Dean's Big Mistake

[From the Chicago Report]

Dean is queitly making his first big mistake of Election 2004, even though much of his supporters are unlikely to notice. McCain, like Dean, was known for his “Straight Talk”; his say-what-I-mean-and-mean-what-I-say attitude was the secret to his overnight rise from dark horse to front runner. After McCain won big in New Hampshire, which Dean is likely to do, his campaign caught fire. But Maverick Johnny made one fatal mistake, playing to his strengths instead of his weaknesses. As he became more popular he stepped up the anti-status quo rhetoric. He didn’t go out of his way to answer his critics but instead waxed on about Skywalker and the Death Star. Inevitably McCain went to the well one too many times with his anti-special interest mantra, condemning Pat Robertson (and thus a Republican constituency) of being an “agent of intolerance.” By this point, any hopes McCain had of broad appeal were dashed. Not necessarily as a result of this specific statement, but as a result of over-playing the maverick role, to the point of making the less idealist mainstream voter concerned about his ability to govern effectively.

What does this have to do with Dean? Everything, obviously.

Dean's rhetoric has made him an election super star. It has supercharged many in his base. But a look at polls tells that, while he might be leading in the maverick's utopia non as New Hampshire, he still has work to do nationally. Yet, like McCain, Dean is not playing to his weaknesses. He is not showing that he can appeal to the more mainstream American. He is not cozying up to soccer moms and suburban moderates. He is not demonstrating a complex and subtle understanding for the stakes in the Iraq Campaign. Instead he's in California this weekend holding Bush personally responsible for the recall fiasco, at least according to this Tribune story. Dean was quoted:

The right wing of the Republican Party is deliberately undermining the Democratic underpinnings of this country ... I believe they do not care what Americans think and they do not accept the legitimacy of our elections.
Never mind the fact that the Recall provision is provided for in the democratically amended California State Constitution. This kind of speech is more befitting of a Jesse Jackson or Ralph Nader, a presidential contender. This kind of pure conspiracy theorist tripe doesn't have much currency with the centrist wing of the party and will likely drive the wedge between Dean’s supporters and Independent/Moderates even further.

Instead of building bridges to the DLC, Dean seems set on a personal crusade, against Bush, against centrist Dems, and against “politics as usual”, a crusade that will be enough to attract enormous amounts of press and a considerable cabal of devotees, but not the nod from the party. If he continues down this path, he’ll be having lunch with John McCain at the diner of history’s failed campaigns

Posted by Mike Van Winkle at September 7, 2003 2:19 PM