Okay, have to say it. Iâm still not convinced. Everyone I know seems to think that Howard Dean is close to having the Democratic nomination all wrapped up. AFSCMEâs apparent endorsement, for instance, seems premised almost entirely on the perception that Deanâs going to be the winner.
But I just donât see it.
Iâm not saying thereâs another candidate who Iâd say is more likely to win. I just think Deanâs strength is overstated.
A few points and then weâll follow up with other posts later.
First: Every primary and caucus this year distributes delegates proportionally. You get 30% of the vote and you get 30% of the delegates. So winning a primary by a couple points in a big field isnât necessarily all itâs cracked up to be.
Second: I continue to think that Deanâs style of candidacy only has a real purchase on a portion of the Democratic primary electorate. And I think he has most of those people already. Yes, this is a standard criticism of Dean: heâs the candidate of the Starbucks crowd (not that thatâs a criticism: I write about half of my posts from the neighborhood Starbucks) and so forth. And the endorsements of SEIU and AFSCME are supposed to change that — giving his candidacy a broader demographic sweep.
But I remain unconvinced. Iâm not sure Dean can break out of the very energized and mobilized constituency he already has. And thatâs what strong showings out of Iowa and New Hampshire are supposed to accomplish.
Third: Our models for primary campaigns are based on frontrunners who are supported, by and large, by the party establishment. Thatâs not the case here. And that makes a difference. So there’s an asterisk by his frontrunnerdom.
Fourth: Dean clearly now has the biggest constituency. Itâs activated, mobilized and itâs big. But heâs in a large field. I think thereâs a much larger slice of the Democratic primary electorate that doesnât want him than the one that does. And as the field narrows, that will become the salient fact. (Isn’t #4 kind of like #2? Okay, maybe a bit.)
Fifth: Electability, another salient fact.
Now, many things I write on TPM, I write with great confidence. This isnât one of those cases. For a host of reasons I find this primary campaign very hard to get a handle on. And itâs quite apparent to me that I could have this all wrong. What I’m telling you is just what my gut tells me.