Understanding the Dean collapse
My friend Andrew Arends (who worked for the Clinton campaign in New Hampshire in 1992) writes:
“I think that Dean captured a large chunk of the popular appeal from last summer because he was the first leader to stand up and start to trash Bush. The Washington democrats have pussy-footed around with Bush – partly because of the viciousness of the White House response to anyone whose head is above the parapet but also because of the impact of 9/11 and the Iraq war and the potential (perceived) electoral consequences of opposing a president in a time of crisis.
But in the country there is a large constituency who really hate Bush. Dean tapped into their psyche and they responded favourably. Paul Krugman is the columnist who also has captured the emotional engagement of that large group of people in a similar way.
But then two things hit Dean. First, he needed to change the direction of his message and offer a positive, Presidential, message as we turned into the year and people began focussing on the elections themselves. This he did not do. He remained shrill and angry and in your face. An interaction with an Iowa Republican heckler a few weeks before the caucuses showed him up badly. Second, and here’s the paradox, his success in offering an image of a successful democratic candidate to the electorate by sticking it to the White House, helped to change an expectation that THIS election is winnable (and also needs to be won) but that he was not the guy who could win it. Others who are more electable like Kerry and Edwards, suddenly became the choices.”