Friday, August 29, 2003

How Dean Could Lose

As a flipside to my previous post about ways Dean could win, I think it behooves Dean supporters to think about the ways he could lose. As things currently stand, I think the nomination is Dean's to lose. By that I mean that, barring some mistake on Dean's part, there just isn't that much that the other contenders could do that would keep Dean from getting the nomination (and no, I don't consider Clark to be the threat that others make him out to be). And, since I am a Dean supporter, I am bullish on his chances to beat Bush. But Dean could still make a mistake or two that could cost him the nomination. I think it behooves Dean supporters, as well as the Dean campaign itself, to consider these possibilities: 1) Dean could make a major gaffe or two that would confirm in some people's minds the impression that he isn't ready for prime time. This is always a danger with any candidate, but especially with an untested challenger on the national level. However, Dean has shown a remarkable ability, so far, to whether criticism and overcome it (witness the fact that so many criticized his Meet The Press performance, yet he almost immediately followed that with a record breaking online fund drive). So, I'm pretty confident that Dean can avoid this pitfall. 2) Dean could slack off, let his momentum up to this point carry him through the rest of the primary season. This has killed viable candidates in the past. Dukakis had a huge lead over Bush Sr. in 88 that he frittered away by effectively dropping out of sight for nearly a month. A successful campaign simply cannot rest on its laurels. The arrogance of being the presumed front-runner almost did in Gore in the early season last time around. Kerry may have suffered from this as well and is now paying the price. Dean cannot allow himself to fall into the same trap. 3) Related to the arrogance note, Dean could nationalize the campaign to soon. Despite his promising poll numbers and increased attention, Dean has to remember that there are still 4 months until the primaries. A lot could happen during that time and he simply can't start acting like he already has NH sewn up. 20 point leads can be lost (and no doubt that is what Kerry is counting on). If Dean were to start acting like he has already won New Hampshire then the residents of that state could come to resent him by the time they go to the polls and make him suffer for it. If Dean were to lose NH, or even just barely eke out a win, it would tarnish his new reputation as a wunderkind. The last is, I think, the greatest danger facing the Dean campaign right now. I loved the Sleepless Summer Tour. I love that they are running ads in 6 states already. But I worry that the campaign might be moving to quickly to nationalize this campaign when they should make sure that they don't let Iowa and New Hampshire slide back into the loss column. As such, I think they should re-double their efforts in these states. Dean should spend at least half his time between now and January canvassing both Iowa and New Hampshire. He should not allow his national exposure to eat substantially into the time he spends in those states. It is absolutely vital that he not give the impression that he is taking them for granted. Iowa and New Hampshire are ripe for Dean right now. But that could still change if Dean allows it. He must not.


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