Tuesday, January 20, 2004

More on Dean 

This is from Noam Scheiber at TNR:
The lesson Trippi took away from both experiences was that there are only two possible roles a candidate can play in a race: He can be on the side that wants to do the bidding of powerful, moneyed interests, or he can be on the side that wants to give power back to the people. In Trippi's view, once you know which side of this divide a candidate stands on, you know everything you need to know about him.
I think Trippi's a brilliant strategist--the person who deserves the bulk of the credit for vaulting Dean to the front of the Democratic pack on the eve of the primaries. But I think this worldview says a lot about what went wrong for Dean in Iowa, and what's wrong with the Dean campaign generally. It's not so much that Trippi et al have chosen to ignore substance. It's that they think process is substance. Unfortunately for them, very few voters feel the same way.
If Dean fails, this might be the best obituary. I have to say, I felt, and felt strongly, that Dean was the guy because process was substance to me. That is, Dean's campaign was Campaign Finance Reform, much more than McCain-Feingold. That Dean's "ownership" campaign--"you have the power"--was Dean himself. I've told many people that his campaign has been as important or more important than the candidate.

Now, that may be true for any candidate, insomuch as the "message" is the campaign. But when the campaign is all about how you win, and now why you should win, maybe that's a much bigger weakness than I realized. Maybe I really did drink the kool-aid.

None of this is to say that I was wrong to support Dean--I really don't think so. And when you listen to his speeches, there is substance there, and the vision is, dare I say, optimistic. Nonetheless, he needs to do a better job and getting his substantive message out to voters. And I've read that his commercials are by far the worst of the bunch. Let's see if he can turn that around.

UPDATE: From Chris Suellentrop in Slate:
I heard four or five Dean radio ads on my drive to the caucus, all with the same message: Dean had the courage to stand up to President Bush on the war while the other major candidates folded. Dean's saturation TV ads focused on nefarious "corporations" and "special interests" and "Washington insiders," rather than the things I'd seen Dean use on the stump (in addition to his stance on the war) to appeal to voters who hadn't heard of him already: his Vermont record of balanced budgets, health care, and the state's "Success by Six" program for children.
This does a pretty good job at explaining what I was saying above. Dean needs to let more people know his strengths that are apparent in his stump speech, such as health care and these other things Suellentrop is talking about (I'd add Dean's bit about veterans and positive foreign policy).
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