John Kerry has won New Hampshire, and you may be thinking that the race is effectively over. After all, he’s two for two thus far. Howard Dean’s poll numbers are slipping almost everywhere. Kerry will roll into the Feb. 3 primaries and come away with a commanding lead.
But as the noted philosopher Lee Corso says, “Not so fast, my friend.”
Kerry should have won both those states. He moved his entire staff to Iowa for the caucuses and is a senator from Massachusetts, where many people in New Hampshire commute to work. At the very least, they identify themselves with their fellow New England state. Kerry didn’t spend any money on the seven Feb. 3 primary states before New Hampshire. He doesn’t even have the most committed delegates.
OK, so if it’s not Kerry — and, hey, I’ll admit it still might be — then who? The media won’t let “Loud Howard” shake his “angry” label, so discount his chances. Instead, look at the guy who finished third in New Hampshire and first amongst those outside New England.
I present to you General Wesley Clark.
Despite his lack of “Joementum” like Senator Joe Lieberman, Clark stands to capitalize if Kerry or Dean falters. He’s spent almost $1 million on ads in the next seven primary states. He’s from Arkansas, and is leading polls coming out of neighboring Oklahoma. He’s also within two percentage points of Dean in Arizona.
Clark can also match Bush strength against strength in the national election. Bush’s campaign will probably focus on safer borders, an Iraq with elections, and Libya backing down without a fight. Clark can counter with his extensive military record.
Dean is the candidate who is getting the strongest response from people who list the war in Iraq as their top complaint. The other major candidates voted for the war in Iraq. Logically, many of the voters who think that Howard Dean is mentally unsuited for the presidency will slide over to the Clark camp. Of course, since when does logic factor into this?
Moreover, Clark has been a Republican until very recently. No candidate is better equipped to reach across party lines to woo republicans dissatisfied with Bush than one of their own.
Don’t listen to the pundits. This race is far from over. Should Clark win in Oklahoma and Arizona, he’ll be set for the long haul. And one last fact I picked up: No democrat has swept a contested Iowa caucus and New Hampshire primary then gone on to win the White House.
Patrick Jennings is a junior economics major from Melbourne, Fla.