Never underestimate the power of wishful thinking

Charles Krauthammer offers an insightful analysis of the reversal of fortune between Howard Dean and John Kerry. Krauthammer thinks that Kerry’s underlying problem is that, in the context of a hated (by the Democrats) incumbent, a “judicious, thoughtful, passionless” candidate like Kerry cannot gain traction. There is some truth to this (think of Ed Muskie in 1972). But there may also be a likeability factor at work too (think of John Connally or Phil Gramm).
Nonetheless, Krauthammer refuses to regard Dean as the presumptive candidate. He speculates that the Democratic establishment “may not want to be driven over a cliff” by a left-running nominee. Thus, he sees the possibility that the party establshment will derail Dean in the southern primaries.
This scenario cannot be dismissed entirely. But it is not clear that the Democratic establishment has the capacity to stop Dean. Indeed, it is not clear to me that there actually is a Democratic establishment that exercises “adult supervision” over the party in any meaningful respect. Finally, the downturn in President Bush’s popularity is probably more than enough to convince what might pass as the adult wing of the Democratic party that Dean can defeat Bush or even that, given his passion and attack-dog approach, he is just the guy to defeat Bush.

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