VodkaPundit

Mea Culpa

“Mea Culpa” is a recurring feature here at VodkaPundit, where I look back through the archives and say “Oops!” really loud and in public.

That’s something you rarely see the paid pundits do — which is probably why they get paid and I get squat. But that’s beside the point. The point is, I’ve been getting the Democratic primary race all wrong, and the time has come to cop to it.

Before it’s over, every primary becomes a two-man race. Even when it really isn’t, the press will make it so. (Think back to 2000, and Gore vs. Bradley or Bush vs. McCain. Did Bradley or McCain ever really stand much of a chance?) This time around, the man to beat looks like Howard Dean. And while I haven’t explicitly said so, I’ve certainly hinted that the other guy would be John Kerry.

Why? Because of Dean’s three most realistic challengers, Joe Lieberman is too conservative and Dick Gephardt is too old school. Here’s what I wrote about
Lieberman:

Lieberman is a centrist, a DLC guy, and that hurts him in the primaries. Yeah, Clinton won the nomination as a centrist in 1992, but that year, the Dems had been out in the wilderness for 12 years. And their last liberal nominee, Walter Mondale, suffered a 49-state loss. And all their big guns sat out in ’92. With all that, the Democrats probably would have nominated a small bag of live ferrets, if they’d polled well.

Perhaps, then, Lieberman’s reputation (deserved or not; let’s not get into that now, it isn’t germane) as a centrist is what’s killing him in this race.

And about Gephardt:

Gephardt’s brand of Democratic politics play well in his partly-urban, heavily unionized district. But in a nation where the steel and auto industries don’t count like they used to, and where union politics (except for government-employee unions) have been on the wane for a generation, it’s hard for someone like Gephardt to make a play for national office.

Secretary of Labor? Sure. Or even the Commerce Department. His experience, leanings, and connections make him a natural for either of those posts under a Democratic President. But that Democratic President, it now seems, will never be Dick Gephardt. While he narrowly leads in the Iowa polls, New Hampshire voters aren’t likely to take to him like they will to Dean or John Kerry.

But today we read this news:

Democratic presidential candidate John Kerry’s press secretary and deputy finance director quit Tuesday, adding to the bitter turmoil on Kerry’s team after the dismissal of his campaign manager.

Robert Gibbs, chief spokesman for the Massachusetts lawmaker, and deputy finance director Carl Chidlow quit in reaction to the firing of Jim Jordan, abruptly let go by Kerry Sunday night. Both expressed dissatisfaction with the campaign, according to officials.

And with that, I have to admit the Kerry campaign is, if not dead, then at least on life support. Far from being the default Second Man that I figured him for, Kerry is proven an inept campaigner who will be lucky to place third in Iowa, and figures for a distant third (fourth?) in New Hampshire.

So who will emerge as this campaign’s Second Man? It’s too soon to tell. But it’s not too early to admit I was wrong when I thought it would be John Kerry.