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Is Howard Dean The New McGovern? 


01-03-04 Keavin
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It appears that Republicans are more excited than Democrats about the possibility of Howard Dean winning the presidential nomination. While some GOP strategists compare a Dean ticket to the 1972 Democratic nominee George McGovern, who was trounced at the polls by Richard Nixon, the other Democrats looking to run against George W. Bush are ganging up on the front-runner. 

Some Democratic talking heads already seem resigned to defeat. When speculating if Hillary Clinton will jump into the race and save the day, some strategists say that think she will wait to run in 2008, indirectly conceding that a Democratic incumbent will not be seeking re-election that year. 

Dean, the former Governor of Vermont, seemed to come out of nowhere with a grassroots campaign and took the lead. He quickly gathered momentum from left-leaning party activists and seems to have energized the more liberal base of the party. But some fear that Dean’s march to the left during the primary will keep him from attracting centrist voters against Republican incumbent George W. Bush in November. 

Dean was also the only real outspoken critic of the war in Iraq, among those seeking the Democratic nomination. With the recent capture of Saddam Hussein, the President’s approval ratings and support among Americans have risen. 

The attacks against Dean from his party opponents seem to be picking up more momentum as we head closer to New Hampshire and Iowa.  

The biggest criticism against Dean from his fellow Democrats is that he seems to shoot from the hip and makes statements which easily come back to haunt him. 

“People are left wondering: What will he say next?” Senator John Kerry said last weekend.

“The clearest choice people have in this primary is between Howard Dean and me,” Connecticut Senator Joseph Lieberman, said this week. “We're not going to convince people to replace George W. Bush with someone who's taken [Dean's] repeated, impulsive, ill-advised positions.”

Those attacks do not seem to matter to Dean’s core constituency as the polls show that he has remained the clear front-runner for the Democratic nomination. While his opponents hammer away at him, Dean already seems focused on the general election and beating President Bush. 

Bush has a lot of things going in his favor, an economy that appears to be rebounding, a jump in his approval rating after the capture of Hussein, recent unemployment numbers shows a three-year low, and the 2000 census, which added seven additional Electoral College seats in states that Bush won in 2000. 

Dean supporters and party activist laugh off the GOP confidence and comparison to McGovern. They seem to feel that Dean is the only candidate running for the Democratic ticket that will offer a clear contrast to the voters against President Bush. Some point out that primaries are always contentious and the party typically unify after a nominee is selected and then focus their energies against the opponent from the other party. 

Despite the fire leveled at Dean, some point to the 1992 primary where a little known governor from a small state unified the party after a bloodier primary. However, President George W. Bush seems to be in a much better position than his father was when he faced reelection. Incumbent presidents, especially those running behind a booming or recovering economy, rarely lose. 

With the differences between Dean and President Bush, this should prove to be an interesting election year.  .