by John Hawkins | January 23, 2004 11:23 pm
Here’s my brief analysis of who Bush’s toughest opponent would be out of the 4 remaining viable Democratic candidates…
#4) Howard Dean: Dean is a tailor made opponent for George Bush. He’s gaffe prone, has already famously gotten off on the wrong foot with the South, is stridently anti-war, wants to revoke all of Bush’s tax cuts and spend the money, plans to get rid of the Nuclear Missile Defense Shield, and is a strong supporter of civil unions.
While Dean would certainly try to move to the center if he won the nomination, the “yelp heard round the world” has already helped to cement the “angry & unbalanced liberal” meme in the public’s mind. Have no doubt that Karl Rove would love nothing better than a Bush Vs. Dean showdown in November.
#3) Wesley Clark: I was tempted to stick Wesley Clark in the #2 spot because he does have a number of pluses that would seem to give him an edge. He’s of course a general and a war hero, he’s from the South, and I think his tax plan (no taxes for families under 50k and increased taxes on the rich) could resonate.
However, Clark has no dearth of weaknesses either. He’s a gaffe prone, raw, political novice who comes across as flaky, inconsistent, and not particularly likable. Moreover, while many Democrats think Clark’s status as a general will protect him from charges that he’s soft on foreign policy, his 180 degree shift on the war in Iraq & the fact that Kosovo was conducted without UN approval is going to make Clark’s current pacifistic stance look very hypocritical. Last but not least, because Clark is perceived as a “Republican in donkey’s clothing” by many Democrats, having Clark as the nominee would sap a lot of energy from the base. That’s why the general isn’t as a good of a candidate as a lot of people seem to think.
#2) John Kerry: The fact that a bland Massachusetts liberal who reminds a lot of people of Michael Dukakis & Ted Kennedy is the second strongest candidate tells you a lot about the strength of the field.
Inexplicably, Democrats seem to believe that Kerry’s exceptional service to our country in Vietnam will somehow shield him from charges that he’s weak on defense. But, lest anyone forget, George McGovern served our country with distinction in WW2 & Michael Dukakis was in the army during the Korean war. Neither of them got a pass on foreign policy because of their time in the military and Kerry won’t be able to dodge charges that he’s not serious enough about defending America by invoking Vietnam either.
On the other hand, while Kerry isn’t much of a candidate, he is at least less volatile than Clark or Dean, a familiar face to many of the American people, and someone who voted for the war in Iraq. Given the other choices, the Dems could certainly do worse than Kerry.
#1) John Edwards: Edwards is a trial lawyer who hasn’t accomplished much in his political career. Furthermore, Edwards is so lightly regarded in his own home state of North Carolina that winning his Senate seat again would have been an uphill climb for him in 2004.
So why is Edwards the most electable Dem running? Well, he’s a good looking, fairly likable, guy from the South who’s perceived as a moderate. Furthermore, since Edwards hasn’t accomplished a lot, he can feel free to adopt whatever positions poll test most strongly for him without having to worry too much about his record contradicting his current positions.
Compared to Al Gore or Hillary Clinton, Edwards is a weak candidate; but, out of the Dems who are left, Edwards is definitely the one who can give Bush the toughest fight.
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