|February 20, 2004
Copyright © 2004 PUERTO RICO HERALD. All Rights Reserved.
Dean Says Goodbye. Who Benefits More Kerry Or Edwards?
Back in his Vermont home territory last Wednesday, Howard Dean, the early front runner in the polls and the megabuck fund raiser in the Democratic Presidential primary, withdrew his candidacy for the Partys nomination with the words, "I am no longer actively pursuing the presidency." The qualifying adverb, "actively," generated speculation as to what exactly his role would be up until convention time in July, and afterwards in the campaign against the incumbent President, George W. Bush.
In his withdrawal statement, he told cheering supporters that he would "continue to build a new organization using our enormous grass-roots network to continue the effort to transform the Democratic Party and to change our country." Unspoken was any hint of who he might endorse between John Kerry or John Edwards, the two viable Democrats left in the race. In the absence of a specific endorsement by Dean, it was up to supporters of the remaining candidates to conjecture who his withdrawal might help the most.
This week, Herald readers will have a chance to answer that question for themselves.
Edwards campaign staffers were quick to express satisfaction that it was now effectively a two-person race, one in which voters could make a clear choice between the two U.S. Senators in up-coming elections. They were also effusive in their praise of Dean, pointing out that the two shared many issues in common and leaving no doubt that they would welcome a friendly nod from the departed candidate and help from his supporters. Some exit polls have shown that many Dean voters held Edwards as a second choice and several projections were introduced intended to show that, in states like Wisconsin, Edwards would have bested Kerry had Dean not been in the race.
Meanwhile, in a nationally televised interview on PBS last night (2/19/04), Senator John Kerry joined the "hallelujah chorus" for Howard Dean, asking the former candidate to endorse his candidacy for the Democratic Presidential nomination.
That issue should be settled soon. On February 24th there will be caucuses in Hawaii and Idaho and a primary in Utah. Then on March 2nd ,"Super Tuesday" arrives, with contests in the New England states of Connecticut, Massachusetts, Rhode Island and Vermont, the East Coast states of New York and Maryland, the Midwestern States of Minnesota and Ohio and the grand prize of them all, California. After such a nationwide exposure, the Edwards campaign will know if it has the momentum to move on to the "Mecca" of Edwards support, March and April primaries in Florida, Louisiana, Mississippi, Texas and North Carolina.
Prominent Puerto Rican Dean supporters have not yet moved to the camps of either of the remaining candidates. New Progressive Party (NPP) Senator Kenneth McClintock and Popular Democratic Party (PDP) leaders Aníbal Acevedo Vilá and Roberto Prats all jumped on the Dean bandwagon when it was at full speed but are now taking a more cautious approach in their endorsements. All three are super-delegates to the Democratic Convention this summer in Boston. McClintock told the Herald that he gives Edwards only a "minimal" chance of winning the nomination. He also expressed dissatisfaction with Kerrys position on Puerto Rico self-determination.
The Kerry campaign website states that the Senator would support a self-determination referendum in Puerto Rico, but would retain the territorial commonwealth option on the ballot. That pronouncement has enraged both statehood and independence supporters, who hold that the Commonwealth is colonial in nature, relegating the island to territorial status. Kerry spokesman, Luis Navarro, insists that the Senator supported a self-determination process for the island that was "neither colonial nor territorial." Kenneth McClintock told our reporter that Senator Kerry intends to modify his position but that "it is still a work in progress." Asked if he expected the position to be an improvement he rejoined, "It couldnt be worse."
In 2003, after twelve years as Governor of Vermont, Dean, a medical doctor and Democrat with strong anti-war views, considered the run for the Presidency, but at first faced the dilemma of very little money in the bank and the lack of a national reputation. Then, by using the website "meet-up.com," he put forward an unambiguous message of social and foreign policy views that attracted tens of thousands of supporters that came to be known as "Deaniacs."
The "Deaniacs" became a force that contributed some 41 million dollars in small donations and provided the candidate with volunteer workers in the many campaign venues. Mostly young, they viewed Dean as a voice that echoed their frustration with the Iraq war and articulated their frustration with the policies of the Bush administration. Many had not ever before been active in politics and many more were independents. His message to them and to primary voters is that it was his purpose to "reform" the Democratic Party.
In the end, Howard Dean had not won a single one of the seventeen primaries so far held in various regions of the country. In New England, he lost to Senator John Kerry in both Maine and New Hampshire -- neighboring states to Vermont. The week before, his hopes were dashed in the Pacific Northwest when he did not prevail in Washington State. The final blow came the day before his resignation from the campaign when he was drubbed by both Kerry and Senator John Edwards in Wisconsin, a state that earlier he had said was necessary for him to win to stay in the race.
After his withdrawal, pundits spoke in glowing terms of Deans seminal role in the development of the insurgent Democratic Partys project to deny President Bush a second term in the White House. It was Dean that at first dared to suggest that the President was vulnerable, due to the weakened economy and its consequent loss of jobs, the tax reduction bill heavily weighted to the top income brackets, a costly and ineffective drug prescription plan for seniors and mounting questions about the nature and justification for the war in Iraq.
Giving hope to Democrats still in the race is a recent Gallup polling that shows the President loosing to both Kerry and Edwards should the election be held today. This is a shocking result considering that, before Howard Dean began his run for the Democratic nomination, the President was seen as invincible. "Deaniacs" are saying that it was their candidate that stiffened the spines of others who joined the fray subsequently. After his candidates withdrawal, one supporter told a reporter that "if a Democrat defeats George Bush in November, he will owe his victory to Howard Dean."
But that election is many months off and both Edwards and Kerry are taking it one primary at a time and each, no doubt, wooing Howard Dean to smile on their efforts. .
Between the remaining viable candidates in the Democratic primary race, who do you think will be most helped by Governor Deans exit from the race?
Please vote above!