This is how one smart Clark advisor sees the race at the moment: You might as well skip Iowa if you’re not guaranteed to do well in Iowa. It was a huge mistake for Bill Bradley in 2000 to compete in Iowa, where he got killed by Al Gore. If he had skipped Iowa and concentrated on the more hospitable terrain in New Hampshire, he probably could have won here and transformed the race. Even with his Iowa downdraft, Bradley only lost New Hampshire by 3 or 4 points. So, Clark is avoiding the Bradley mistake and focusing on New Hampshire, where a flinty sense of patriotism and a high percentage of veterans make it happy hunting grounds for him. As for the other candidates, John Kerry appears to be finished here, since he’s down to about 12 points even though he’s from a neighboring state. Dick Gephardt, even if he wins Iowa, won’t be much of a factor here and instead will concentrate on South Carolina and Michigan, but will probably run out of money in any case. Even if Howard Dean wins here, a strong second by Clark can be spun nicely – e.g., a candidate who was trailing Dennis Kucinich not too long ago comes back to seriously challenge the frontrunner. The race is mostly issueless, about personality, style, and who can win. But Clark’s tax plan is an advantage, since it is the only Democratic plan that is easily understood: families making under $50,000 pay no income taxes. Dean’s proposed tax hikes aren’t just a vulnerability in the primary, but in the general election. This Clark aide worries that a Dean nomination would cost the party across the board, which is why he’s here working for Clark.