Wednesday, May 07, 2003

Tenacity, thy name is Dean

For the 2nd time I find myself in the surprising position of linking favorably to a Howard Fineman column. In this column, Howard is essentially telling his colleagues NOT to write off Howard Dean just because he was an anti-war candidate and he, apparently, came down on the losing side of that debate. Howard identifies two of Dean's strengths: 1) Organization. His is one of the leanest and most efficient out there and it is backed up by the 20,000+ meetup attendees. So far, Dean’s outfit is the most adept at using the Internet, which is to the 2004 campaign what cable TV was to 1992 and direct-mail to 1980 — the new Best Practice for reaching and motivating voters. This week, the Dean campaign’s grass-roots enthusiasts will put themselves on display, gathering in about 250 “Meetups” generated through the Web site of the same name. These events turn traditional organizing on its head: The campaign people go to the meeting, they don’t put it together. 2) Tenacity. He doesn't back down from a position just because the news of the day breaks against him. Then there’s the candidate himself. Howard Dean, at least as a candidate, is a shark in Land’s End clothing. He is always moving forward and always on the attack. Most of his rivals genuinely loathe him at this point, but Dean doesn’t seem to care. He’s looking to inspire voters, and thinks his combative style is what they want. He thinks that Democrats want some anger in their candidate to confront Bush’s Red State triumphalism. Dean appears to draw inspiration from the cutthroat side of the Kennedy legacy, Bobby and Jack in particular. Their rhetoric soared and their ideals were noble, but their tactics were tough. When they wanted to dismiss someone as a nonentity, they called him a “nice man.” I have this feeling that Dean's tenacity and gruffness could serve him well in the future when it comes to answering the charge that he is weak on defense. People may initially say, "He was against the war, so how can he be a strong leader?" But, if they see him tenaciously DEFEND his opposition to the war then people may come to respect him for it and change their opinion about his apparent "weakness" on this matter. I've said it before: Dean has the right message. He may need to hone its delivery, but he should NOT change it. Doing so would be far more damaging than any heat he may take for any particular part of that message.


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