A quick note before I try to make my way by car back to Boston. I don’t know if it was clear from the news coverage. But there was not one speck of precipitation in this state — at least not in the southern part of the state where I was most of the time — for the last ten days. Not a drop or a flake. It only started snowing mid-morning today. And now, loooking out my window, everything is more or less white.
On reflection, I think my late evening primary night post was, if anything, too generous about the Dean campaign’s future prospects. Each of the campaigns has a basic premise, an argument. Edwards and Clark are on something just shy of life support. But both can say that their premises — basically the ability to play well in the South and among National Security voters — haven’t really been tested yet. I doubt they’ll really get a shot at this point. But we don’t know how Kerry will do in the South and Midwest. So maybe they’ll get a shot.
Gephardt’s premise was heavy labor mobilization and support from the industrial and post-industrial Midwest. He lost Iowa. Thus his premise was proven invalid. And he left the race.
Dean’s premise has been mobilization of the base and grassroots mobilization and organizing. He’s now contested the two states where those strengths should have helped him the most. And he’s lost both times. I think it’s pretty close to the point where you have to say his premise has been disproven as well.
Yet for all Democrats I think there are some very promising signs coming out of these two contests. There was a lot of talk for months about the divisions in the Democratic party. And certainly there was something to that. But that wasn’t what was happening on the ground here. I heard most of the candidates repeatedly. And the differences between them are matters of mild shading. The important differences are retrospective rather than prospective.
There has also been the beginnings of a revolution in the way Democrats organize and raise money. It didn’t start with Dean and I don’t think it will end with him. But he and his campaign have played a huge part is catalyzing and accelerating it.
Look also at turnout. Iowa and New Hampshire both saw huge surges in turnout. A good bit of that is due to there not being a Republican contest. But not all of it. Democrats and Democratic-leaning independents are seriously energized and not just by their particular candidates but by their desire to turn George W. Bush out of office.
We’ll be turning our attention now to the new funny-business over WMD, the Plame investigation, and the administration’s desperate attempts to come up with any plan for Iraq that can be reconciled with the 2004 election calendar.