Wednesday's must-reads


Geraldine Sealey
January 28, 2004 7:25PM (UTC)

Dean needs a win
The spin is on, as every major candidate tries to cast his placement in New Hampshire as a sign of strength and momentum going into next week's seven primaries and caucuses in states from Arizona to South Carolina. The field has not been winnowed, exactly -- even Joe Lieberman's still claiming "Joe-mentum." But where some candidates see rosy scenarios, the press and pundits see writing on the wall. The New York Times includes Howard Dean on the endangered list. Todd Purdum writes:

"Howard Dean has now failed twice, decisively, in the states where he has worked hardest, with the voters who know him best, even among those who share his signature issue: opposition to the war in Iraq. As the campaign shifts from an expectations game to a fight for real delegates, Dr. Dean needs to win somewhere. There were signs that he might leapfrog to states like Michigan and Wisconsin that vote later next month, then regroup for the big contests on both coasts on March 2."

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But Dean isn't budging, claiming that the New Hampshire results, rather than a defeat, comprise a comeback. In an email to supporters, Dean's campaign writes that his showing last night was so impressive as to make him a target for adversaries: "We anticipate an escalation in attacks because of tonight's strong showing." On Blog for America, Dean campaign aide Kate O'Connor writes that Dean is taking his campaign national after a day of rest, hitting not just the Feb. 3 states, but looking ahead to primaries later in the month. "We're back out on the road on Thursday and it looks like in the next six days we'll be visiting Michigan, Wisconsin, South Carolina, Missouri, New Mexico, Arizona and Washington. Whew!"

GOP hangs "L" word on Kerry
Newsday reports that Republicans are wasting no time attacking frontrunner John Kerry as a Massachusetts liberal. "The Republicans delight in pointing out, Kerry is even to the left of liberal icon and fellow Massachusetts Sen. Edward Kennedy ... Republican National Committee chairman Ed Gillespie previewed that line of attack last week, saying Kerry was 'out of sync' with mainstream voters. Gillespie signaled likely Republican attacks on Kerry for supporting same-sex unions, opposing a ban on late-term abortions and supporting reduced spending on intelligence-gathering."

"The L-word probably would work most effectively against Kerry in the South, including among swing voters, and Democrats will have a hard time taking back the White House without winning a few Southern states."

Did war stance do in Dean?
On Daily Kos, political scientist and blogger Tom Schaller writes that Dean may have been undone --assuming he has been undone -- by his focus on the Iraq war, just as his anti-war position distinguished him early from the rest of the pack. "I now believe that Dean's war opposition cost him the nomination -- but not because his position is out of synch with Democrats right now. Rather, it has to do with the evolution of the candidates' position, and how closely they mirror the evolution of many Democrats' feelings about Iraq ... By autumn, the question was whether this niche was sufficient for Dean to run the table to the nomination.

"The answer now appears to be a resounding 'no.' And thus, the reflexive and convenient conclusion is that either (a) Democrats are actually not where Dean is on the war; or (b) Democrats simply care more about the economy than Iraq, so differences in the candidates' war positions don't really matter that much. (Or, of course, some combination of 'a' and 'b')."

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Heading South
Taegan Goddard's Political Wire features a primer on the South Carolina primary by Southern political blogger Wyeth Ruthven. Ruthven says we should be on the lookout for a fight to the death between Clark and Edwards, who both claim the South as their turf. Also, John Kerry got a 15-point bounce from his Iowa win and could get another from New Hampshire. "It will be interesting to see if the bounce overpowers the 'write off the South' remarks of the other day. Kerry is already sending surrogates to South Carolina, John Grisham will be stumping for Kerry in SC tomorrow. And Kerry's staff is already building events around the South Carolina debate in Greenville," Ruthven writes. Al Sharpton, who's been campaigning non-stop in South Carolina since before Iowa, is another wild card.

Blair shoots from his cave
On the front page of the New York Times today is the following headline: "Bush Backs Away From His Claims About Iraq Arms." On the other side of the pond, though, Tony Blair is getting slammed for not doing the same. "It's getting embarrassing. Anybody who's anybody now admits that there are no, and were no, weapons of mass destruction worth the name in Iraq," writes Jonathan Freedland in today's Guardian.

"Everyone gets it already -- there were no weapons of mass destruction; everyone, that is, but the British government. Like the Japanese soldier of cliche, still shooting from his cave because no one has told him the war is over, Tony Blair and faithful lieutenant Jack Straw are sticking to the cause long after their commanders have surrendered. Their tenacity in the face of all the evidence is almost touching. Blair still says he has 'absolutely no doubt.' ...Washington may have abandoned the pre-war script, but their loyal retainers in London are staying true. They are like a pair of old Communist cadres defending some appalling Stalinist action, unaware that the party line from Moscow has changed."


Geraldine Sealey

Geraldine Sealey is senior news editor at Salon.com.

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