By Hillel Aron
By Joseph Tsidulko
By Patrick Range McDonald
By David Futch
By Hillel Aron
By Dennis Romero
By Jill Stewart
By Dennis Romero
And success breeds success. The exit polling in every state has shown that the growing number of Democrats most concerned with finding a candidate who can beat Bush tend to flock to Kerry, and this was surely the case in Missouri. The election-eve polling in USA Today and on CNN that showed Kerry leading Bush 53 percent to 46 percent in a national matchup clearly bolstered Kerry going into Tuesday’s contests.
II. Edwards the Exception
Edwards emerged from his South Carolina victory talking electability, too. His stump speech has long contained a passage in which he asserts that he’s the only candidate who can carry the South. It’s a debatable assertion, no less so for Edwards’ victory in South Carolina. If Edwards can in fact carry South Carolina or Oklahoma over Bush in November, it will mean that Bush is going down in 45 states — hardly a likely scenario.
The question is whether Edwards’ fair-trade positions make him a stronger candidate — or, more plausibly, a stronger running mate for Kerry — in the industrial Midwest. To be sure, the gap between Edwards and Kerry on the trade issue is one that Edwards exaggerates. The North Carolina senator condemns Kerry for supporting NAFTA, but Edwards wasn’t in the Senate, nor was he a public official of any kind, when NAFTA passed. Edwards was in the Senate in 2000, when Bill Clinton’s proposal to extend permanent normalized trade relations to China came before that body, and both Edwards and Kerry supported it. Neither, in fact, is the kind of global social democrat that ‰ Gephardt has been, but both have modified their free-trade orthodoxy over the past couple of years as the global hiring patterns of U.S.-based corporations have come to undermine the American economy. There is a major difference between Kerry and Edwards, but it doesn’t pertain to their economic positions. It’s that Kerry has national-security bona fides, and Edwards has none.
Nevertheless, Edwards leaves South Carolina with an expectation of quick support from at least one industrial union, and perhaps more. Such support would surely be too little and too late to help Edwards much in Saturday’s caucuses in Michigan, but it would be a statement from these unions that they think Kerry would strengthen himself in the swing states of the Midwest by adding Edwards to the ticket.
If the industrial Midwest is one of the two swing regions in the November runoff, however, the Southwest is the other. And while Edwards has yet to demonstrate much strength in the industrial Midwest (he did passably well in Missouri this week), he fairly bombed in the Southwest. There, the strongest choice to help the ticket would clearly be New Mexico Governor (and former Clinton Energy Secretary) Bill Richardson, the only Latino governor in the land.
III. Howard Who?
Howard Dean all but vanished in Tuesday’s primaries, in his best states running no better than a distant third. John Kerry holds a daunting lead in the polls preceding Saturday’s caucuses in Michigan, and he is clearly surging in Washington, the other state holding caucuses on Saturday. Washington should be Dean’s state to romp; last summer, he was able to draw 12,000 people to a rally in Seattle. If he’s unable to carry the Starbucks ghetto, however, it will be hard for him to go on.
Some of Dean’s natives are starting to get restless. This past Saturday, one of Dean’s most prominent supporters, American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees (AFSCME) president Jerry McEntee, addressed a crowd of several hundred enthusiastic members at a union hall in St. Louis. McEntee had two not entirely contradictory purposes as he spoke: to rev up his members for Dean, and to rev them up just as much for the eventual Democratic nominee even if, as McEntee surely suspects, that nominee turns out to be someone quite other than Dean.
“Howard Dean stood for us,” McEntee began. “Dean says that public workers can do the job. He needs a ‘W’ in his column; you’ve got to help him!”
And then McEntee pivoted. “We’re gonna fight like hell for Dean,” he declared. “But let it be understood, our main theme is [and here he dropped his voice to a low rumble] ANYBODY BUT BUSH!”
McEntee then took off after Bush, with a seriocomic diatribe that his members seemed to appreciate far more than they did any affirmation of the former Vermont governor. “If it’s not Dean, we know it’s gonna be a Democrat,” McEntee asserted. “And we’re not gonna be disappointed if we don’t get Dean, because Dean has returned the Democratic Party to the Democratic base, to Democratic principles.”
Among labor leaders, McEntee has always stood out for his frank assertion that he values electability above all in a candidate. It’s hard to envision McEntee indulging Dean’s candidacy much longer unless Dean picks up some immediate victories. It’s also increasingly hard to envision Dean picking up some immediate victories. And if there’s one index of the increasing tenuousness of Dean’s candidacy, it’s that the true-believer Deaniacs are starting to sound like the pragmatic McEntee: Even if Dean has to leave the race, they say, he gave the Democrats a spinal implant. And indeed he did.