Saturday, 01 March, 2003
Democratic Presenditial Candidates
With the addition the other day of Florida Senator Bob Graham, we now have 9 Democrats vying for the nomination to run against President Bush in next year's election. Yes, it's hard to believe that all this is taking place almost 2 years for the actual election. When this all got started back in December (when Al Gore announced that he would not seek the nomination), I put it all down to opportunism. With Gore out of the picture, the Democrats have no clear front runner, and everybody wanted to try his or her luck. Now I'm not so sure. Maybe the Democratic party, in an effort to wrest control from the Republicans, has convinced all of these candidates (fringe candidates, many of them) to run in order to "get out the vote." This isn't a "vote for me" strategy, but rather a "vote against Bush and the Republicans" strategy. This could work, I think, although I suspect that they'll have more success with Congressional seats than with the Presidency. There are risks, though.
We'll see the inevitable withdrawals from the race beginning late this year, with the withdrawing candidate throwing his support behind one of the remaining candidates. Going into 2004, we'll have a half dozen candidates for the Democratic nomination. Supporters of the early withdrawers likely will become confused and disenchanted with multiple allegiance shifts. And at some point the few remaining candidates will have to concentrate on differentiating themselves from each other rather than attacking Bush and the Republicans. When the mudslinging starts, they're going to lose a huge number of people who were intending to vote, and a last-ditch effort in October 2004 will not bring those people back. I think Democrats are counting on support for a particular candidate to equate to support for the party (or non-support of Bush and the Republicans) in general. I just don't see that happening.
Or I could be totally off base, and those nine candidates really are just overly optimistic opportunists. There's no doubt that the scheme I laid out above would require a level of cooperation and coordination that the Democrats haven't exhibited in recent memory.