Thursday, June 02, 2005

Evaluating Dean, 100 Days In

Well, the blogging candidate has been back for 100 days now, and his brash, unapologetic style has been heading the Democratic Party in what appears to be two different directions. Howard Dean may never escape the scream references or his unreasonably thick neck, but he does seem to be winning over a crowd of Washington insiders who thought his chairmanship might be the kick that would finally knock the Democratic Party into irrelevance.

With a little help from Tom Delay and Bill Frist, though, Dean has managed to construct a theme for the Democratic revival, tying in Terri Schiavo, the filibuster and the privatization of social security into one big ball of "intrusiveness." The message: Keep the Republican leadership out of the private lives of Americans.

As Ben Goodard of The Hill wrote last week:
"For nearly 70 years, the Democratic Party has been saddled with the image of big-government advocates. Most Republican victories...have made big-spending, big-program Democrats the central issue...They attacked the Democrats not just for their big-government, big-spending liberal addiction but for their corrupt values as well. Not only did Democrats want to tax you into poverty, they wanted to destroy your family values."

Goodard goes on to say:
"This is the language the Democrats can build on to recapture the centrist voters who put the Republicans in power. It is not radical; it is reasonable. It is not the language of traditional liberalism; it is the language spoken in states such as Arizona, Colorado, New Mexico, Virginia and Tennessee -- all states where Democrats could become competitive again if they get the words right."

Needless to say, not all are so praising of the half-doctor, half-governator. Today, in Business Week, Lee Walczak writes that Dean has disappointed some of the big wallets in the Democratic Party. The fundraising numbers look abysmal. Why? Walczak says it's a combination of personality difficulties and the alienation of the business circle by Dean's presidential campaign and his criticism of big business:

"Dean is not a natural fit for the 'stroke and joke' style that traditional party chiefs use to extract cash from well-heeled contributors. 'It appears that the chairman has come to the conclusion that he doesn't need major donors," sniffs one fat cat. 'He hasn't made any effort to reach out.'"

Replacing Terry McAuliffe, whose best suit was fundraising, makes Dean look a little sub-par. I guess it depends on what you think the primary role of the chairman should be. And, with that, I leave it to you to decide.

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