Sunday, January 25, 2004

On Kerry's Wave

The latest polling in AZ is showing a statistical dead heat between Dean, Kerry, and Clark. "After Iowa, we're riding the wave," said Mario Diaz, Kerry's Arizona campaign director. It's not surprising -- one would expect Kerry's wave to slosh into the Super 7 states -- but the real issue is what shift in thinking among voters it represents: going from less than 3% to 17% in a matter of days is a hysteria, not a decision.

Any surfer will tell you that every wave, no matter how big, ends with the rider in the same place at the end of each ride - in the drink. Such a sudden surge is nearly the definition of soft support; these are voters who are still making up their minds and open to alternatives, not solid Kerry supporters. This wave is not a reasoned decision, but follow-on support and snap decisions about 'electability'.

Those early supporters who made Kerry the front-runner and then dropped him after a good long look are illustrative of Kerry's superficial allure to voters: he's all surface and no core. At first glance Kerry seems to be everything a Presidential candidate should be, but it is all posturing and carefully studied mummery. The early voters saw his true nature and nearly put Kerry out of the race because of it. Now a new wave of people are starting to pay attention and have noticed the same superficial characteristics that made Kerry the early favorite and are surging toward him blindly. Our job is to make seeing through Kerry's act quicker and easier for this new wave of voters. Luckily, we have some time and some cushion against the polls.

Fortunately, Frank Costanzo, and others planning the Dean campaign in AZ, decided early on to focus on putting the election in the bag as early as possible through early mail-in balloting. Because of that foresight, which had the campaign calling thousands of likely Dean supporters early and getting their ballots in as soon as possible, some of Dean's support is already in the box. The polling does not include those who have already voted and thus under-represents Dean's expected results in AZ's final count. These votes are a cushion against unexpected fluctuations and a reason to look past the polls and focus on those who are still potentially Dean supporters and to reach out to those voters.

The poisonous meme ABB (anybody but bush), which I have written of previously, is harming us. AZ Democratic Party Chairman Jim Pederson confirms the power of the ABB meme, "Contrary to past election cycles where issues really dominated . . . there just seems to be an overriding passion within the party to select the one who can go head to head with President Bush." Many people asked why they selected Kerry, can only give the reason that they think he can beat Bush.

The fallacy of ABB lies in the idea that Bush is especially strong. He's not; in fact, even in this week following the SOTU, when he should have enjoyed a bump, his approval is still falling and his re-elect numbers are in the low 40's. I firmly believe that a well-run and well-supported campaign by Kerry, Dean, Edwards, or Clark can beat Bush.

Once people stop making the non-choice choice of ABB, they have to use a rational criteria to select a candidate.

Asked what domestic issues mattered most in deciding whom to support, respondents said the economy and jobs (35 percent), health care and medicine (32 percent) and education (16 percent) were their top priorities. If one evaluates the candidates' policies in these areas, Dean is the superior choice, with superior qualifications, and a solid record of delivering the goods.

People want an effective leader to inspire Democrats to beat back the GOP. Only Dean has the guts to tell the truth to America and push back the shadows of secrecy and apathy that have enveloped our government. The GOP's riding high on a pile of lies and deceptions, if they are ruthlessly pushed into the light of public scrutiny, their support will go down the toilet. Only Dean has the brass to do it.

People want real reform in Washington. To get big-money special interests out, and the people back in. As Mark Shields said on MLNH the other night, Dean has given the Democratic party back its soul on this issue with his unique popularly financed campaign.

Dean has the qualities to be a great President. His executive experience, proven discipline in delivering on long-term goals and promises, strong record of fiscal discipline, job creation, and health care reform, and his bedrock commitment to the values of family, service to one's community, and helping the less-fortunate, and even his forceful personality, make him the best man for the job.

We have a chance to remind people why they chose Dean, and to attack the ABB virus that is pushing many to make an irrational and groundless snap decision to support Kerry. Dean supporters need to take this opportunity to reinforce with voters the many rational reasons to vote for Dean over the others.


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