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December 02, 2002

Why Dem 2004 Candidates Look Good

It's always fashionable at this point in the election cycle of an incumbent Republican to bemoan the quality of the Democratic candidate challengers-- just check the press from 1982, 1986 and 1990 to get the idea. No one in 1990 was speaking breathlessly of the stampeding Clinton challenge to come-- instead everyone was bemoaning that once again serious talent like Mario Cuomo were taking a pass on the election.

Well, let me go against the cycle and note the rather interesting qualities of the Dem field.

Start with Gore-- who has suddenly morphed from merely being a former Vice President who actually got the most votes last election to someone actually saying interesting and invigorating things.

Then there is John Kerry-- both a Vietnam war hero and hero of the antiwar movement, as well as being a serious leader against international terrorism who was exposing Reagan-era support for narcoterrorism back in the 1980s. Here is someone who can give a serious progressive critique of this administration's fake war on terror.

Next is John Edwards- far less experienced in the Senate but high on the charisma scale. And in an era of Enron corporate ripoffs, a trial lawyer who can parade a history of crippled child plaintiffs may be just the ticket for challenging the Bush administration's pro-corporate "tort reform" attacks on consumer rights.

Howard Dean- gets to play the Bruce Babbitt/Paul Tsongas wild card so far, but he's got a little bit of that Jed Bartlett energy going for him coming from a small New England state. Although Gore may have stolen his thunder on health insurance by coming out for single payer health care.

That the two Democratic leaders from the House and Senate, Dick Gephardt and Tom Daschle, are seen as weak contenders in the field actually speaks well of the frontrunners, since deferring to Congressional leadership prestige is often a sign of doom and weakness in a party-- think Bob Dole in 1996.

If I have a real lament is that there is no serious spokesperson for the leftwing of the party, a la Jesse Jackson. Yeah, Al Shapton is running and he actually makes more sense on alternative Tuesdays than he gets credit for, but he just can't escape the seamy history of being an FBI-informant and Tawana Brawley advocate in my mind. I wish Russ Feingold would jump into the fray, but it doesn't look likely at this point.

Posted by Nathan at December 2, 2002 05:50 PM

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I was impressed with Joe Klein's profile of Kerry in The New Yorker, especially the comments by the leader of the veterans group in South Carolina.

Bush still strikes me as soon who is beholden to buzzwords: "that's fuzzy math; I'm a uniter, not a divider; I'm a reformer with results; I'm a compassionate conservative [unless you're a Federal employee]." Hammer him on the issues and I think he folds. In any case, my lips to God's ears.

Posted by: Randy Paul at December 2, 2002 08:02 PM

Gore - popular, but backsliding. He no longer has the pulpit of the vice presidency, the mantle of "more experience", or even the ability to stand in the center (single payer? lets all go visit Canada and wait 6 months to get our appendix removed). He got 50% before - its unlikely he will get it again, even if he energizes his party.

Kerry - good guy - I hope that he does well. Of course, I don't think that he will call the war on terror fake - there is a big hole in Manhatten that is hard to miss.

Edwards - nice face, but trial lawyers (like union bosses) don't exactly gain the most centrist support, not to mention corporate support. At least Al and Bill had some corporate backers. He might help pry open some Southern support, though..

Dean - one word will echo through the rapid-fire primary schedule that will chose the Democratic nominee: Who?

Posted by: Grant at December 12, 2002 11:51 AM

Scratch one.. Al Gore.. pull up Al! pull up! Your engines are on fire!


Posted by: Grant at December 15, 2002 09:53 PM

What happened to Dennis Kucinich?

Posted by: Jason Schulman at December 18, 2002 12:19 AM

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