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Jewish World Review Jan. 23, 2004 / 29 Teves, 5764

Michael Barone

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After Iowa |
What worked for John Kerry in Iowa? Will it work for him in New Hampshire?

Howard Dean and Dick Gephardt spent the second-to-last week of the Iowa caucus campaign on the attack. Gephardt had to attack Dean: His only chance was to win Iowa. But his negative campaigning erased any chance he had to pick up support beyond his base of aging industrial union members. Dean didn't have to campaign negatively, and it turned out that his effort to make the caucuses a referendum on the Iraq war resolution-something that happened 15 months ago-failed. Three quarters of caucusgoers opposed the war, and among them Kerry outpolled Dean.

In this environment, Kerry had several things pitching him forward:

Organization. Kerry always had the third-best campaign organization in Iowa. His Iowa organizer John Norris, former Democratic state chairman, is well liked and has many contacts. Early on, he lined on more endorsements from state legislators than any other candidate. Then legendary organizer Michael Whouley came in. When public opinion surged away from Dean and Gephardt and toward Kerry and John Edwards, Kerry had more organizational resources to translate that support into votes in the caucuses than Edwards, who built his "one-on-one" organization from scratch. This may have made the difference between first and second place. Kerry also has an in-place organization in New Hampshire. Former Gov. Jeanne Shaheen has brought her troops in for him, and he has brought back Sue Casey; they're the two who captained Gary Hart's come-from-way-behind New Hampshire campaign in 1984.

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Ads. Kerry seems to have had the most effective ads of any candidate. One spotlighted his opposition to tax increases on the middle class. Not even Iowa caucusgoers-who are well to the left of the electorate-want higher taxes on everybody. That's probably true too, even among Democrats, in historically taxophobic New Hampshire.

Image. The visuals of Kerry going from event to event in a helicopter and occasionally piloting it showed him in command in a setting redolent of his military experience. A helpful metaphor. Will he still use the helicopter in New Hampshire, where the distance between campaign stops is so much less than in Iowa?

The war hero. Kerry's constant reminders that he served in the military in Vietnam threatened to become tiresome;'s Best of the Web Today refers to him always as "the haughty, French-looking Massachusetts senator who by the way served in Vietnam." But in the week before the primary, a retired Los Angeles County sheriff's deputy and registered Republican named Jim Rassman called the Kerry campaign in Washington. Rassman was a Green Beret in Vietnam who was saved-fished out of a river under fire-by the wounded Kerry. He thought he would be asked to work a phone bank. Instead, the Kerry campaign shipped him to Iowa Saturday, where he spoke at a Kerry rally. Rassman turns out to be a good and obviously sincere speaker and provided eloquent testimony about Kerry's character. His appearance made the news in Iowa and transformed a credential into a narrative. Narrative, as any parent who reads a bedtime story to small children knows, has power. Kerry may be at risk of overusing Rassman, who probably doesn't want to tell his story in identical words to five rallies a day. But his sudden appearance strengthened Kerry's candidacy.

Howard Dean's implosion-the result of errors, anger, overreliance on the Iraq war resolution vote-and Dick Gephardt's inability to go beyond his aging base left the field open to Kerry and Edwards. The Zogby tracking and Des Moines Register polls accurately measured the surge to Kerry and Edwards, and you could see it on the ground. On Sunday, I was at an Edwards event at Drake University in Des Moines with an overflow crowd of 1,000, where the energy was palpable. Then I went to a Kerry event at the state fairgrounds with a crowd of 2,000, so large that they had to set up a tent outside in the 8 degree weather. For the first time, opinion trumped organization. Dean's "Perfect Stormers" could turn out their "1s"-the people identified as strong supporters-but they may not have all been 1s anymore, and Gephardt's union organizers could turn out their guys, but they were overwhelmed by the Democrats who were surging toward Kerry and Edwards.

Now in New Hampshire we are guaranteed a broader electorate. Dean's organizational advantage will be less than in Iowa and Gephardt is out. Wesley Clark, who had New Hampshire mostly to himself the first three weeks in January, failed to overtake Dean and seems likely to be overtaken by Kerry and quite possibly Edwards in the next exit polls. Kerry seems likely to have the same advantages in New Hampshire that he had in Iowa.

It may turn out that the most important thing about Iowa was not that Dean was overtaken, but that Kerry edged slightly ahead of Edwards. And the race in New Hampshire may turn out to be a test of whether Edwards can get past him or not.

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Michael Barone Archives

JWR contributor Michael Barone is a columnist at U.S. News & World Report and the author of, most recently, "The New Americans." He also edits the biennial "Almanac of American Politics". Send your comments to him by clicking here.


©2004, Michael Barone