Kerry Bags New Hampshire, Dean A Decent Second - Time To Retire Joe
John Kerry notched the New Hampshire primary tonight in the midst of what appears to be a record turnout in frigid weather. Based on the numbers as of now, Kerry appears to claim about 39% of the total vote, to Howard Dean’s 26%. Wesley Clark, in what must be seen as a disappointment, is clinging to a less-than-thousand vote lead for third at about 13% over John Edwards. Joe Lieberman came in a numbing 9%.
Kerry: As it was in Iowa, Kerry’s perceived electability over Dean contributed to his late momentum among late deciders today. He beat Dean amongst voters concerned more about domestic issues, specifically health care. Kerry gave a good speech tonight, but did a better job on some of the post-primary TV interviews tonight. As the new frontrunner, the pundits are already hammering him about his voting record and for being a Massachusetts liberal. Thankfully, Kerry threw the liberal label back at MSNBC tonight and others, by saying that if it is liberal to support balanced budgets, Medicare, and a responsible foreign policy, then “bring it on.”
He will have to come up with good defenses to the rest of the Rove black book on civil unions, his votes on Iraq and drug policy, and his votes on taxes, but he needs to be ready anyway. Besides, its not as if he can’t effectively respond with withering fire to Bush attacks on drug policies (“given the president’s own history here, he’s the last person to be criticizing anyone on drugs”), Iraq (“what good are steadfast positions on war and peace when you are so dead wrong and deceitful as Bush has been”), national security ("a man who dodged Vietnam by disappearing in Alabama is in no position to lecture me on anything"), taxes (“when will the well-off be required to make the same sacrifices as the rest of us in this so-called war on terror?”), and the like.
The problem for Kerry remains: Dean has more money and a good organization in many states. And Dean isn’t going away. But Kerry will get more momentum and a bounce tomorrow, which will make him competitive in South Carolina and Missouri, and possibly Arizona. After another good week, he will be on a roll but will need a rush of money.
Dean: Despite the idiotic sentiments from many cable TV pundits tonight that Dean will have to pull out if he doesn’t win anywhere next week, Dean is in better shape that many think. He still has money and people, and although he may not win anywhere next week, what is important is to start collecting good second and third-place finishes and delegates. He is playing for bigger states like Michigan and Wisconsin for comebacks, and he gave a great and subdued speech tonight before launching into his thank-yous. Whereas Kerry has spun his pitch to an almost solely populist soldier routine, Dean has refined his to a pointed but subdued anti-Bush assault that will always resonate with the base. His electability factor may have been permanently damaged by Iowa, but he will be in this race to the end and the improvement in the party’s fortunes and the candidates’ messages are largely as a result of Dean’s emergence.
Clark: Yes, he took a big hit by running a bad third tonight. And yes, he needs to bag a win or two next week. But he still has money, a decent resume, and is moving to a part of the country where it may not matter how good of a loyal Democrat he is. He is ahead or close to the lead in a couple of these upcoming states, notwithstanding any more of a surge and bounce from Kerry. But the Clinton guys needed to do better tonight than this.
Edwards: He needed to do better than losing to Clark tonight, well behind Dean. Yes, he came up a lot from single digits in New Hampshire. But he himself has now said on CNN that he needs to win South Carolina or he is in trouble. The problem is that Kerry is on the rise in the state without spending yet a dime based solely on bounce and momentum. If Edwards wins by a small margin next week, or loses outright, he is in trouble.
Lieberman: The man actually thinks he beat expectations by getting 9% of the vote in a nearby state. Where does he go for a second-place showing from here? Joe is done.
Again, my congrats go to Kerry and his people for coming back from the dead to win, albeit almost totally on bounce and momentum, plus a populist soldier’s pitch. He has won the first two on electability and his war resume. But I still question the depth of his support, and we will see how he holds up and responds to the White House smears and those of his rivals, who need to attack him now wherever they can. My advice: focus on Missouri, South Carolina (to weaken Edwards), and perhaps Arizona or Oklahoma to show strength westward and to capitalize on the bounce.
As for Dean and his campaign, you guys did a great job recovering from the depths and steadying yourselves.