Monday, October 27, 2003

Kerry's fading candidacy. Last week I ran into someone who described himself as a strong John Kerry supporter, a politically savvy guy who used to work for the senator. He urged me to investigate those polls that showed Howard Dean trouncing Kerry in New Hampshire.

It's not real, he insisted. He especially wanted me to check in with pollster John Zogby, whose methodology, he claimed, showed that Kerry was doing far better against Dean in New Hampshire than the other polls suggest.

Well, on Friday, Zogby reported that Dean had opened up a 40 percent-to-17 percent lead over Kerry in New Hampshire. "This is stunning," Zogby quoted himself as saying. "This qualifies as juggernaut status. Can he be stopped?"

Yesterday, the Boston Globe published poll results that showed Dean leading Kerry in New Hampshire by a margin of 37 percent to 13 percent.

It's still early, of course, but it's not that early. In a large field in which no one has really broken through, Dean has simply done more things right than anyone else. He has managed the contortionist's trick of establishing himself as the frontrunner and the insurgent simultaneously, and he's raising a ton of dough -- meaning that, unlike past early surprises such as John McCain (2000) and Gary Hart (1984), Dean will have no problem capitalizing on a big New Hampshire win, if that is indeed what lies in his future.

As for Kerry ... well ... he remains the establishment's choice, a solid, stolid, intelligent person with deep foreign-policy credentials and a mainstream liberal voting record. But you have to ask: is this someone who is capable of making up a lot of ground in a short period of time? He's not exciting or flashy. He is incapable of explaining his complicated position on Iraq in a soundbite. In other words, Kerry -- after enjoying a brief moment as the consensus frontrunner earlier this year -- may now be the fallback candidate: the guy voters turn to if Dean implodes. And there's no sign that Dean is going to implode.

I watched some of last night's debate (confession: I passed out cold about half-way into it), and thought Kerry got off a few good lines -- especially his zing at Dean, who said he would surround himself with good foreign-policy advisers. "We're electing a president of the United States, not a staff," Kerry said.

But Kerry was, as usual, too quick to cite his military service, as he did when defending himself against Joe Lieberman, who had criticized him for voting against the $87 million package in aid for Iraq. And there is the continued logistical impossibility of breaking through at a debate when there are nine candidates on stage.

The Boston Herald's David Guarino and Andrew Miga think last night's debate was a good moment for Kerry. He's going to need a lot more such moments.

The Great Savior, Wesley Clark, appears to be going nowhere fast, but his presence does make it less likely that the media will give Kerry a second look. And Dean keeps doing his thing, and doing it well.

But first, are you experienced? The Globe's Gordon Edes yesterday on potential Red Sox managerial candidate Bud Black: "[H]e has zero managing experience, and Boston is no place for your first job."

A few paragraphs later, on Willie Randolph: "He hasn't managed before, but there's nothing wrong with raiding the Empire, is there?"

Local the way Mr. Potter was local. It's pretty hard to get worked about about the impending demise about Fleet Bank, isn't it? The Globe's Steve Bailey breaks another big story.

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