JANUARY 18, 2004 –
is being reported as an unprecedented four way tie. On the eve
of the Iowa caucuses, Democratic voters in Iowa are unable to settle
on a single frontrunner - in fact, they are unable to decide on two
What we are
seeing in Iowa is exactly what we at The Moderate Independent have
been reporting, and what Thomas J. Bico, our editor-in-chief,
explained in the endorsement we gave to General Wesley Clark.
If General Clark
were not in the race - as he is not in Iowa - there is no candidate
that stands out head and shoulders above the others as a truly,
clearly great choice for America. In each of the candidates,
voters are finding a piece of what they want, but not the whole
picture. It is enough to get them to sort of side with this or
that candidate today, but not solidly, not comfortably, and not with
true satisfaction and contentment.
Those who want a
bold speaker who is not from Washington and has great campaign
organization are leaning toward Dean. Those who think it is
important to have someone with solid foreign policy credentials are
leaning to Kerry. Those who want an optimist or a southerner
are moving near Edwards. Those who want someone who will fight
for workers are going with Gephardt.
The problem is,
each of these candidates are relatively one-dimensional.
People who want to just settle on Dean are unsettled by his lack of
foreign policy credentials and frequently flubbing nature.
Those who start to lean toward Kerry worry he can't win the south,
that his campaign is nowhere near on the level of Dean's, and that
he doesn't have the charisma to connect with people. People
who like Edwards' sunny message and southern credentials are worried
by his lack of gravitas and foreign policy experience.
Gephardt's people simply like Gephardt, and his support is the most
solid in the state, but his circle of support isn't expanding beyond
his base because he lacks the military background of a Kerry or
fiery campaign of Dean.
This is the race
without the presence of General Clark. There are a number of
candidates whom the Democratic voters are finding adequate, but not
excellent. And so what it is coming down to is a sort of
gambling mentality - and the uneasiness that goes along with such
risky endeavors. The stakes are the future of their nation,
which they see as in true peril if President Bush is re-elected.
And so they
assess and assess and reassess and still don't find anyone who is
more than one-dimensional. And so, on this final evening
before the first contest of the Democratic primary season, with no
other state to rely on to give them direction, the good people of
Iowa are truly worried and uncertain. They want to make the
right choice for themselves and their nation. Do they go with
the military guy, the southerner, the outsider, or the person
they've known for years who will fight for their labor concerns?
There are those
who see Kerry moving up in Iowa and rebounding to previous levels in
New Hampshire and expect this means he is making a move in the
campaign. This is exactly what we reported would happen in
this article back on December
16. While everyone else was reporting the race as Dean alone
in front and no one else with a real chance, we had this to say:
John Kerry had gotten the early bounce
and frontrunner status when people looked and saw the Democrats had
a veteran in their midst who was strong on defense but also had a
solid history of supporting Democratic issues domestically. Now,
John is getting that bounce once again from people tuning in for the
And then there is Clark, who is
neutralizing Dean’s other former advantage – outsider status. Clark
is just as much the outsider as Dean, and one with strong defense
credentials and far more charisma.
By all practical measures, this is
should now be a three man race for the top spot, but not the three
the rest of the press is reporting. No, don’t include Dean in
this. At this point, it should be a tight three way battle between
Kerry, who is in position to pull off an Iowa and New Hampshire
one/two punch, Gephardt, who has crucial Midwest support, and Clark,
who can make a big showing on February 3 following a nice launch in
That, as we said, is how things
should be, but two more things have to be considered: Kerry’s
anemic campaign, and Gephardt’s lack of appeal on defense issues.
This weakness for Gephardt is a fatal one.
So in fact, more and more this is
becoming what should be a two man race, between the two veterans,
one with more military leadership experience, and one with more
domestic and campaign experience. But, for some reason, what should
be Kerry’s advantage is his weakness. Clark’s campaign outshines
Yes, this is exactly what is playing out
now. As you can see, Kerry is making some ground up in Iowa
and a little back in New Hampshire, yet people are not signing on
strongly enough to make him the frontrunner - in any state. He
has slight lead in Iowa - where Clark isn't present - but is nowhere
near the top anywhere else, due to his anemic campaign, while Clark
is either tied for the lead or leading in a number of the February
And so despite the great candidate Kerry
makes on paper, not he nor anyone else has won the trust and support
of Democrats in Iowa.
The message from
the Iowa caucuses so far is clear: the Democrats would prefer
to have someone that brings more than one dimension. And this
is great news for General Clark. His rapid rise in the
campaign has been because he brings a number of these things
together, offering the Democrats a much-wanted complete picture of a
And so while on
Monday the people of Iowa will go and duke it out and arrive at
which candidate - or candidates - they will settle on, they already
have made their message loud and clear to the nation: none of
these candidates are enough of a complete picture for us to
comfortably recommend. For the southerner military man with an
excellently organized campaign, sunny message, and the ability and
charisma to connect with voters, the mess in Iowa is a message that,
even though there were so many candidates already running, the
nation was indeed still needing of his late entry into the race.
Once Iowa is
over, the Democrats will have a distinctly different set of choices.
For General Clark, it can not be anything but reassuring to see that
without him in the race, there is no one the Democrats really want
to place all their chips down on.