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Monday, January 19, 2004

The Dean "hard" count 

Well, there's a reason Noam Scheiber gets paid to write and I don't (besides the fact that he's chosen a career in journalism and I have not). His post here on Dean and the "expectation game" is very good.

Basically, there's a lot of talk right now about whether Dean can still eke out a victory in Iowa even though he's been slipping in the polls. Trippi and other Dean surrogates say yes, mainly because they know their hard count, and also because it's possible that 60% of that count are first-time caucus-goers--the exact people who will be woefully underrepresented in polls.

But the bigger point in the piece is this: What if Dean's people say they can eke out victory, but then come tonight Dean wins by 8-10% or even more? This is possible if Trippi et. al. are predicting a small win in order to dampen expectations. This may or may not be true (Kaus suggests that Trippi can't predict anything but a win at this point). But the implications are huge: what if, after two solid weeks of continuous anti-Dean press coverage and scrutiny, Dean still wins Iowa handily? This would have the effect of (once again) defying all political CW (and CW on CW), thus adding (by orders of magnitude) to the legend of Howard Dean ("see, he really is changing the rules of the game") like his July fundraising numbers and steady rise in the polls through the fall.

Of course, this could all be bogus, and maybe Dean will crash and burn and drop out of the race on February 4. But, it's more good pre-caucus speculation.
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