Can Dean Falter?

William Safire makes some interesting predictions about the 2004 race, including the prediction that the Dean sweep won’t necessary materialize. David Shribman of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette also warns that Dean may not be a sure thing.

Both could be right, or both could be wrong. My guess that Dean has the nomination is based on my own experiences as a political footsoldier. As a former Republican campaign strategist told me, "a campaign is only as good as the quality and number of its activists". Say what you will about Dean, he has the best ground game of anyone, and he’s been building that base for months – long before any of the other candidates.

While there’s a massive Dean backlash, it’s only going to strengthen Dean’s hand. Look at the way Kos reacts to The New Republic‘s anti-Dean campaign. The Deanites see themselves as ideological crusaders who want to purge the Democratic Party of anyone who doesn’t match their vision of "progressive" values. That means that anyone who argues that Dean isn’t electable is dismissed as being too "Republican" and against the spirit of the Dean crusade. The Dean machine is less a political movement than it is an ideological movement. As Jonathan Chait of The New Republic has noted, the hate-Bush love-Dean crowd is a cloistered lot. Even if there are many saner heads in the Democratic Party, the chances of them putting together a working stop-Dean coalition doesn’t seem to strong.

Anything could change of course, Dean could very well explode. However, if that happens, it could still hurt the Democrats in the end as the Dean movement turns against the party they see as too moderate for their angry liberal outlook. In fact, Dean has recently threatened exactly that scenario. If Dean walks away with Iowa, and there’s a good chance he will, the Dean machine may still steamroll over the other candidates despite Dean’s tendency to talk first and think later.

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