Jewish World Review Feb. 2, 2004 / 10 Shevat, 5764
Dems' race ain't over yet
Most analyses of the New Hampshire
re sults miss the point. In fact, the Demo cratic nomination
probably won't be de cided by a contest in which John
Kerry beats Howard Dean and never really has to come to
terms with also-rans like John Edwards and Wesley Clark.
Only the liberal wing of the Democratic Party has reached a conclusion in its
designation of Kerry as their finalist for the nomination. There is still a big opening
for a moderate candidate such Edwards or Clark.
Remember, the one-two finishers in New Hampshire were favorite sons from
next-door states: Massachusetts' Kerry and Vermont's Dean. It was quite natural
that they'd draw two-thirds of the votes, especially considering the amount of time
each has spent in that state. But it doesn't mean the nomination is over or that a
liberal will necessarily win.
Democrats held two primaries on Tuesday in New Hampshire. In the liberal contest,
Kerry bested Dean by a sufficient margin to endanger the ex- governor's candidacy.
But the moderate primary was essentially a three-way tie Edwards and Clark at
12 percent each, with Joe Lieberman only slightly behind at 9 percent.
The race will not remain a Kerry-Dean contest, but will evolve, as it always does,
into one between one liberal (likely Kerry) and one moderate.
The next round on Tuesday favors the moderates as we move south to South
Carolina, Missouri, Delaware, Arizona, New Mexico, Oklahoma and North Dakota.
Media is pretty cheap in these states, so all five candidates should be able to make
their presence felt, but it is the three moderates who will find this round crucial as
they try to put the ambiguity of the New Hampshire result behind them and annoint a clear centrist candidate to
battle Kerry in the big-state March 2 contests New York, California, Texas and Ohio.
Iowa and New Hampshire classically weed out the field and nominate a representative from the left to battle
one from the center for the nomination: In 1976, Carter emerged as the moderate and Rep. Morris Udall as the
liberal. In '84, it became Gary Hart vs. Walter Mondale; in '88, Michael Dukakis vs. Al Gore. In 1992, Bill Clinton
represented the center, Jerry Brown, the left.
But this year, Lieberman and Clark refused to enter Iowa, limiting the center's ability to sift through the
candidates and annoint a moderate to challenge the party's left. With Dean's early surge and Kerry's dramatic
comeback, there was little time or attention for the centrists to attract notice. Without a strong centrist
candidate, and with all the attention on the Kerry-Dean drama, the New Hampshire independents and moderates
were drowned out.
But even in the Democratic primaries, the Feb. 3 states are moderate to conservative. There, the centrists will
weigh in and shake out the Clark-Edwards-Lieberman field.
To assume the nominating process is basically over this early is to misunderstand its nature. Until a liberal
beats a moderate (or vice-versa), the primaries have a long, long way to go.
The left's mobilization in the primaries so far, out of intense concern over the war in Iraq, has led many to ignore
the Democratic Party's vast centrist base. Especially in states where independents can vote, its impact can be
Now that Kerry is alone at the top as the frontrunner, he'll start getting the bulk of the criticism and media
scrutiny. As he comes to be seen as the reincarnation of Ted Kennedy and Mike Dukakis (he and Kennedy
share Bob Shrum as their common media man), the center will grope for an alternative. Then the process will
really get under way.
Because of the truncated nature of this year's political calendar, it will all happen quickly. But stay tuned, it will
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JWR contributor Dick Morris is the author of, among others, Off with Their Heads: Traitors, Crooks & Obstructionists in American Politics, Media & Business" Comment by clicking here.
© 2003, Dick Morris