Have the Dems done too little too late to stop Howard Dean? The answer, I think, is still uncertain, but rapidly moving to the yes column.
In political campaigns, you really need about a week of positive advertising for your guy, then two weeks of slamming the other side, then another week of positive ads for your guy. The effect is (1) drive up your guy’s positives; (2) drive up the other guy’s negatives; (and then (3) present your guy as the alternative. It takes skill to do it right because you don’t want your negatives to go higher than the other guy’s when you start attacking him. That’s why using third party groups to do it helps.
The Iowa caucuses are on January 19th. We have the week of Christmas when no one is paying attention. We have the week of New Years when no one is paying attention. The weekend immediately following New Years will wrap up College Football and move us towards the Super Bowl. That leaves two (2) weeks to really bombard Dean without any candidate in a saturated field being able to make himself the alternative.
But, at the same time, you have Deaniacs from across the nation sending in hand written letters to Iowan caucus goers, telling them to vote for Dean. These people are sincere, not paid, and they’re following up with phone calls and, in some cases, personal visits.
The New Hampshire primary is January 27th. So, that gives you some more time. But, you’ve still got to worry about the Deaniacs who get doubly motivated when their guy gets attacked. You also have to worry about a saturated field where no one will pay any attention to anything other than hand written letters they keep getting from around the country. Lastly, you have to worry that everyone beating up on Dean will cause a backlash and get Dean the underdog vote.
The Democrat solution is pretty clear. Have one credible candidate without much chance of winning, e.g. Lieberman, start tearing Dean down while the others build themselves up. Lieberman can sacrifice himself and take Dean out with him.
That won’t happen. All hail Howard Dean, future party nominee.