By Dick Morris
July 12, 2003
Animating the Dean surge are groups favoring gay marriage and those opposing further military action against other terror-sponsoring or - harboring nations - formidable forces pushing the Democrats away from the country's center.
Dean's recent startling success in fund-raising - he raised more money in the last quarter than any other Democratic candidate - propels him into the top tier of candidates and gives him the means to promote his agenda.
Yet Dean is to the Democratic Party what the Christian Right is to the Republicans - a force moving the party into territory which offends the values and views of the mainstream of America's voters. He threatens to make the Democratic primaries a killing ground where any candidate who can win nationally is eradicated.
The signer of the civil union (aka gay marriage) law and a resolute pacifist in the face of terrorism, Dean will drive the rest of the Democratic field to the left as they struggle to match his program and rhetoric. He may bring about a new McGovernization of the Democratic Party. (My apologies to George McGovern, who led the national battle to reform the nominating process and, in doing so, contributed a singular service to us all).
In forcing the party left, Dean is picking up where Jesse Jackson left off, creating a gantlet of liberal litmus tests that a nominee must pass to win the nomination - locking him into positions that invite certain defeat in November. No candidate can win a presidential race advocating gay marriage and opposing the military action in Iraq.
Dean's financial edge is likely even greater than the initial numbers for the second quarter of 2003 indicate. He raised $6.5 million, more than the $5 million Dick Gephardt, John Kerry and Joe Lieberman managed to garner. But since much of his fund-raising was online, Dean has two added key advantages: 1) Most of his donors are probably not maxed out and can be re-solicited down the road for more money. 2) He probably did not have to spend as much as the others did to raise their funds.
Short term, Dean is a threat to Kerry. Just as Missouri's Gephardt needs to win his neighboring Iowa and North Carolina's John Edwards has to carry his next-door early primary in South Carolina, so must Massachusetts' Kerry prevail in New Hampshire to stay in the race.
But the Vermonter is a major obstacle there. As Kerry moves to the center to position himself to win the large primaries down the road, and to have a shot at Bush in November, he opens himself up to a left-wing assault by Dean that might cream off enough liberals to carry the New Hampshire primary.
For Lieberman, Dean's rise opens an important opportunity. The Connecticut senator should attack the former Vermont governor, oppose gay civil unions, reiterate his support for the war in Iraq and roll up the center in the primaries. By doing so, Lieberman can make it a two-man race - left against right - and edge Gephardt and Edwards out of contention.
Because independents can vote in most Democratic primaries, there are more than enough moderate voters to give Lieberman traction and a good hope of winning.
And if somebody doesn't stop Howard Dean, he and his ideas will be permanent plagues on the Democratic Party, forcing nominees to toe a line that so offends traditional values as to make its candidates unelectable. Just as the Christian right created a gender gap by its opposition to abortion, so Dean will trigger a values gap that will send moderate voters flocking in droves to the Republicans.
Dick Morris was an adviser to Bill Clinton for 20 years. Morris is a political consultant, commentator and best selling author. Look for his newest book, "Power Plays" available now and look for Dick's new book, "Off With Their Heads - Traitors, Crooks & Obstructionists In American Politics".
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