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Jewish World Review Jan. 16, 2004 / 22 Teves, 5764

Roger Simon

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HOWARD AND HILLARY!? | DES MOINES Just a few months ago, the conventional wisdom about the Democratic presidential campaign, was, well, conventional.

It was called the Good Neighbors Theory: Dick Gephardt of Missouri would win neighboring Iowa. John Kerry of Massachusetts would win neighboring New Hampshire. And John Edwards of North Carolina would win neighboring South Carolina.

The fear was that the party would be fractured and the campaign would be a long and grueling one.

Howard Dean? Oh, yeah, angry guy, shouts a lot, anti-war. Forget it.

Few would have guessed that today the hottest political story would be who is running second to Dean in the national polls and whether Dean can hang onto his lead in Iowa.

And nobody could have guessed that someday Dean would be mulling how he will choose a running mate.

"Geography matters," he said recently. "Electoral votes matter. And if they are running now, how they were able to attract votes."

So go through the list: Geography would eliminate fellow-New Englanders Sens. John Kerry and Joe Lieberman. Would Dick Gephardt of Missouri balance the ticket? Well, maybe. But his selection might depend on Dean's third condition: How many votes Gephardt attracts in the primaries.

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And Dean is working hard to eliminate Gephardt in Iowa. Also, the bad blood between Gephardt and Dean seems real. In July, Dean told me: "I worked for Dick Gephardt (in 1988.) I love Dick Gephardt. He's one of the most decent people I know. And he's one of the best."

But that was before Gephardt began attacking Dean both on issues and on character. When I asked Dean recently if he wanted to change his mind about Gephardt, Dean replied, "Yeah."

Then in a tone more sorrowful than angry, Dean said, "I'm surprised at the bitterness of the attacks, I really am. I don't think they're going to succeed, but I'm surprised at it." (Gephardt says Dean started it all.)

So whom does that leave? Sen. Bob Graham of Florida would give Dean balanced geography and electoral votes.

Wesley Clark (who says he doesn't want the job) would satisfy Dean's geography requirement and Clark may very well show impressive vote-getting ability in the primaries. (Clark believes they will be so impressive that he will beat Dean and become the nominee himself.) Ditto Sen. John Edwards of North Carolina, who has recently been receiving numerous favorable articles in the press.

But there are others, not running for president, whom Dean could turn to if he manages to win, including a choice that would be nothing less than explosive: Sen. Hillary Clinton of New York. There is one problem with this, however.

In speech after speech, at stop after stop, Dean berates those "Washington politicians" who voted for the war in Iraq. He says they either lacked judgment or courage or both.

And Sen. Clinton voted for the Iraq war. So I asked Dean if a vote for the war would disqualify a person from becoming his running mate.

"No," Dean replied instantly. "Absolutely not."

But will Dean ever get to the point where he actually gets a chance to pick a running mate? He does see a way to beat President Bush.

"Karl Rove (President Bush's political guru) discovered it, too, but I discovered it independently," Dean told me recently and added that the theory is embodied in the writings of George Lakoff, a professor of cognitive science and linguistics at the University of California, Berkeley. "What you do is crank the heck out of your base, get them really excited and crank up the base turn-out and you'll win the middle-of -the-roaders."

The theory is that swing voters share the characteristics of both parties, and eventually go with whatever party excites them the most. "Democrats appeal to them on their softer side - - the safety net - - but the Republicans appeal to them on the harder side - - the discipline, the responsibility and so forth," Dean said. "So the question is which side appears to be energetic, deeply believing in its message, deeply committed to bringing a vision of hope to America. That side is the side that gets the swing voters and wins."

This theory dictated a free-wheeling, slash-and-burn campaign style in order to "crank the heck" out of the Democratic base, while also incorporating the thoughts of Joe Trippi, Dean's campaign manager, who urged Dean to take "this campaign to a higher ground."

Which is why Dean's stump speech today is a combination of the two. "I concluded that the only way we can win," Dean said, "is to really get our base excited: African-Americans, Latinos, trade-unionists, women, and now young people."

In other words, those Democrats who believed in heading for the center - - by voting to support the war in Iraq, for instance - - were missing the point entirely. If you excited the base, the center would follow. If you headed for the center, you would never get the center because you would appear wishy-washy and weak.

Excite the base, that is still the key to the entire Dean campaign.

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