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Jewish World Review Jan. 7, 2003 / 5 Shevat, 5763

Dick Morris

Dick Morris
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In Dem race: Home field no advantage | 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--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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JWR contributor Dick Morris is the author of, among others, "Power Plays: Top 20 Winning and Losing Strategies of History's Great Political Leaders" Comment by clicking here.


12/31/02:Hey, Hillary: Want to appear like a stateswomyn? Stay silent
12/19/02: Kerry in the lead
12/19/02: Lieberman the frontrunner
12/17/02: In defense of Lott
12/02/02: An issue for Bush: Drugs
11/27/02: Women gone wobbly?
11/25/02: The U.N. over a barrel
11/15/02: Gore's suicide
11/15/02 One-party control is an illusion
11/13/02 The House of Extremes
11/08/02 I have egg on my face
11/01/02 Is Bush losing control over events?
10/25/02What is causing Bush's free fall?
10/25/02: Anybody sense a trend?
10/23/02: A deadline for Iraq
10/18/02: Only sure bet of 2002 elections is voter angst
10/16/02: Endangered incumbents
10/11/02: Why multilateralism doesn't work
10/09/02: Hey, Dems: Believe NYTimes polling at your own risk
10/03/02: Dem suicide: Let's count the ways
09/30/02: The Dems just can't stop themselves
09/26/02: The perils of polling
09/19/02: W. boxed in the U.N.
09/19/02: Welfare reform: Keep on keeping on
09/12/02: Are Dems insane on Iraq?
09/09/02: Twin shadows of Election '02
09/05/02: GOP should triangulate
08/28/02: Trust the military
08/22/02: It's not the economy, stupid
08/09/02: As America unites, Gore goes divisive
08/01/02: Bush must focus on big picture
07/23/02: Election 2002: Advantage Dems
07/19/02: Rudy for SEC tough cop
07/17/02: The investor strike
07/15/02: Door open for drug testing students --- go for it, GOP!
07/12/02: Dubya looking out for No. 1?
07/03/02: The DNA war for Bush's soul
06/21/02: Why are conservatives winning?
06/19/02: Learning to love the feds
06/14/02: Hey, journalists and Dems: Dubya is doing just fine
06/12/02: It's terrorism, stupid!
06/10/02: Sanctions are a potent weapon
06/04/02: Al Qaeda's more dangerous new front
05/31/02: Why '04 looks tough for liberal Dems
05/24/02: Democratic self-destruction
05/22/02: The Clinton failures
05/15/02: Pataki positioned to win
05/08/02: A wakeup-call for American Jewry
05/03/02: Give Bush back his focus
05/01/02: Immigration fault li(n)es
04/25/02: It's the war, stupid
04/17/02: Bush goes small bore
04/12/02: Bush must be a gentle partisan
04/10/02: In defense of polling
04/08/02: Focus on Iraq, not the Palestinians
04/01/02: Only Internet will bring real campaign finance reform
03/27/02: Where W's drawn a line in the sand
03/22/02: Enron scandal will not trigger a wave of economic populism
03/20/02: Term-limited --- by war
03/15/02: Europe doesn't have a clue
03/11/02: Bush popularity = GOP win?
03/01/02: Will America be forced to chase its tail in its war on terrorism?
02/27/02: The Arafat/Saddam equilibrium must be destroyed
02/21/02: Campaign finance reform won't hurt GOPers
02/13/02: Dodd scurries for cover
02/11/02: U.S. 'unilateralism'? The Europeans don't have a case
02/06/02: WAR: What women want
02/01/02: They all talk in the end
01/30/01: The odd couple: Chris Dodd and Arthur Andersen
01/22/01: His father's son? Bush better get an 'Act II' fast!
01/18/01: Dubya & the 'vision thing'
01/14/01: The Rumsfeld Doctrine 01/03/01: A President Gore would have been a disaster
01/03/02: Clinton's priority: Political correctness over fighting terror
12/27/01: Terror network grew out of Clinton's inaction, despite warnings
12/24/01: Call 'em back, George
12/18/01: What Bush did right
12/13/01: Libs worry too much
12/11/01: "Open Sesame": Feinstein's proposed bill allows 100,000 non-immigrant students from anti-American countries to our shores
12/07/01: The non-partisan president
12/05/01: Both parties are phony on stimulus debate
11/29/01: When terrorists can enter legally, it's time to change the laws
11/21/01: Go for the jugular!
11/16/01: You are all incumbents
11/14/01: Clinton's failure to mobilize America to confront foreign terror after the 1993 attack led directly to 9-11 disaster
11/12/01: To the generals: Don't worry about losing support
11/08/01: The death of the white liberal
11/07/01: Our leaders are being transformed in a way unprecedented in post-World War II history

© 2002, Dick Morris