Jeff, over at Notes on the Atrocities, has an excellent analysis on the meaning of the Iowa results.
Iowa sends a pretty strong message that this year’s political calculus has shifted. Turnout in Iowa was twice what it was in 2000. The extreme volatility of the final days suggests to me that this group was highly engaged; they ignored trends and conventional wisdom and looked at the candidates and their positions. More to the point, they considered who could beat Bush. A large, engaged electorate will help any Democrat who emerges. The GOP’s best chances lie with complacency and apathy. Bush isn’t going to get re-elected if 15-20% more people turn out in November. [Whatever one thinks of him as a candidate, we have Howard Dean to thank for energizing the Democratic base, as Michael Moore explains in his latest newsletter–m]Candidates can gain confidence that they don’t have to play conservative–the electorate wants change. This was, in a sense, the same message that Dean’s early success sent, but no one was listening. Dean has painted himself into a corner of negativity and that allowed Edwards to sweep in. I still read the lesson the same: voters want change.
It appears that Edwards and Kerry vaulted over Dean and Gephardt because they stayed positive. I’m not at all surprised. Back in May of 2003, I argued that the only way to begin to combat the GOP slime machine was to stay positive. Slime works great for Republicans, but it’s only effective with the hardcore base of the Democratic Party. Everyone else gets disgusted and fails to vote. We just saw that a roused electorate has no interest in attack ads this year–they want change, not slime.
Attack ads are the crack cocaine of politics, and I don’t expect them to completely vanish. But the larger lesson is that a campaign must be positive.
Interesting, ay? There’s more good stuff on the SOTU—
Last year’s speech was one of the purest examples of ideological rhetoric we’ve heard from the President. He and his hooting GOP brethren were fairly shoving the Democrats’ noses in their pre-war triumph. On the eve of an optional war, the President last year had a lot of big talk. This year a mollified Bush sifted through what rare successes he could find (or manufacture) in the aftermath of that failed optional war. The GOP stood and cheered, but rarely did their voices rise to a hoot.
–and David Corn’s attack on Kucinich for throwing his support to Edwards instead of Dean. Check it out. I’m liking this site more and more.
——-Kevin Drum has an excellent suggestion for a better way to present the Democratic response to the SOTU:
The Democrats should have rented a ballroom or something, invited a few hundred party stalwarts (at 500 bucks a pop!), and delivered a real speech to a real audience. Instead of a deathly quite soundstage and an unblinking camera, they could have used the energy of the room the way any good speaker does.So that’s my advice: pick a good speaker, write him/her a good speech, and then deliver the speech to a real audience. I personally guarantee results.