Things To Act
Wednesday, February 04, 2004
Primary Observations
While I doubt I'll say anything that isn't said better elsewhere, what the heck:

*There's still a faint ray of hope for a brokered convention. Kerry still maintains his frontrunner standing, but Dean, Edwards, and Clark can all make credible plays still, depending how things pan out. I suspect that a lot of Kerry's lead stems from his momentum out of IA/NH (the compressed calendar strikes again), rather than any lengthy deliberation on the part of the voters. Now that the field is beginning to thin, perhaps voters will pay more attention, which could help or hurt various candidates in various ways.

*Will anyone get desperate enough to call off the 'nice guy' truce? Everyone seems desperate to not be seen as the first to go negative, yet that philosophy may lead to a cakewalk for Kerry if no one takes him on. The temptation has to be increasing--but since candidate C stands to benefit the most if candidate B attacks candidate A, everyone hopes someone else will pay the price first. Meanwhile, everyone gets cross-pressures from the party, which wants a nominee fast, and some segments of the media, which don't.

*The Collaborator News Network's Delegate Scorecard. It seems worth noting that Kerry's delegate total is less than that of Clark, Dean, and Edwards combined--he doesn't have an insurmountable lead by any means. Dean has about half as many delegates, Edwards 40%, and Clark 33%.

*Dean didn't come in better than third anywhere, which is a bad sign (particularly given his last-minute attempt to build expectations in NM). However, if he can win the next two primaries in Michigan and Washington, his delegate total plus momentum should bring him to near-equal status with Kerry. And while his cash management has temporarily left him in dire straits, it's probably too soon to write off his network of passionate supporters.

*Edwards (with his fresh, essential SC win), on the other hand, stands to benefit if the conventional wisdom that Dean is done holds. He may be able to make himself heard if the field narrows to a two-man race, and his claims to the South may finally begin to pay off if Clark can be forced out. However, he didn't do well outside the South, which could bode ill.

*Clark, with his apparent dead-heat win in OK, has managed to hang on for now. However, he's still clearly struggling to stay relevant. He does benefit from having come in second to Kerry in 3 states. In a completely unscientific Borda count I just conducted, counting only the order of finish of the four serious candidates left, he comes in second to Kerry (low good: K 10, C 18, E 20, D 24). Hence, he may be able to spin his finish as showing that he is still a credible national candidate. On the other hand, he essentially tied with Edwards in OK, which isn't nearly as impressive as the 15 point spread Edwards got in SC.

*Kucinich has little incentive to drop out, as he hasn't ever been running to win (and wouldn't it be amusing if he managed to pick up delegates if it became obvious that the convention would be brokered?). Neither has Sharpton, but his inability to win delegates in SC may portend the beginning of the end of his campaign.

*Whether a dragging out of the process will help or hurt President Bush is not completely obvious. Conventional wisdom holds that a bitter nomination fight prevents the party from rallying around its nominee soon enough, as well as damaging the eventual nominee. On the other hand, the Democrats are getting an amazing amount of free press for their anti-Bush message, while the White House has largely been staying quiet. Expect both factors to change when a nominee is known.

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