January 20, 2004

The Ghost of Muskie Haunts Iowa

I know I said I wouldn't make the DV a political blog, but events have overtaken me, and so I am now altering the deal, Calrisian. Pray I don't alter it any further. I gave in to the 2004 election sometime around the New Year, in a momentary fit of excitement at the possibility of seeing the Bush/Cheney ticket demolished in November. Election day is on my birthday this year, and the last time that happened, a Democrat won. Now, that Democrat happened to be Jimmy Carter, but let's not be too hasty in making assumptions yet. The Iowa Democratic Caucus isn't even cold, okay? The freak finish, Kerry-Edwards-Dean-Gephardt, certainly looks strange at first glance, considering the amount of Dean-frenzy in the past year, but the inside-baseball talk is already calling the nomination for Big John.

Oh sure, Kerry will now have to face General Clark, who abandoned Iowa, and who's been hiding out in the New Hampshire snows for weeks now, and the two old soldiers may indeed maul each other to death yet, because if Kerry's victory speech was any indicator, El Lurcho is still tired and listless despite regaining his precious frontrunner status. His main line of assertion at this point, that of "electability," is eerily similar to that of another glowering golem from primaries past: Ed Muskie of Maine, who crashed and burned at the feet of George McGovern way back in 1972, despite wide acclaim for Muskie as the only man who could beat Nixon. If that's any model at all, Senator Kerry is in for a bitterly cold week in New Hampshire.

This cycle's other flashback, the rabid badger of a doctor-governor known as Howard Dean, is looking more and more like a freak hybrid of McGovern and Gene McCarthy, with a few Dukakis alleles thrown in for good measure. The Doctor choked in Iowa, or rather, his organization did. What many armchair analysts figured was a well-oiled machine turned into a swaggering phallus on the caucus floor, where Dean partisians failed miserably to convert Gephardt or Kucinich supporters. Dean himself proved unequal to resisting Gep's bait of relentless negative advertising, and the Doctor lashed out often, looking like Nicholson's Joker pumped up on good trucker speed. NH is now, arguably, as must-win for Dean as it is for Kerry, even though the Doctor apparently still has enough cash to last him through Super Tuesday.

Dick Gephardt, who last ran for President in 1988 alongside Gore, Hart, Jesse Jackson, and other hopeless losers, demolished his 2004 campaign by heaving-ho at Dean. Armed with twenty-plus years of Washington grease, Gep apparently took one for the party-establishment team behind Kerry, blowing himself out of the race and now out of public service as well (he has declined to run for his Missouri seat again). Perhaps someone who cares more than I do should write his political eulogy, because right now Gep's back down in the ditch with all the other well-meaning, useful idiots, where he will stay for the forseeable future.

The only real winner in this scenario besides Kerry is John Edwards, the freshman senator from North Carolina. Miraculously, his refusal to go negative on anyone made his platform jump to the fore, briefly, and he survived the Dean/Gep mudwrestling session by apparently cutting a deal with Dennis Kucinich. The Ohio congressman released his Iowa supporters to Edwards at crunch time, catapulting the senator and his fantastic haircut above Dean. Several Iowa papers were seduced by the Edwards pitch, and their endorsements evidently meant more to Iowans than Dean's retinue of party heavy-hitters (Gore, Bradley, and Mosley-Braun). Several high-profile bookmakers now predict that if John Edwards can use an Iowa second-place finish for momentum into NH and keep up his "positive" message campaign, then he's got life after South Carolina on Feb 3 (where he'll still have to face Clark and Lieberman).

Speaking of those two, they own NH at this point by opting out of Iowa. Look for next week's primary to be another four-way grudge match of hideous quasi-liberalism, this time with Kerry/Edwards/Dean/Clark as the principals. Joe Lieberman is doomed; there's not much further he can drag out his shameful status as the party's boundary on the right, and if he continues with his Maggie's-Ma mantra of "scold first, think later" he's gone after next week with no hope in South Carolina. As for Dennis the Menace, he should have dropped out tonight as well. If the deal with Edwards is any indicator he may soon do so, and follow that with an Edwards endorsement.

Jesus, that's a lot of talking out of my own ass. If I don't turn off the TV I'll start throwing things at it (which is also why I won't be watching Bush's state of the union speech tomorrow). If I can bring myself to care enough, you'll get more virtual reporting from desolate New Hampshire. This young year is already horribly ugly and it's only gonna get worse. Ugh.

No comments:

Post a Comment

Related Posts with Thumbnails