The Democrats' Campaign to Date Explained
Howard Dean surged out in front by opposing Bush at every turn. He sensed that setting himself up as the anti-Bush was the way to get the attention of the activist base of the party and he was successful at that.
Kerry made the signal mistake of voting in favor of the war, but he has energetically managed to get on the opposite side of that vote, rather than stand by it as Edwards, Lieberman and Gephardt did. This, oddly enough, is probably the reason why Kerry managed to come back from the dead. I don't doubt he would be dead in the water. Mickey Kaus points out
that Kerry voted as he thought best for John F. Kerry.
Not a lot of people are talking about this, but Sam Nunn is a big part of the reason John Kerry and John Edwards and Hillary Clinton and a whole lot of Democratic senators voted for the Iraq war. Nunn was on the short list of Democrats who could have been elected president in 1992 had he run for the job. However, he had voted against
the Persian Gulf War. This is not as surprising as it sounds; Desert Storm was supported by only 10 Democrats in the Senate when it came to a vote. Nunn claimed in his autobiography that his vote against the war had cost him any chance to run for the presidency.
Well, you can imagine how Democrats voting on the Iraq war felt--I'm not doing a Sam Nunn
! So they voted in favor of the Iraq war. Indeed, you could say that almost every Democrat senator with national ambitions voted in favor of the war: Daschle, Clinton, Lieberman, Edwards, Kerry, Bayh, Feinstein... the vote was 77-23 (Desert Storm, which frequently gets mentioned by the anti-war crowd as the war everybody supported, passed 55-45).
Early on in the campaign it looked like the vote in favor of the war was going to sink Kerry, Lieberman and Gephardt. Two of them never recovered, and one of them did. Why? Because Kerry went back on his vote, seeing that it was a loser with his partisans. And ironically Kerry then managed to pass muster when the war ceased to be the signal issue for the Democrats.
There are a lot of other factors. Dean never really had the support that a lot of people thought he did. He ran a populist campaign that exploded as most populist campaigns do once the normal people start voting.
Kerry does seem fortunate to have gotten this far as the "safe" candidate. One would think a senator with a much higher rating (94%-88%) from the liberal Americans for Democratic Action than Ted Kennedy would ordinarily be considered the leftist candidate. Especially one with so many obvious problems--the Vietnam Veterans Against the War, throwing of somebody's medals over the fence, being Dukakis's lieutenant governor, then trying to cut intelligence budgets in the 1990s. Not to mention that he makes Al Gore look hip, and the creepiness of his two marriages to phenomenally wealthy women (his first wife was worth $300 million and his second $800 million).