Dean Has Seemingly Insurmountable Lead, Others Hope to Catch Up

National   |   Steven Ertelt   |   Jan 1, 2004   |   9:00AM   |   WASHINGTON, DC

Dean Has Seemingly Insurmountable Lead, Others Hope to Catch Up

by Steven Ertelt Editor
January 1, 2004

Washington, DC ( — In the minds of some political observers, pro-abortion Democratic presidential candidate Howard Dean just about has his party’s nomination wrapped up.

He has a lead in Iowa, Dick Gephardt’s back yard and a region where voters were previously unfamiliar with his record. He has a gigantic lead in New Hampshire, the second state where he and John Kerry are competing for the support of neighboring voters.

And now the latest polls in states that follow show that Dean’s juggernaut is picking up steam there as well.

In Oklahoma, Dean leads with 24 percent according to a late-December poll. Wesley Clark has 22 percent and Joe Lieberman, who benefits in polls from his high name identification from the 2000 election, has 9 percent.

In Arizona, Dean leads with 22 percent, Clark has 12 percent and Lieberman has 9 percent. And in South Carolina, Dean has 16 percent, Al Sharpton, in the only state in which he is competitive, has 12 percent, and John Edwards has 11 percent.

Can Dean be stopped?

Other Democrats like Wesley Clark hope so. Clark may be one of the few, along with Gephardt, Kerry and possibly Lieberman, who have a chance of capturing the nomination.

"It’s now clear that I’m one of only two candidates in a position to win the nomination," Clark, a pro-abortion retired general, said in a statement issued Thursday.

Though somewhat further behind in the polls compared to other leading candidates, Clark proved he has what it takes to stay up the top of the pack by netting more than $10.5 million in donations during the fourth quarter. His campaign hopes to raise $4 million during January to go along with the $3.7 million it just received in federal matching funds.

Those numbers may give Clark the most legitimate reasons to call himself the number two candidate in the race. No other Democrats came within $6 million of Clark’s fourth-quarter fundraising totals, though his still fell considerably short of the $14 million Dean raked in during the last three months of 2003.

Clark, who is not competing in the Iowa caucus, plans to send a 15-minute biography video to 50,000 New Hampshire residents and will air it numerous times on several cable stations in the state.

Other candidates have their own ideas on who can emerge as the top Dean alternative.

Dick Gephardt, a pro-abortion Missouri Congressman, is looking for a win in Iowa and hoping it will turn into momentum for a surprising second place finish in New Hampshire, though he doesn’t poll in the top three in any of the primary states after Iowa.

Pro-abortion Sen. John Kerry of Massachusetts was seen as the front-runner early on, but that status has evaporated.

After a powerful fundraising start, Kerry posted his worst numbers during the fourth quarter. He hasn’t gained traction in Iowa and is in danger of losing New Hampshire by a large margin to Dean. That leads some observers to say he may drop out of the race if he doesn’t come close in either state.

Meanwhile, Lieberman, who has been spending about $1 million a month on advertising, announced that his campaign will increase that to $1 million per week. He is also moving key staff from Washington to early primary states and plans to deliver a series of major policy speeches.

However, polls in the states that follow Iowa and New Hampshire don’t show Lieberman, a pro-abortion Connecticut senator, building on his low ratings.

"There’s been no movement his way — a little favorable press for a short moment, but that was about it," said Lee Miringoff, a pollster at New York’s Marist College.

Lieberman’s fourth quarter fundraising was lackluster and political observers say these latest actions are moves made by a desperate campaign staging a last gasp effort to win.

Down in the polls and in the race for campaign cash, the other Democratic candidates must hope Dean falters. Dean’s missteps, including his tendency to gaffe and his itinerant iconoclastic nature may be the only hope they have to capture the nomination and face President Bush.

Then another uphill battle begins. Bush has solidified his re-election numbers in light of the capture of Saddam Hussein, a rising economy, and the energized Republican base, which has been delighted by his pro-life record, including signing a ban on partial-birth abortions.