Tricky Dick

Power Line critiques Dick Morris’ column today that the nomination is far from a done deal in the Democrat camp.

I like Dick Morris. I wish I had his skill as a political consultant.

But, let’s remember that a few weeks ago, Morris thought that Dean had this think in the bag.

The question for Dean is whether his leftist base can stake him to enough votes to prevail in a three-way field. Against the current crop of nine candidates, he can win by garnering a quarter of the votes in most states. But when the race narrows, he’ll need to get 40 percent or more to win in each of the large key states.

A fringe candidate can usually get one voter in four. But can he get enough to win once the bar is raised?

My bet is that he can – because of the very rules that the Democratic Party leaders put in place to stop somebody like him from winning. Chastened by the almost-victories of Bill Bradley and John McCain in their respective primaries in 2000, the party bosses decided not to risk having their favorite sons overturned by some flaky result in Iowa or New Hampshire.

Knowing that a candidate (like Dean) could come out of nowhere and win these two notoriously unpredictable states, the party leaders deliberately front-loaded the nominating process so that the victor of Iowa and New Hampshire would have a hard time garnering the money in time to compete six weeks later in the simultaneous primaries in New York, California, Texas and Ohio.

If some out-of-the-mainstream candidate upended their favored campaigns in New Hampshire or Iowa, he would never be able, they felt, to translate his new momentum into dollars in time to buy enough media to influence enough voters to win four big states. By the time he had solicited funds, opened the mail, deposited the checks and bought the media time, the primaries would be almost upon him.

Oops. Dean outwitted the leaders. By raising his money early in the process through the Internet and eschewing the limits on his campaign spending that federal matching funds would bring, he already has enough money to compete in the big four states.

It is Dean’s opponents, struggling for traction after losing Iowa and New Hampshire, who will trouble revving up for the big primaries in early March.

He may have started the piece with an if as everyone use to hedging answered would, but the article seems clear Morris thought Dean was on track.

In saying all of this, so did I. But, then, I’m not a super professional crack political consultant/analyst.

Neither Dick nor I, no doubt, foresaw the implosion of Howard Dean. I’m still stuck on the fact that the staff really thought Dean’s campaign was a movement.

They really thought that. Nuts. Had Dick or I know they really thought that, we could have had this thing wrapped up accurately months ago.

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Erick Erickson

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