Howard Dean is more complex than I thought

By Jason Wojciechowski on July 31, 2003 at 5:46 AM

The NY Times has an interesting article on Dean and his candidacy. I had a picture of him as a pretty lefty guy, a typical Vermonter, but clearly I had no idea what I was talking about.

The article points out that Dean is actually fiscally conservative, and even draws strong support from the NRA (though it's basically only for saying that gun issues are state issues). I had been a little wary of Dean before, because I don't think he stands a snowball's chance of taking down George Bush in 2004 if he manages to win his primary. A political lifer like Al Gore got absolutely mangled by the Bush team, turning what should have been an easy victory for Gore into a shameful (for the way he just gave it up, that is) defeat. What kind of chance does a relative neophyte like Dean have?

I'm extremely willing to have a more centrist kind of Democrat in office so long as there is a Democrat in office in 2004. John Kerry may not have ever signed a bill supporting gay unions, but I trust Kerry and his team (and, lest we forget, his Heinz money) to be able to go toe-to-toe with Karl Rove, et al. It'd be nice to see a Vermont Democrat in our highest office, sure, but I don't think it's going to happen, and Massachusetts is the next best thing, isn't it?

Meanwhile, the article raises the question of whether Dean is peaking too early.
Can he keep creating more and more swell behind his candidacy, or will the wave break before it reaches shore? Whether it is or isn't, I wonder if we might ask the same questions about the attacks on Bush's war. New news seems to come out every day about intelligence documents and more soldiers dying and so forth, but can the anti-Bush crew keep up the steady pounding on the hawks, hoping driving his popularity into Bloomberg territory, right up through the election?

As a pessimist, I'm going to say no. I'm afraid that Bush will somehow manage to keep slithering out of these lies, keep hoodwinking 49% of the public, and maintain just enough popularity and just enough of a policy edge (because who doesn't like tax breaks?) to win in 2004. It may take more election-night highjinks from his family to pull it off, but the Supreme Court is still configured the way it was before, so there's no reason to think that the outcome would be any different.