Just "reading the tea leaves" but Gore's endorsement may end up hurting Gore and the Democratic Party more than it helps Howard Dean.
Dean is the favorite -- not the 'odds on" favorite but the favorite nonetheless -- to win the Democratic nomination but there is something about his candidacy that reminds me of George McGovern in 1972. Unless something really
dramatic happens, I do not see Dean beating Bush in the general election.
Dean, in my opinion, has problems as a candidate. He has, admirably, captured the passion of the anti-Bush faction in America. But his own positions (and personality) are razor thin and often contradictory. For example, does Dean support removing our troops from Iraq or does he believe that, although we should not have gone in, now that we are in we must "stick it out"?
I've heard Howard Dean argue both positions. Several times.
Dean is the front-runner not because he himself is such a great candidate but because his major contenders are such weak ones. Although, admittedly, one of the hallmarks of a great campaigner is to make your opponents look like bad ones, but John Kerry and Wesley Clark have just been so boring and "me-to-ish" while Richard Gephart is just plain boring: a legislator through and through. The rest of the Democratic field really never had a chance.
Whatever else you may say about "Dubya"; he is a born campaigner (remember especially his first Texas campaign against the extremely popular Governor Ann Richards). I don't think Dean will enjoy the same "charisma" (maybe not the right word to use but the best I can think of at the moment) advantage over Bush that he current does against the major Democratic nominees.
But perhaps most damaging to Dean is that he is a "Yankee" Democrat. Today, in order for a Democrat to win the Presidency, he must
be from the South. Remember Jimmy Carter and Bill Clinton (and Al Gore, for that matter)?
John Kennedy was the last New England Democrat to win the Presidency and despite the rosy glow of our memories of Camelot, he barely beat Nixon in 1960. Indeed, when you consider Kennedy's incredibly thin margin of victory in both Illinois and Texas -- states especially notorious for Democratic (yes, Democratic
Republican) vote fraud during the 1960's -- it is quite conceivable that in actuality Nixon won the electoral vote, if not the popular vote as well.
However, given my unending disdain and contempt for Richard Nixon -- and my genuine admiration for John Kennedy -- I am most happy with the official results. But perhaps I digress.
With Howard Dean as the Democratic nominee, the Republicans have a better chance of winning California -- a much
better chance -- than the Democrats do of winning any
state in the South.
The problem with Al Gore endorsing Howard Dean is that the nominal standard-bearer of the Democratic Party (along with Bill and Hillary Clinton) is endorsing an essentially Leftist candidiate (despite Dean's support of gun rights and comments about "guys with Confederate flags").
Remember that Al Gore, along with Bill Clinton, was a founding and leading member of the Democratic Leadership Committee; ostensibly formed to move the Democratic Party to the political center. Indeed, remember Bill Clinton's strategy of "triangulation" where he positioned himself against both the Republicans and the Democrats in Congress. Whatever else, politically speaking, it worked. At least it got him reelected (even though he still did not win the majority of the popular vote
). Now, that idea and (winning) strategy has been abandoned.
In other words, Gore endorsing Dean is the "re-McGovern-ization" of the Democratic Party. And ultimately, I think that is going to hurt the Democratic Party
. Indeed, this is basis of Joseph Lieberman's response to Gore's endorsement of Dean:
"I was caught completely off-guard," Sen. Joe Lieberman, Gore's running mate in 2000 and a hopeful for the nomination, said Tuesday on NBC's "Today" show. That many of Gore's positions are opposite to those of Dean made the decision a surprise to him, Lieberman said.
"Al Gore has endorsed someone here who has taken positions diametrically opposite" of the former vice president, Lieberman said. "What really bothers me is that Al is supporting a candidate who is so fundamentally opposed to the basic transformation that Bill Clinton brought to this party in 1992," moving it to a more middle-of-the-road stance on economic policy and other areas, he said.
Perhaps much of Lieberman's comments can be taken as "sore grapes" but that does not negate a basic truth to what he is saying.