First, William Saletan in Slate yesterday ran a piece that shows why I respect the Dean operation and the candidate, even if I am still not sold on his prospects next November. Knowing that the GOP will run Bush as the Daddy Protector on national security and terrorism, the Dean folks have brilliantly decided that the best defense to a possible weakness on their part is a good offense. As Saletan notes in his piece, Dean has decided that rather than wait for Bush and Rove to frame Dean as weak on defense and inexperienced, it is Dean who has gone on the attack to question Bush’s competence and record on defense and national security. This is great stuff, and the harder and meaner Dean gets in Bush’s face on these subjects and relentlessly so, the more the issue will register with those who quietly have been also questioning whether Bush knows what he is doing. Sure, Bush and Rove will be smearing Dean on these subjects come campaign time. But by that time Dean will have been hammering into voters’ minds for months that it is Bush who needs to learn something about defense and national security.
Second, the latest Zogby poll in New Hampshire out today of 503 likely Democratic and independent voters shows that Kerry’s support has collapsed and Dean has the primary locked up. I was prepared several days ago to outline a possible recovery strategy for Kerry, where based on recent Survey USA polling in Iowa I thought it was possible that Kerry could pull a surprise second place showing in Iowa and then use that momentum to do better than expected in New Hampshire, gaining new life in a race that would then have no clear front-runner as the primaries moved south and west. Such a scenario had even led Kevin Phillips to speculate about a brokered Democratic convention.
But a newer Zogby Iowa poll out today shows that Kerry has fallen back into single digits in Iowa, and unless these numbers turn around in the next several weeks, Kerry will be unable to stage a surprise that could stem the wave that has washed over him in New Hampshire. If this trend holds, given the new Granite State poll from Zogby today, it is difficult to envision a recovery strategy for Kerry. It is still very possible that as the contests move south and west that the race will be split amongst several candidates, each winning contests but not winning enough to lock up the nomination, as Phillips speculates.
It’s just that it appears more and more that Kerry will not be one of those candidates, leaving him to hope he could hang around as an anti-Dean candidate, winning enough delegates to be a player without winning any contests himself.
Lastly, the latest poll from the University of Maryland’s highly regarded Program on International Policy Attitudes found that Bush now trails an unnamed Democrat in a head to-head matchup 42%-48%. Note that this poll was taken during the time of the Baghdad Surprise Thanksgiving visit. So much for getting a bump from that PR stunt.
Update: As if to confirm what I posted last night, the latest American Research Group poll out of New Hampshire completed last night of likely Democratic and undeclared primary voters shows that Dean now comes in at 45%, with Kerry slipping further to 13%, and Clark with now 11%.