Meanwhile, aside from Dean, the two Democratic candidates who seem to have some new life in them are Clark and, to my great surprise, Dick Gephardt.
When Gephardt threw his hat in the ring last November I mocked him rather mercilessly. But the biggest news I've seen of late was the early November Des Moines Register poll which showed Gephardt opening up a 7 point lead over Dean.
Since that poll ran, I've been waiting for a follow-up to see whether that sounding was an outlier or whether Gephardt really has turned a corner on Dean in Iowa. (Dean's campaign clearly sees Gephardt's momentum, as evidenced by their decision to run a round of anti-Gephardt ads in the state.) But I'm still waiting to see more poll data.
A few things are worth saying about these two candidates in Iowa. Iowa should be a Gephardt state. So, to an extent, his strength there only shows that his candidacy is holding on. On the other hand, as the frontrunner and with the kind of campaign he's running -- one geared to grassroots support -- Dean needs to win there too. Wearing the frontrunner crown changes all the expectations. A Gephardt win in Iowa would be a very big deal on a number of counts.
On Clark, a few weeks back I said that Clark had no campaign, no message, not no nuthin', but close. Now, he finally seems to have one. He's running ads, showing up on the shows -- the fundraising is decent. He gave a solid foreign policy speech and, in general, his operation is putting together a clear and consistent message.
How consistent this remains and how much traction he gains remains to be seen.