Another day, another set of big minds trying to figure out what the ascension of Howard Dean means to the Democratic field, and the party's general election chances.
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While many other Democrats are still playing hide-and-seek with their second-quarter fundraising numbers, Ron Brownstein, Dan Balz, and countless others try to explain what happens next.
Both creating and reflecting the emerging CW (Yes, Deborah Orin, you said it yesterday.), the B-Boys now see the field magically cleaved into two sets of candidates.
Kerry, Gephardt, and Dean are now seen as either long-term stable (in the case of the first two) or still white-hot enough to be rising (in the case of Dean) — and all likely players for the nomination until (near) the end.
Lieberman, Edwards and Graham — Oh, the indignity! — now find themselves facing the prospect of having to do SOMETHING to be considered plausible nominees again.
Since fundraising mojo dominates the Invisible Primary though about December, the simplest way for those three to claw back in would be to have a monster money third-quarter, but does anyone think that is going to happen from a standing start?
Other things to try: major policy speeches (Yeah, right: been there, done that.); great ad campaigns; finding their stride on the stump; picking a running mate; town meetings or the like (Edwards is giving that a go.); or some major, major endorsements.
But as we say in Nantucket, Burlington, and inside Jack Oliver's head: it's really all about the money.
It now appears that behind Dean, the other candidates will be bunched up between around $3 million and $6 million for the second quarter.
Pushing upward, and living off of the Word of the Day for Wednesday July 2, 2003 (thaumaturgy \THAW-muh-tuhr-jee\, noun: "The performance of miracles or magic.") a Lieberman source tells The Note that the campaign is at "about $5 million and still counting."
The Los Angeles Times' Ron Brownstein, pushing off of the money to do a more-than-solid must-read about the macro state of the race, says:
"The midyear financial results trickling in this week are solidifying a sense among party insiders that Senator John F. Kerry of Massachusetts and former Vermont Gov. Howard Dean have moved into the strongest positions, with Rep. Richard A. Gephardt of Missouri hanging onto the edge of the top tier." LINK
Kerry's "fund-raising has been steady, with aides saying his report for the year's first half will show more than $11 million in cash on hand … He has assembled a highly regarded staff, and he continues to lead in polling in New Hampshire."
"But Kerry has not crystallized a message that has defined his candidacy as sharply as Gephardt's promise to provide universal health care, or Dean's pledge to represent 'the Democratic wing of the Democratic Party.'"
"His opponents believe Kerry has blurred his image by trying too hard to straddle the Democratic divide between liberals and centrists — especially on the war with Iraq."