Well, I have had a day of driving and talking to my wife and listening to Rush (who, I think, is off the mark on this one) and reading what others say to formulate my own thoughts.
I have outlined my thoughts, though they are somewhat disjoined. I will basically leave them in the outline format with a little fleshing out. I have not focused on Marvin The Martian (who knew 1% of Iowans were Martians — talk about your illegal aliens) or Lieberman. I don’t think they are viable.
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He needs to quickly rework. Polling in Iowa suggests that people liked the anti-war/anti-Bush message, but didn’t like him. Also, he has relied on an internet network of new support. As I said earlier, if you are over 40 and not registered to vote, you are either a felon or disaffected. If you are disaffected, at some point you will probably view Dean as a typical politician and any inspiration you once had will quickly fall back into the inertia of disaffection. Dean needs to add some different folks to his base. Luckily, the State Of The Union will take focus off his loss and Kerry’s win. He can use the next few days to relaunch hard, agressive, and positive as the next door neighbor who is the only candidate with executive experience.
New Hampshire knows Dean better than Iowa knew him. He has been the somewhat moderate governor next door. He’s already up with ads to that effect. New Hampshire will consider the Iowa loss, but they already know him. His organization there is stronger than in Iowa where it was largely predicated on out of state volunteers.
Dean must win in New Hampshire or he is through. He can use the Edwards strategy. While Kerry and Clark are fighting over the military records, Dean can run up the center with a positive agressive message. He and Gephardt killed each other in Iowa. He can’t do that now. Also, Edwards will draw some fire from Clark and Kerry who will probably consider Dean less troublesome. Edwards is likely to keep his positive image and not aggressively attack Dean. Dean will, in effect, have somewhat of a pass. Edwards will probably want to be in the top three, but will focus on the South effectively giving Dean some extra leeway.
The question for Dean is how much money does he still have in the bank? We’ll have a better guess with the January 31, FEC filings.
The positive message got Edwards through Iowa, but he now has to pick — go South or North. He will probably go South, but try to stay in the top three in New Hampshire for delegate purposes. Edwards has a heck of an organization up there. Also, Edwards probably will escape more attacks while Kerry, Clark, and Dean duke it out.
When Edwards goes south he will encounter Clark. Clark will be focusing on Kerry in a bloodbath in New Hampshire. Howard Dean won’t be much of a South Carolina factor, even if he comes out of New Hampshire the winner. Edwards will finally get somewhat aggressive with Clark who will have to fight on two fronts — north with Kerry and south with Edwards.
Edwards will tap the trial lawyers now more than ever. He appears more viable and comes across as the credible anti-Dean. Edwards banked on the southern strategy and will use it to good effect.
The conventional wisdom now is that Edwards would be the toughest for Bush to beat because of the south and his smooth articulation on the stump. Edwards is going to get a lot of good media play. But, will he fight back when Kerry, Clark, and Dean inevitably come after him? There are a lot of questions to answer.
Kerry did well in Iowa. Unfortunately, Dean’s fall and Bush’s speech will overshadow the victory. And, there are more questions than answers for Kerry.
The first question for Kerry is will he play well in the south? I don’t think he will unless he really uses his war hero story. He is haughty. The South is crowded with Clark and Edwards already. Their stories will take away from Kerry’s story.
The second question is how bloody will it get with Clark? Clark now has Lehane from Kerry’s campaign. Lehane no doubt did some candidate research on Kerry when he worked for Kerry. That will make Clark’s task a bit easier. Kerry has Shaheen in New Hampshire who can fire at Clark. The Clark v. Kerry battle will be personal because of the staff and the military backgrounds. They are both in for the kill on this one.
The third question is if Kerry makes it out of New Hampshire alive, where will he go? I don’t think he’ll be able to go to South Carolina with a lot of strength, given that Edwards and Clark will be there. If Dean is still in, I bet Dean and Kerry will go after each other while Clark and Edwards fight it out in the South.
Skipping Iowa now seems like a bad idea. Edwards and Kerry have momentum. Dean will probably have fallen, but Clark is going to need to focus on Kerry, allowing Dean to regroup.
Clark has a tough slog ahead. He’ll fight Kerry in New Hampshire and Edwards in South Carolina — both of whom already have victories under their belts (Iowa for Kerry and Iowa for Edwards in terms of viability).
Clark has jumped the shark. His comments about 9/11 not happening on his watch plus his comments that if he were President, Osama would be captured, plus his conspiracies galore, and now his disgusting attack on John Kerry’s heroism “as a junior officer in Vietnam.” Kerry also has a trump card — the picture of Clark posing happily with a Serb war criminal.
Like Dean, Clark will explode under ego.
If Dean does not win New Hampshire, the race will drag out in a bloody war. If Dean loses, it is Kerry’s or Edward’s to win. I don’t think Clark will get it. He’s about to be destroyed as a Republican lobbyist nut job with a huge ego.
If Dean wins New Hampshire, I think his supporters will be re-energized enough to push him forward with more money and support.