Wednesday, October 08, 2003

Intent

Jerry Bowles made a post comparing the Schwarzenegger and Clark campaigns and warns against Clark "assembling a large team of business-as-usual Gore-Clinton retreads to run his campaign" because doing so could turn off a lot of the grassroots that are pissed off at those insiders. He says that Clark should learn from Arnold that it is "better to be perceived as an 'outsider' ... than as just another political hack."

I agree, but I pointed out in the comments section that Arnold had a lot of help from GOP insiders (Pete Wilson, et al.) so it is possible to run both an insider and an outsider campaign. Morat, another commenter, brought up a useful point:

Arnold had the appearance of "I'm running because I want to, and because I'm Arnold, lots of well qualified GOP usuals were willing to come work for ME." The truth of that doesn't matter. It's all appearance.

I think this gets to the heart of the Clark question. Some people are suspicious of the General because they feel he is just a tool of DNC/DLC insiders who are using him as a front to try and short-circuit the Dean campaign. Whether this is a justified suspicion or not is unimportant. What matter's is that it is a suspicion that a lot of people have (including myself) and that Clark must address it if he is to win over the same forces that Dean is mustering.

Clark needs to make it clear, in no uncertain terms, that this is his campaign and that he is running because he wants to be president.

Ironically, this is in contradiction to the message of the Dean campaign, which is that Dean is running for us ("You Have The Power!"). Dean has the advantage over Clark in that he established his campaign's theme over a long period of time. Clark has had no time to do so (though it could be argued that he should have been working on those themes over the last year while he was toying with the idea of running).

This really gets down to what I have always considered the essential question in any campaign: why does the candidate want the job they are running for. A candidate who can convincingly sell his or her reason for running will go a long way towards actually achieving that goal. Dean's message on this point is very clear and well understood. Clark's is still muddled. He needs to be careful not to fall into the trap that hurt Dole and Gore: running because it was "their turn" and because it is what was expected of them. That won't sell.

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