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March 12, 2006

Link of the Day: Sunday Times edition

By Ezra

I'm not generally a big Matt Bai fan, so I'm pleased that I'm able to give his New York Times Magazine profile of Mark Warner a hearty recommendation. For my money, it's the best guide to the dynamics of the Democratic primary field yet published. Ostensibly about Warner, it's really about Hillary Clinton, the difficulties of being an insurgent candidate, and the impossibility of being one of many insurgent candidates. If you've got some time today, give it a read. While doing, watch for what's beginning to prove an irksome quirk of Warner's: his tendency to assert his cultural competitiveness rather than show, or explain, it. Warner certainly wouldn't be the first Southern governor to undergo an unexpected mutation when transposed from the state scene to the national stage. With that in mind, I need a bit more from him than repeated assurances that he'll effortlessly transcend the cultural wars.

March 12, 2006 | Permalink

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Comments

Ezra,

"For my money, it's the best guide to the dynamics of the Democratic primary field yet published. Ostensibly about Warner, it's really about Hillary Clinton, the difficulties of being an insurgent candidate, and the impossibility of being one of many insurgent candidates."

Still think HRC has trouble on the left?

If Hillary gets taken down, it's going to be on electability concerns, pure and simple, with either Warner or Edwards coming straight at her⁄, not to her left.

Posted by: Petey | Mar 12, 2006 11:18:59 AM

Ezra,

While doing, watch for what's beginning to prove an irksome quirk of Warner's: his tendency to assert his cultural competitiveness rather than show, or explain, it. Warner certainly wouldn't be the first Southern governor to undergo an unexpected mutation when transposed from the state scene to the national stage. With that in mind, I need a bit more from him than repeated assurances that he'll effortlessly transcend the cultural wars.

What's the benchmark for success? 80% approval ratings in a red state is a pretty good measure of success for me. Try to envision the other Democratic candidates having that much popularity in a state like Virginia.

Posted by: john | Mar 12, 2006 1:19:48 PM

Honestly, I think there's too much focus on Hillary. Does anyone remember all the Hillary articles from the last election? She'd be the surprise candidate, she was biding her time, she'd knock out the field, is she making a mistake waiting so long to announce.... ad nauseum.

If she announces, great. Let the commentary begin. Until then we should be debating the issues and the candidates who actually have announced.

Posted by: Mike | Mar 12, 2006 1:44:52 PM

I can appreciate Warner's irksome quirk! It means that he's going to spend a lot of his time arguing for Edwards.

Petey, I think one problem Hillary faces is that the Dean people (not a group that cares hugely for electability) are going to find her too centrist. It may not be her biggest problem, but it's in there.

john, Warner never hit 80.

Mike, nobody has announced yet. So we always have to talk about people who haven't announced.

Posted by: Neil the Ethical Werewolf | Mar 12, 2006 3:02:29 PM

john, Warner never hit 80.

My bad. Point still stands, though (72% approval in a red state).

Posted by: john | Mar 12, 2006 3:16:23 PM

I was really struck by this bit on primary history:

The modern primary process was born in the period before the 1972 campaign, when antiwar activists seized control of the party's nominating rules from the bosses of the old urban machines and put in place a more participatory system, whereby voters would get to choose their candidate directly, rather than delegating the task to a bunch of aging men in a clubhouse. This was a good idea, except that, in just a few years' time, the 60's activists became insiders themselves, and they found, much to their dismay, that primary voters still tended to like outsiders — even relatively conservative outsiders like Jimmy Carter...

The only thing is that all four of those insurgent candidates were basically post-60-activist new-politics types too -- Hart and Bradley were ataris; Dean essentially a blue state New Democrat until the Iraq war pissed him off. They ran against the party establishment (the new "insider" clique), and criticized its stale, timid ideology, but weren't (in Hart's case, at least after 1984) that much different from it ideologically -- Jackson being the exception of course and arguably the most successful in the sense of carving out a place in history.

Warner seems to be on a different track. My guess is he'll emerge as the conservative of the field, but in a traditional New South Carter-esque way rather than a neoconservative Scoop Jackson / Joe Lieberman way -- not so much attacking a lack of vision and and saying Dems need to challenge their fundamental ideas so much as arguing the Dems are being too partisan, too ideological and just need to tone it down. He could even benefit from Carter's popularity (and obvious partisanship) among Dems right now. Having Jerome Armstrong in his corner, who makes a good case for Warner's true partisanship in the article, will also help him fend off allegations that he's just mushy. Which is lucky for him imo because I find his stump speech right now pretty damn mushy.

Posted by: Laura | Mar 12, 2006 3:27:37 PM

"Petey, I think one problem Hillary faces is that the Dean people (not a group that cares hugely for electability) are going to find her too centrist. It may not be her biggest problem, but it's in there."

No doubt.

My only issue is that several of the TAPPED crew including Ezra seem to have an idee fixe that Hillary is in trouble with the Democratic base. I'd count the Dean folks as about 20% of the party. And most of them are never going to be in the corner of the mainstream party loyalist candidate. In '00, they supported Bradley. In '92, they supported Brown. In '88, they supported Jackson. And so on.

Hillary has problems with the fringe, not the base.

The only way she becomes vulnerable is if electability concerns soften her up among the real Democratic base.

Posted by: Petey | Mar 12, 2006 11:48:54 PM

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Posted by: peterwei | Oct 22, 2007 7:09:04 AM

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