Thursday :: Jul 31, 2003

Dean Is Acting, and Polling, Like a Front-Runner

by Steve

I’ve taken my share of hits here with my occasional concerns about the electability of Howard Dean. As a sop to some of those who take issue with me, and as the beginning of several pieces on the various candidates and how they are doing at this point in time, I start tonight with a few words about Dean.

Momentum is a wonderful thing in a race to a party’s presidential nomination. At this point in the Democratic presidential race, Howard Dean has that momentum. Although it remains a valid question as to whether or not Dean’s surge over the last two months represents someone who is peaking too early, it is clear that he is the envy of his rivals now, regardless of any spin from them.

After coming off an impressive, internet-generated second quarter fundraising effort, Dean is getting the lion’s share of the media coverage during the month of July. And this coverage, despite the usual slams from some corners that he is either too liberal (a joke), or too angry (probably true, but there is much to be angry about) it has not hurt him out on the stump or in the polls.

An Ipsos/Public Affairs-Cook Political Report Poll out today shows that Dean has picked up five points since May in a national poll of 501 likely Democratic primary voters.

Dean’s support has increased by five points since May. 12% of Democratic primary voters now indicate Dean is their choice for the Presidential nomination. The subgroups showing the strongest support for Dean include individuals age 75 or older, men age 45 or older, people with a college degree, residents of the Mountain region (AZ, NM, NV, UT, CO, ID, WY, MT), residents of New England, individuals disapproving of Bush’s handling of the economy and domestic issues, and people who feel the country is off on the wrong track.

Note that Dean leads other candidates among likely Democratic voters with residents of the mountain states, a red-state region that Bush claims as his base. The poll indicates that Dean has climbed amongst Democratic voters while the other top tier candidates have stagnated (Kerry and Gephardt) or lost some ground (Lieberman).

Dean is getting good coverage from a variety of sources, and had two pieces in Slate recently, an interview and an assessment of his worldview, which isn’t as pacifist as his critics claim.

In rolling out his economic policies two days ago in Iowa, he has also gotten into a spat with John Kerry over the core issue of Bush’s tax cuts. Dean has called for the repeal of all Bush tax cuts, so that the budget can be balanced, his version of universal health care can be implemented, and infrastructure and security investments can be made.

Kerry, on the other hand, is only calling for a repeal of the Bush tax cuts that affect the wealthiest Americans, on the premise that rolling back all of the tax cuts will result in a tax increase to the middle class. Kerry’s position seems to be straight from the Democratic Leadership Council, which is arguing the same approach while calling Dean a big-spending, old-time Democrat. Dean counters by saying that Kerry cannot pay for his domestic proposals and reduce budget deficits without repealing all of the tax cuts, and claims that voters if given the choice would support repeal in exchange for health care, deficit elimination, and homeland security and other infrastructure investments.

This debate between Dean and Kerry over what to do in response to the Bush tax cuts may be contentious, but I think it is necessary for the party to thrash this issue out now before next year. Frankly, I agree with Dean on this one. As much as I like some things about the DLC, the truth of the matter is that polls have repeatedly shown since Bush came into office that if given the choice of meeting critical needs and balancing the budget on the one hand, and tax cuts on the other, votes will forgo tax cuts. Yet Kerry, Lieberman, and Edwards are loath to do anything that Rove will call a tax increase instead of having the guts and focus to frame the issue correctly.

Dean is gambling that voters want to hear what things cost, and make the choice for balanced budgets and meeting needs, rather than having their basest instincts pandered to by a man who really does want to break the piggy bank and drain the treasury of the funds necessary to maintain the current safety net and middle class entitlements.

Today, Dean rolled out his environmental agenda in San Francisco, and got a good response from the Sierra Club.

Democratic presidential candidate Howard Dean on Thursday unveiled an environmental plan that would increase use of renewable resources, push automakers to improve fuel efficiency and strengthen the Environmental Protection Agency.

Under Dean's plan, 20 percent of the nation's electricity supply would have to come from renewable sources such as wind and solar power by 2020. He would create incentives to develop hydrogen-powered vehicles, design more energy-efficient SUV's and increase use of ethanol, a renewable fuel produced from agricultural waste.

"Conservation, principally through efficiency improvements, has to be a centerpiece of our national energy policy," Dean said.

But in a proposal certain to upset automakers in key electoral states such as Michigan, Dean suggested requiring automakers to establish a fuel efficiency standard of 40 miles per gallon by 2015. The current requirement is 27.5 miles per gallon for cars and 20.7 for trucks.

Dean said would insist that the United States participate in international environmental agreements, such as the Kyoto global warming treaty. He said environmental standards should become a key element of the country's foreign trade agreements

Dean is moving around the country, as I hoped some of the candidates would do, acting like an opponent of Bush. He is not tying himself down to the pedestrian approach of focusing solely on Iowa and New Hampshire, or chasing big dollars in big states. He is in fact traveling the country, broadening his base of low-dollar/internet-based supporters, making major policy addresses showing a difference between not only him and other Democrats, but also more importantly between himself and Bush.

In other words, he is acting like a first tier candidate ready for the general election campaign while his opponents at this point seem stagnated. I congratulate him and his staff, and his supporters, for their energy and approach.

More on the other candidates in the coming days.

Steve :: 11:09 PM :: Comments (18) :: Digg It!