Powerline points to a Dick Morris article that says that Clark’s decision to give up Iowa points to a sputtering campaign. I’m generally in agreement with Morris on this one, although I wouldn’t write off Clark quite yet.
The fact is that the primary system is the race that counts. A candidate with a strong national rating may not be able to count on that momentum holding if they don’t make a strong showing in the key primary states. If Clark pulls out of New Hampshire (which Dean will win hands down) and Iowa (which Dean or Gephardt will take) his campaign has already lost momentum. Clark then must win South Carolina or his campaign is dead. Now Clark is polling well there, but even that could be an uphill battle.
The fact is that Howard Dean may be a nutjob in policy terms, but in terms of campaigning he has run by far one of the smartest campaigns in modern American history. He had the Democratic base excited about him nine months ago, and he’s been steadily building from there. He has played to the “Democratic wing of the Democratic Party” for months, and he has a niche established that Clark is going to have a tough time breaking. Clark’s appeal is based less on what he says than who he is – and with his fawning praise for President Bush ringing in liberal ears that appeal may be diminished over time.
The fact is that Clark isn’t running a very smart or a very effective campaign. He’s already managed to alienate his core supporters on the Draft Clark team and his campaign is being run by proxy from Washington – all of which are tactically bad moves on his part.
While Clark may be the media darling right now, Dean is still the real frontrunner based on his standings in the key primary states. If Dean wins South Carolina, which is entirely possible, Clark’s campaign will have to win several of the following primaries to remain vulnerable.
I wouldn’t be writing the Clark campaign’s epitaph quite yet, but I wouldn’t be betting that the Dean machine will let him walk away unscathed either.