Behind The Kerry Surge

It’s clear that John Kerry is surging in the Iowa polls after months of being in the shadow of the Dean juggernaut. Now, the Iowa race has gone from a two-way Gephardt-Dean race to a four way Gephardt-Dean-Kerry-Edwards race. How did this happen?

Michael Crowley at The New Republic thinks he knows the answer: Michael Whouley.

Michael who? Unless you’re a hard-core political junkie, you’ve probably never even heard the name. But within the Democratic political world, Whouley is an almost-mythical figure. Revered as one of the party’s fiercest and most talented ground-level organizers, Whouley is widely credited with saving Al Gore’s foundering campaign in Iowa and New Hampshire in the 2000 primaries against Bill Bradley. Now this old Kerry ally may be working his magic one more time.

In essence, Whouley has been transforming Kerry’s weak ground game into the kind of political machine that has a chance at beating Dean. It’s an interesting strategy, with Lieberman and Clark out of the Iowa race, Kerry has a lot of support. Certainly the Iowa Dems I spoke to seemed to favor Kerry considerably. It seems that this wellspring of support has been fueled by an anti-Dean backlash that may return Kerry to front-runner status.

The balance in this race is shifting – the cocksure Dean people are starting to run scared as the other candidates pick up steam. Iowa is now a tossup, with the trendlines predicting Dean coming in behind Kerry, Edwards, and Gephardt in a shockingly low fourth-place finish. Clark is beginning to nip at Dean’s heels in New Hampshire, although Dean still maintains a solid lead in that key state.

If Dean loses Iowa by a significant margin, New Hampshire could change. The Dean machine appears to be collapsing, reflecting the fickle nature of primary politics. The candidates once thought to be down and out, namely Edwards and Kerry, are now back in the race and viable. Anything could happen in this race, and now it’s really starting to get interesting.

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