Playing to your apparent weaknesses
Digby has an interesting post up about the impact that the homosexual issue will have on the 2004 election. I've been saying for quite some time that Dean's stance on civil unions may prove to be a net benefit for him politically. He may lose some votes from the rabid homophobes, but he could gain many more votes from the swingers (heh) in the middle who could respond favorably to an appeal to vote for what is right rather than what they are comfortable with. Put it this way: in the 60s there were many whites who would have been uncomfortable with their daughters dating black men. But they would have been even MORE uncomfortable with laws that made it illegal for black men to date white women. If you frame the issue right you can get people to sign on to your platform even if they are a little squeamish about some aspects of it. One thing that impresses me about Dr. Dean is that he doesn't hesitate to confront his alleged weak points head on. People tell him that his anti-war stance will hurt him now that the war is "won". So he goes out and directly speaks about that stance rather then trying to hide it. People tell him that civil unions will damage him with social conservatives. So he leads many speeches by talking in detail about signing the legislation into law. People tell him he can't win in the south. So he goes into the south and challenges them not to give into the stereotype that they are bigoted red-necks. By confronting his apparent weaknesses head-on the doctor is sending the message that he isn't afraid to take on tough battles and that he knows he can win them. People respect that kind of toughness even if they might not agree with his stand on a particular issue. From that admiration swing votes can be won.