Friday, June 22, 2007


This past week, both Kos and Robin Toner of The New York Times argued that it's too soon to crown any front-runners in the '08 party contests. Both Kos and Toner pointed out that at this time four years ago Howard Dean was far back in the pack (as Kos noted, Joe Lieberman was the front-runner) -- and after Dean took the lead, John Kerry didn't pass him until the very last minute. Moral: These things are volatile.

Well,that's true -- but I think it's going to take a bit more to shake up the Democratic race this year than it did four years ago, for several reasons.

First, obviously, is the fact that serious campaigning has begun a lot earlier this time around. Average voters, not just political junkies, are paying attention earlier. June '07 isn't like June '03.

But there are two more reasons. One is that '03-'04 was a volatile time, at least for Democrats -- we just became more and more upset about the war. That explains why Lieberman lost the lead and Dean gained it. This time around, everything the Bush White House touches sucks right now, and everything it touches will suck almost exactly as much six and seven and eight months from now, i.e., as much as humanly possible. What we'll be looking for then is exactly what we're looking for now -- someone to get us the hell out of this nightmare. We can't get much angrier than we are now.

And as for Kerry's ability to pass Dean in the stretch, remember that Dean was a risky choice. A lot of people, including me, liked what he was saying, but were thinking, "Him? Are we really sure he could beat Bush?" He'd never, as the cliche goes, closed the sale -- if only because a lot of us thought our candidate needed to be somewhat more rooted in the mainstream to actually win.

It's not the same this year. I'm afraid Hillary really has closed the sale with a lot of people -- mostly people (a lot of them women) who think she's a mainstream choice with solid Democratic values. She doesn't seem like a long shot to them. In the Times article, Joe Biden is quoted as saying, "nobody has made up their minds in the Democratic primary," but I know people who absolutely have -- and they think it's time for Hillary.

Does that mean she's unbeatable? No -- but it means that '03 and '04 aren't the model. Something really big has to be a game-changer.

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