Shop Talk

Mickey Kaus:

I expect a similar scenario to unfold with John Kerry. The idea of John Kerry is appealing. The reality is less so (and a lot more less so than was the reality of Hart). As the primaries proceed, my guess is voters will learn more about Kerry and his support will fade. But it might not happen! I don’t want to commit–or rather, by predicting Kerry’s quick demise, I’ve already committed–what a Slate colleague calls the Howell Raines Fallacy, the assumption that the great and good American people, in their wisdom, will inevitably come to agree with you (or, in Raines’ case, the New York Times editorial page). It’s an easy fallacy for a democrat to slide into–and on the issue I spent most time on, welfare reform, it wasn’t a fallacy at all. (Over generations, voters never liked the old welfare system, and they were right.) But of course voters make mistakes all the time. I obviously think Iowa Democrats just made a big one. It’s up to the citizens of New Hampshire, who presumably know Kerry better, to correct Iowa’s error. If they don’t–well, one of us is wrong!

My own call? Kaus is right, Iowa is wrong. New Hampshire will be a test for Clark as much as it is for Kerry or Dean — and South Carolina could very well be where Kerry loses his footing (again). The SC primary will be the really interesting one, pitting Edwards’s southern charm against Clark’s military creds against Sharpton’s base against Dean’s fading appeal. To my mind, Kerry doesn’t much factor in SC.

How will it play out? We won’t know for three more weeks — and as the last couple weeks have shown, that’s a lifetime in politics.