Thursday, October 09, 2003

I'm late, I'm late

Jerry Bowles brings up an interesting point regarding the recent stories about problems in the Clark campaign: they may be more a manifestation of Clark's late entry into the race than any inherent problem with the campaign itself.

It is always risky to open a show on Broadway without first trying it out in Chicago or Philadelphia or at least spending a few weeks in "previews" before the official opening. That gives a show’s producers some time to work out the kinks in the big numbers, cut the scenes that don’t work, and quietly change the actors who aren’t jelling with the rest of the cast--before the critics show up.

Wesley Clark is paying a heavy price for coming in the presidential campaign as an expensive and high profile production just as the Presidential race is entering its Broadway phase. The other Democratic candidates have been working on their messages and themes before live audiences and quietly sorting out their personnel problems for months now. Their startup problems were probably as rough as Clark’s but they came at a time when nobody was paying much attention. Everything the General does is under the spotlight.

I can't give exact figures on this, but I believe every one of the major candidates has gone through at least one campaign shakeup since they first started campaigning. As I understand it, Joe Trippi was not Dean's first campaign manager (correct me on this if I am wrong). But, as Jerry points out, no one was paying attention when those shakeups occurred.

Before Clark entered there was a lot of talk about whether he had waited to long to get into the race. Many Clark supporters pooh-poohed the idea, pointing out that Clinton entered the 1992 race at about the same time and that there was still four months to build substantial electoral support. Both of these points are right, but they miss something essential: the 2004 race started much earlier than the 1992 race. Specifically, the media's attention on the race is earlier than it has ever been.

Were there even debates between the Democrats at this point during the 1992 race? The 2004 candidates have already had a handful of debates stretching back into last spring.

There used to be a time when we took a breather from politics. But we live in an age when the next campaign begins the day after the previous election. The 2004 campaign began the day after the 2002 election.

Clark may turn out to be the best candidate with the worst of timing.

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