A lot is going on behind the scenes of the Democratic primary. Not much of it is bubbling to the surface in public forums although the Web is all abuzz with strategy and speculation. However, the decisions are being made on the inside and one has to wonder what is going on.
Despite just 16 states casting ballots, everyone is assuming that John Kerry is the winner. This is a safe assumption but it is an accurate one? Steve Grossman, the former DNC chairman and frontman for the Dean campaign, is saying that Dean will abandon his campaign if he doesn't win in Wisconsin: ["Top aides say Dean prepared to stand down against Kerry"]. Earlier in the day, Dean denied this, saying he would like to stay in until Florida [March 9]: ["Transcript"]. It has become clear, from this and other debates on the Web, that it isn't about which candidate can win - as much as who can stop John Kerry - who is clearly not the best choice for the Democrats. So, I began to think: If I were involved in the Dean or Edwards campaigns, how would I stop Kerry? OK, this is a stretch but I see an opening here to stop Kerry from getting the nomination. After analyzing the primary map again [http://www.state.ma.us/sec/ele/elepdf/presprim04.pdf], here is what I would advise the Dean and Edwards camps to do. Winning the nomination is going to be hard. But stopping Kerry is easier. From there, who knows? The unfortunate thing about these candidates and the modern campaign is the obsession over money and the ignorance about grassroots campaigning. Candidates don't always need money. They can win [or place] with little funds. Jerry Brown proved this in 1992. Third parties and independents prove this over and over again. Why are the Democrats clueless to this truth? But back to the future - and stopping Kerry:
Stay in the race. Barring a very distant third place finish in Wisconsin, stick it out until Super Tuesday March 2. If your campaigns are running on fumes, cut your staff down to the bare minimum: One press person and an advance person or two. Lay out the basic strategy for your volunteers and tell them that this is the only way to survive. They will have to do more with less and if they really want you to be the preisdent, they will have to do all they can - without the help of numerous paid staff. Dean can do this via his very active Web lists and blogs. Also, it is time for the Dean and Edwards camps to start talking to each other if they haven't already. Some people inside the Dean campaign have said that they think Edwards is jockeying for the VP slot. Edwards has denied this but who knows. If these campaigns are serious about stopping Kerry, they have to act together.
March 2. March 2 isn't a southern sweep, as someone pointed out to me. The states include the New England states, Ohio, Maryland, Georgia, and California. Dean will win in Vermont and very well could place second in Connecticut, Massachusetts and Rhode Island. He could also place second in New York and California. All of these states have rabid liberal and anti-war constituencies that haven't been courted at all by Kerry. There is no reason for him to quit before March 2. Go home after Wisconsin, take a few days off. But by staying in, Dean could get more delegates and give the voters a reason to participate in the remaining primaries. Try and get as much free media as possible by holding small events in non-rented locations, similar to New Hampshire grassroots campaigning. This will cost you very little money while at the same time getting you some media. When Clark was campaigning around New Hampshire during the last hours before the primary, he was talking into a $150 portable amplifier. There is no reason why Dean and Edwards can't do the same. Go to the colleges where there are always good size auditoriums, professional audio, and tons of kids who want to hear you speak. For Dean, he should cede Maryland, Georgia, and Ohio, to Kerry, Edwards and Kucinich, respectively. More than likely, Kerry will get cocky and start kicking-in his national strategy. If the sex scandal explodes beyond the Internet, Kerry will sink like a stone. Don't you want to be there when it happens? Edwards will concentrate on Maryland and Georgia, states he will place second in at the very least, if not win.
The southern sweep. Depending on the results of March 2, and barring major Kerry losses, either Dean or Edwards might have to suspend or quit his campaigns. If I were running the Dean campaign, I would advise him not to quit but instead to "suspend" his campaign like Tsongas did in 1992. There is a difference. If he suspends his campaign, Dean could jump in or influence the race later on.
In 1992, Tsongas ran out of money - mostly because one of his fund-raisers was skimming from the till. When he suspended his campaign, he essentially said he wasn't going to campaign but people could vote for him if they wanted to. Tsongas' name stayed on other ballots and a lot of people still voted for him even though he wasn't actively campaigning. As well, when the insiders wanted to get rid of insurgent Jerry Brown - who was destroying Bill Clinton in debates and was leading in polls just before the New York primary - Tsongas jumped back in the week before and siphoned votes from Brown, ending his reform campaign [As a side note, years later during a lunch with a friend of mine, Tsongas said he regretted the move and wished he hadn't hijacked Brown's campaign. He said so many people - from Jimmy Carter on down - were urging him to jump back in. So, he did].
As I said before, if Dean isn't talking to Edwards, he should be. They should be trying to mount some sort of "Stop Kerry" movement as soon as possible. Kerry can be stopped. Looking at the map, there is time and there are states where Kerry can be stopped. There are still thousands of Deaniacs who haven't cast votes yet and Edwards has been gaining popularity.
However, Dean may be getting tired and with his sails deflated and the nomination all but snatched from his grip, he may want to just head home. I can understand where he is at. More than likely, he will drop out. But he might want to wait.
The March 9 states. The March 9 states are all southern: Florida, Louisiana, Mississippi, and Texas. Dean will probably not get over 15 percent in these states so if he stays in, he should pass them up and let Edwards and Kerry duke it out. Instead, Dean should move to March 16 - Illinois - where Carol Moseley Braun is still very popular. She endorsed Dean. Yes, there will be pressure for him to quit but why should he? Again, go back to the low money strategy: Get into a car, retail campaign up and down the state and pretend it is New Hampshire. Use the free media. Let Edwards take Kerry out in the south.
Pennsylvania. After March 16 comes Pennsylvania with its April 27 primary. That's a month. A whole month. Almost anything can happen in a month. Pennsylvania is a huge state - a big union state. Will Kerry's free trade past come back to haunt him? Brown, even after being eliminated from contention, still received over 25 percent of the vote and got delegates to the convention in 1992. That's a quarter of the vote interested in an insurgent even if the insurgent can't win. At this point, it will probably be a two person race between someone and Kerry. Will Dean's message survive? Can Edwards [with the help of the Deaniacs, assuming he is out] launch a surprise victory there? Possibly.
Midwest and the south. The future from there spells trouble for Kerry if Edwards can stick it out. The month of May is southern, Midwestern and liberal: May 4: Indiana and North Carolina [Kerry and Edwards split]; May 11: West Virginia and Indiana [Edwards and Kerry split]; May 18: Arkansas, Kentucky, and Oregon [Edwards and Kerry split, with Dean helping Edwards win Oregon]. May 25: Idaho [toss up]. As I have said before, look at Kerry's positions - he is so close to Bush it isn't even funny. How is that going to go over in Oregon where Ralph Nader got 6 percent of the vote and would have gotten more had Gore not scared votes from him. How about West Virginia and Indiana, states that have lost manufacturing jobs due to the bad trade deals passed by Kerry?
June. June 1: Alabama and South Dakota [Edwards and Kerry]. June 6: New Jersey and Montana [Probably both Kerry].