if the State of the Union has folks forgetting about Iowa, Clark will benefit most.

I'm very interested in how the caucuses play abroad. Dean is essentially an anti-war candidate, and he really got trounced tonight. Does this mean Democrats favored the war? Daniel Drezner doesn't think so, but I'm still worried about what the international perception will be, and how this might affect intl cooperation with the Bush admin leading up to November. Kofi Annan's agreement to reengage on Iraq slipped quietly by tonight, but it would certainly seem to soften the Bush stance on Iraq.

And Drezner asks the other big question about Dean's loss here too: What does it mean for blogs - and political organization through the internet? When I've written about this before, folks have suggested that Dean has already changed the political landscape. But I wonder if future candidates will want to take this last minute disintegration as their template. It really depends on what actually happened tonight. Was it the attack ads that beat Dean? Or was it a matter of his difficult personality (some of the blame for which can be laid with the press)? Another possible explanation is that there's a backlash effect associated with having hordes of volunteers running around knocking on doors, pushing an agenda that folks in the middle just aren't ready to swallow... this explanation obviously wouldn't bode well for similar campaigns in the future. But in any case, Dean's campaign has managed to inject some real excitement into the political scene, and hopefully that will translate into a more engaged American electorate. And of course, he's not done yet!

MORE: Not that you'll have any trouble finding it, but there's more interesting analysis from Mark Kleiman here, and several good posts up by Ezra Klein (go on down the page). As promised, Matt Yglesias wrote a bunch over at TAPPED, but he also has this bizarre post up where he describes Bush and Gephardt as equivalent evils...


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