Let me note a few more thoughts about Howard Dean’s speech this morning.
Dean led off his speech with the following analysis and it seems now to inform a good bit of his strategy, or at least the packaging of his post-Iowa campaign.
What Dean said was that when he got into the race (actually part of the reason he got into the race) was that the other Democrats weren’t willing to confront Bush administration or stand up for the values and policies Democrats believe in. But now the other candidates, he says, have come around to his position. They’re confronting the White House and standing up for those values and policies and so forth. So now he (i.e., Dean) needs to go back and focus on policy prescriptions, his experience as an executive, and his record in Vermont.
(One of the subthemes the campaign seemed inclined to advance was that with the other candidates coming around to Dean’s sort of combativeness, he didn’t stand out as much, or his message was muted.)
This strikes me as a really counterproductive approach.
Doesn’t it amount to his conceding a good bit of the raison d’etre of his campaign?
If you concede the premise that he has pushed the other candidates in this direction (and there’s certainly an argument to be made), then it almost reads like saying he’s acheived his historical purpose (pushing the Dems to confront the Bush) and now, well, what’s the point? Maybe he pushed them in that direction, but he’s not the best one to actually run against Bush. And if Kerry and Clark or Edwards have now adopted Dean’s approach, why do you need Dean?
It’s almost like he’s painting himself in advance into a corner as the Gene McCarthy of the race, a la 1968.
Needless to say, you could flesh out his point in different ways. But what I’m trying to point to is that this doesn’t seem like a point Dean can really concede. As it is, the rest of his speech was focused on his role as a governor, what he’d accomplished in the state, and how executive experience sets him apart.
Now, those are all good things. He did accomplish a lot as governor of Vermont. But are those the sorts of themes that are going to propel him through the next week?
It doesn’t seem so to me.