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Why Rove Fears Dean: He Might Be The 'Democratic Reagan'

November 13, 2003

By Mike Hersh (http://www.mikehersh.com)

According to Republican pollsters Bob Moore and Hans Kaiser:

"The potential for the economy to remain sluggish... and conditions in the Middle East are impossible to predict. Should these situations remain status quo or worsen, America will be looking for someone new... who can shake America out of the doldrums and reinvigorate the body politic. [Governor Howard] Dean would provide solutions and excitement where the other Democrats... are not as convincing because they don't have the perceived conviction of a Howard Dean."

"A Dean candidacy is a lot more realistic than people think [because] Dean's appeal is closer to Ronald Reagan's than any other Democrat running today.... The Democratic Party used to chuckle about Reagan and his gaffes, which they believed would marginalize him to the far-right dustbin of history. But when his opponents tried to attack him for some of his more outlandish statements, the folks in the middle simply ignored them. Voters... looked to the bigger picture, where they saw a man of conviction who cared about them and had solutions for their problems." [source: http://www.moore-info.com]

All the top-tier Democratic challengers can beat Bush, but Dean poses the biggest threat. Republicans once hoped Dean would get the nomination to run against Bush. No longer. As Dean continues to gain support and break fund-raising records by drawing on 100,000s of supporters, the Bush brain-trust (Karl Rove) and the pro-Bush media have changed their minds.

Republicans want two things: first, a long and bitter Democratic primary fight leaving the party split and the activists exhausted and second, a weak candidate they can trounce. If Dr. Howard Dean wraps up the nomination early, that would frustrate both Republican aims. The Republicans no longer see Dean as the weakest of the top Democrats.

How do I know? Because if they really thought Dean would be easy for Bush to beat, they'd build him up to make sure he'd win the Democratic nomination. They were doing that last summer, but no longer. They now fear Governor Dean most of all. That explains why Republicans bash Dean constantly. On right-wing hate radio and on the talking head shows. On the editorial pages and in the "news" sections. As these tactics fail, Republican fear grows.

They fear Governor Dean because Dean thrives on slams and bad press. They just make his support grow wider and deeper. Republicans need Democratic disunity but Dean brings together all corners of the Democratic Party -- even those who defected to Nader in 2000 -- with unmatched passion and intensity. Dean does this without alienating independent "swing voters." Republican pollsters and consultants used to dismiss that as impossible, but Dean is doing it. Already the emerging issues favor Dean as well.

Already about half of America knows Bush is mishandling Iraq. As more learn Saddam was not connected to 9/11 and as costs and casualties inexorably increase, so will Dean's support. As Iraq tips from a winning issue for Bush into a liability, only Dean among the top-tier Democrats can make the case against the war he opposed even before it started.

Months ago, Dean predicted in detail the failure, wasted $billions and deaths we see today. Other leading Democrats must mute their attacks on Bush's failed foreign policy because they once supported it. As Dean says, they're asking questions now they should have asked before support Bush's illegal invasion of Iraq. Bush can paint others as flip-floppers on the war, but Dean has remained constant in his opposition to the bloody "Bush Doctrine."

The other anti-war Democrats -- Carol Moseley Braun, Al Sharpton and Dennis Kucinich -- have no chance to win the nomination. As that becomes clear, even their most ardent supporters must choose between Dean and a pro-war Democrat. Dean will welcome support from the passionate, idealistic Democrats currently backing these other candidates.

With their added strength, Dean can surge in the next round of primaries. If Dean runs away with the nomination -- by winning or placing second in Iowa, winning in New Hampshire, and exceeding expectations in the South -- Dean and the Democrats can unite and begin targeting Bush. Dean has the cure for divisive "wedge" issues -- race, gay rights, guns, abortion -- a plain-spoken appeal on things that really matter. Good jobs. Good schools. Health care.

Dean hopes to re-unite middle class and working families against the greedy elites into a new New Deal Coalition. History shows that real progress is not possible without such an alliance among people of good will from all regions and races. This unity would mark the end of Rove's Republican dreams of domination and a new beginning of a Democratic American dream -- a fresh renaissance of the New Deal and the Great Society.

If Dean pulls off this ambition, he can help remake America, bringing us into the 21st Century with universal health care, access to high quality education for all Americans, investment in our people, millions of good new jobs, strong protections for the environment, workers and consumers, with equality, fairness and justice for women, minorities, GLBT people -- all of us. Almost all Americans want all of this, and Dean is working to unite the vast majority of us against the tiny extreme right wing minority clinging to power by dividing us.

Dean is even reaching out to Bush's base. His clumsy phrasing aside, Dean is making a strong appeal to poor and working class white males. If Bush has to defend his base, Bush will lose. Electoral calculus holds that even if Dean doesn't pick off a deep south state, Bush could lose states like West Virginia, New Hampshire, Arizona, and possibly even Florida, Nevada, Colorado, Missouri, Virginia, North Carolina or Ohio.

A loss in any of these states would send Bush packing for Crawford, Texas. A win in several of these states would grant Dean a mandate to remake America into greatness. This prospect makes Karl Rove's cold blood run colder. With the stakes this high, increasingly desperate to stop Dean, what can Rove do? Try to elevate an easy mark to thwart Dean and the Democrats.

The Republicans want to run against Rep. Richard Gephardt. They keep building him up, pretending he'd be the toughest opponent. Republican hopes rest with Rep. Dick Gephardt beating Dean in Iowa. If Dean wins that state, he could quickly unite the Democrats for the general election. Watch the pro-Bush media trying to thwart this by putting Gephardt on TV, asking him easy soft-ball questions, trying to breathe life into his campaign.

Most Democrats I know want to like Gephardt. He seems like a nice guy, but he's screwed up too many times. Gephardt's failures stung badly enough, but worst of all, sometimes he seemed unwilling to even try to fight -- or even fought on the wrong side. He was supposed to be our leader, but there he was in the Rose Garden praising Bush's resolve and trusting Bush's leadership and judgment as Bush lied to us about the fabricated threat from Iraq. Gephardt's cheerleading for Bush's war broke my heart and made me ill.

Rove is sure Gephardt would fail to win over voters in a face-to-face contest against Bush. After all, Gephardt never articulated a winning message in the past. He failed to make his case to the American people against Gingrich and now Bush. He failed to head off the abuses in the House or hold Republicans accountable for them. Under his leadership, Democrats lost ground year after year. Bush's hopes for 2004 rest with Richard Gephardt leading the Democrats to one more defeat. Rove fears Dean will lead Democrats to rousing victory.

That explains Rove's desperation. David Reinhard explains "Why Dean can win next November" in his article of that name: "Let us not be fooled by misguided conventional wisdom. [Howard] Dean is a threat and Republicans better not ignore him." [T]his is the considered judgment of two respected Republican pollsters -- Bob Moore and Hans Kaiser -- from Portland's Moore Information.

The GOP pollsters fear "Howard Dean can win because he believes in what he is saying, because he can semi-legitimately spin his record as governor into one of fiscal conservatism, and because he comes across as if he actually cares about people [and] The difference between Howard Dean and the rest of the Democratic candidates is that Dean comes across as a true believer to the base but he will not appear threatening to folks in the middle."

Reinhard writes, "I've thought for a while that the former Vermont governor deserves the Democratic nomination. He's the exquisite embodiment of Democratic values today. He's opposed to 'George Bush's war' and was before it became hip within the party. And he wants a total repeal of "George Bush's tax cuts." You'll see a pattern here, and it forms the overarching theme of today's Democratic partisans: barely contained anger toward President Bush and his works." Only Dean represents the outrage millions of Americans feel about Bush from the stolen election to the illegal Iraq invasion.

As Reinhard notes it was inevitable that ardent Democrats would ardently back the most ardent Democratic candidate: "Dean is angry and, unlike the other Democratic candidates, the anger is authentic. Indeed, it's almost raw. Democrats deserve a presidential candidate who represents, as Dean says, 'the Democratic wing of the Democratic Party.' Small wonder he has shot to the front of the Democratic pack, and managed to stay there."

Bucking the tattered "conventional wisdom," Reinhard concludes Dean "would be a tough foe for Bush next fall. It's going to be a close race, and having a fired-up up base can only help Democrats. I wonder how Dean's anger will play over a long race and among non-Democrats, but authentic is good in presidential candidates." I'd say that "anger" is better called "passion." It's not just good, it's essential. Dean has it and Rove fears it. With good reason.


Quotes from Reinhard, Moore and Kaiser from: "Why Dean can win next November," David Reinhard, The Oregonian 11/09/03: http://www.oregonlive.com/news/oregonian/david_reinhard/index.ssf?/base/ editorial/106829671744920.xml


American Politics Journal E-mail Edition Copyright (C) 2003 American Politics Journal Publications, Inc All rights reserved. ISSN No. 1523-1690
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