Jewish World Review Jan. 7, 2003 / 5 Shevat, 5763
In Dem race: Home field no advantage
http://www.NewsAndOpinion.com | In politics, a home field advantage can kill you because it generates expectations that are hard to realize. The likely entry of North Carolina's Senator John Edwards in the Democratic 04 sweepstakes creates an odd situation in which each of the first three caucuses or primaries feature native son candidates from the states next door. In this era, where it matters less how candidates do against one another than how they perform vis-à-vis the media's expectations, this geographic propinquity is likely to pose the first hurdles for each of these candidates to overcome.
The first three Democratic Primaries or Caucuses are: Iowa on January 19, 2004, New Hampshire on January 27th, and South Carolina on February 3rd. But each of these three contests will be waged in the shadow of a favorite son from a neighboring state. Senator Tom Daschle (D-SD) and Congressman Dick Gephardt (D-Mo) are from states that border Iowa. Senator John Kerry is from Massachusetts, many of whose residents commute from tax free New Hampshire to work in Taxachusetts. Senator John Edwards (D-NC) is the next door neighbor to South Carolina.
How will these four candidates fare on their home turf? The expectations for each will be very high and anything less than a convincing win could cripple their candidacies before the big state primaries come a few weeks later.
For Kerry the New Hampshire primary poses an especial threat. A liberal from what Trent Lott used to call The People's Republic of Massachusetts, Kerry must win going away in among very conservative New Hampshire voters. To make things worse, Kerry must compete with another neighboring favorite son: Governor Howard Dean of Vermont. In fact, each of the first three states to select delegates for the Democratic National Convention is fairly conservative, posing an obstacle for Kerry.
John Edwards faces a similar problem in South Carolina, arguably the most conservative state in the nation (a state where Strom Thurmond kept getting re-elected). For Edwards to prevail in North Carolina, with its transported northern moderates, is one thing. To win in insular South Carolina is something else. Remember, it was getting McCain one-on-one in South Carolina which gave Bush the nomination and doomed the Arizonan.
A front runner can only stumble in this early going. If he wins the neighboring state, nobody pays much attention. But if he loses or wins weakly, his candidacy is badly hurt. If the front runner does not win handily, it is usually the second place finisher who gains momentum.
Look no further than the 1992 nominating process where Massachusetts Senator Paul Tsongas narrowly prevailed in New Hampshire. It was the second place finisher - Bill Clinton - who benefited and took away momentum from the primary.
The likely beneficiary of this favorite son bias of the opening primaries is Connecticut's Senator Joe Lieberman - the only man without any home state at issue in these early contests.
One can imagine Lieberman doing well enough in Iowa, trading off his national base left over from 2000, and then running strong in New Hampshire as he flanks the field on the right and appeals to the anti-tax and pro-defense vote.
The campaigns of 2004 will be conducted largely at the end of 2003 because of the front loading of the primary process. 2003 will be a Republican and a conservative year, dominated by Bush's likely war on Iraq and his efforts to deal with the growing problems posed by North Korea. It such an environment, it will be hard for a liberal to get traction over the domestic issues that he will try to project. The same national distraction that ruined Democratic chances in 2002 is likely to handicap their efforts, particularly in the early going, in 2003-4.
Finally, the fact that Independent voters will only have a contest in the Democratic Primary to attract their votes, bringing moderates into the party contests at a much greater rate than in 2000 will also give a moderate an advantage in the race for the nomination. No longer will McCain and Bradley divide the independent vote between the Democratic and Republican primaries as they did last time.
All these factors give moderates like Lieberman and Edwards an edge as we
go into the process.
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12/31/02:Hey, Hillary: Want to appear like a stateswomyn? Stay silent