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What’s the rush?
February 28, 2004
By Glenn Rubenstein

Editor's Note: Democratic Underground welcomes articles about individual Democratic candidates for political office. Publication of these articles does not imply endorsement of any candidate by the editors of Democratic Underground.

Super Tuesday is being pegged as a two-man race, with John Kerry “the frontrunner” and John Edwards “the underdog.” Both candidates have a very good chance of beating George W. Bush this November, and each has qualities that give most Democrats optimism about what their presidencies would be like.

Think back to a year ago, when that scenario seemed like a far-fetched idea. When Bush rode his post-9/11 wave of seemingly unbeatable approval and no matter how valid the criticisms of the Commander-in-Chief were, the Democratic Party seemed as if it was on life support.

How did the scales tip back?

The original expectation was that the early Democratic Primary Elections would narrow the field of candidates, with a nominee emerging by the end of January. Instead, this extended contest has given the Democratic race almost non-stop media coverage—focusing on the candidates, as well as the issues that are important to the American people.

This has revitalized the Democratic Party, and the extended contest has sparked a renewed interest in politics amongst the general public. Not only is this prospect of change exciting for many Americans who would like to see someone else in the White House, but the race has also made for a compelling reality show as candidates have been “voted off.”

Bush is already on the defensive

This has had an enormous impact. For the first time, the media and the majority of Americans are seriously questioning George W. Bush’s record as President of the United States. This scrutiny puts the President in a position where he will have to defend his tax cuts for the wealthy, the war in Iraq, the struggling economy, the massive job losses (and lack of new jobs), plus his administration’s secrecy surrounding inside deals with companies like Halliburton, and most importantly, what the White House may or may not have known prior to 9/11.

Even though a candidate has yet to earn enough delegates to secure the Democratic nomination, the White House has been forced to accelerate its campaign for re-election. The early ads promote George W. Bush without responding to the questions that have been asked, perhaps in hopes of boosting his sagging approval numbers. On Bush’s own re-election website, ads have also appeared that attack John Kerry, which is almost unheard of eight months before the general election.

Now is not the time to let up

Given our country’s short attention span, November 2nd seems like the distant future. It may seem like John Kerry has this in the bag, and since most voters like to back the perceived victor, he very well might have it sewn up.

However, if he wraps it up on Tuesday, March 2, the media is going to pay far less attention to the remaining 10 weeks of Democratic primaries. In fact, they’re going to start giving Bush more time to attack Kerry while avoiding a confrontation on the real issues of this campaign.

But if John Edwards has a strong showing on Tuesday, this race could very well go all the way—factor in the four Southern states the next week, where Edwards will likely increase his delegate count enough to close a good portion of the gap between himself and Kerry, and the two candidates will have to battle it out week to week from there. That’s exactly the type of contest that the news media lives for.

Imagine if it went all the way down to the convention in Boston this July. It would become something even bigger, perhaps elevating the final decision to the level of attention “American Idol” gets. Of course, here the result would actually mean something. That type of contest would result in momentum that would further solidify the Democratic candidate’s chances of winning, and it would give the Republicans far less time to implement its attack strategy.

Covering the bases

As it stands, John Kerry is likely to end up winning the nomination, but if it’s a closer race it will ultimately make both candidates stronger and more prepared for the fall. Given that Bush will be unleashing $200 million in campaign spending against the Democratic nominee, it’s clear that a few more weeks of rigorous training can’t hurt—and the free media certainly helps since our side will have far less money to spend.

And the longer this goes on, the more the Bush re-election staff will be scrambling—it would be even worse for them if they had to start attacking both Kerry and Edwards because the primary race continued.

It’s also important to be a tad cautious and note that John Kerry has been the frontrunner for about a month now. Howard Dean lasted about six weeks with that distinction, and even though his reign was before a single vote was cast, the strong backlash and his rapid demise caught most people off guard. We have a real shot at beating George Bush this fall, and it would be devastating if Edwards were to drop out of the race in the next week, only to have Kerry suffer an unexpected loss of support and buyer’s remorse.

If you’re amongst those who believe in the “Anyone but Bush” philosophy, or you want to vote for the best shot at beating him in November, the smartest bet is to vote for “the underdog” and keep John Edwards in the closest race possible with John Kerry--at least for a little while longer.

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