Two down and a bunch more to go. Kerry won Iowa and New Hampshire. Three weeks ago, we were hoping for a strong showing in IA and a strong second place showing in NH, even a strong third place and conventional wisdom was that Kerry would live to fight another day.
The events of the past three weeks in the primaries have been overwhelming. For those of us who have worked in some volunteer capacity with the campaign and have been fervent supporters for month, it is like the twilight zone.
In the summer, Chris Lahane, a political strategist, then on the Kerry team, now with Clark, quit because Kerry let Dean rise unopposed and refuse to engage Dean in his negative and dirty tactics. Then Dean took over in the NH polls and Kerry began to recede. We all said Dean was peaking way too early and that ignore the polls.
Those were tough days and December was bleak. We saw many jump ship to support other candidates. We knew we had the best candidate. The media could not get enough of Dean and was brutally unforgiving with Kerry. It turns out that we were right, that Dean peaked early and that Kerry's discipline and playbook were correct. However, there is a catch. If Kerry hadn't had personal money to get hm through the $2.5 million last quarter, which is a paltry sum, he may have had to drop out. So the play book was right, but I think we all learned a lesson and that is that perception is everything. A disciplined approach to the playbook is necessary but you have to control perceptions.
Many say that Kerry improved himself as a candidate. This is true. I think also, the we grassroots types finally figured out the personality of the campaign. For months we had practically begged the campaign to find ways for us to get involved. The Deaniacs were organizing all over the place, but it was impossible to get the same level of interest with Kerry folks. What made the Dean thing work was the campaign saw it as important to facilitate the grassroots, the Kerry campaign simply copied Dean, but did not have that grassroots spark and it still doesn't. However, we supporters began to find out how we could be proactive and work without and yet with the campaign and I think that really helped out.
This thing is far from over, however, I'd rather be where we are than where anyone else is. Kerry has gotten literally millions of dollars worth of free advertising by winning, he is now a national figure, a known quantity, and his free media tagline is "winner." No Howard Dean type money could have bought that kind of publicity.
The next challenge is scrutiny that will come as people examine Kerry's stand on issue in his 18 year Senate career. His voting record has been calculated by some metric to be more liberal than Kennedy, but the fact is that he has a renegade and conservative streak to him. He is a complicated man who understands a complicated world. He would be a breath of fresh air in contrast to Bush whose world is black and white and who is forcing the world and indeed history to contend with his lack of curiousity and appreciation of the mantle of leader of the free world.