The Corner

Smart Analysis of Kerry

from Noam Scheiber: “[C]onsider this rough history of the campaign: Last summer, Dean seizes the front-runner mantle from Kerry and runs up an early lead in Iowa and New Hampshire, locking up large numbers of committed supporters. The effect is to make it difficult not only for Kerry to get traction in the race, but for any other candidate to get traction, as well. Then Dean proceeds to melt down–which sends people scurrying back to Kerry, who, as the former front-runner, is best positioned to re-absorb their support. (Again, no one other than Kerry has had a chance to emerge as an alternative to Dean during all the months Dean is padding his lead. Because of that, Kerry remains the de facto alternative.) And then, to cap things off, the instant conventional wisdom about how Dean (and Gephardt) lost Iowa is that they were too negative–which makes every candidate reluctant to criticize the new front-runner from this point forward. In a nutshell, Dean took a lot of voters out of play early and sat on them, then handed them over to Kerry just before the voting started, then made it virtually impossible for anyone to win them back. Kerry, as the beneficiary of such an incredible set of circumstances, does not strike me as a battle-hardened candidate. He strikes me as an extremely lucky SOB.”

Ramesh Ponnuru is a senior editor for National Review, a columnist for Bloomberg Opinion, a visiting fellow at the American Enterprise Institute, and a senior fellow at the National Review Institute.