Thursday, January 08, 2004

Dubious Electoral Math

Daily Kos reprinted a piece from the subscription-only Wall Street Journal, describing each of the Democratic contenders' strategies for winning the primary. Some of them are entirely plausible - for example, the Clark campaign hopes that Dean will knock out Gephardt in Iowa and that Clark will win a strong second place standing in New Hampshire, after which "Mr. Clark would move to friendly territory in the South and Southwest." That's a reasonable scenario, given that Clark's passed Kerry in the NH polls.

Kerry's supposed winning strategy, on the other hand, seems a bit further afield.
A second-place finish in the Hawkeye State would propel the Massachusetts Democrat, they argue, to parity in New Hampshire --where he now trails Dr. Dean by 20 points -- and, more than Mr. Gephardt, he could compete financially and politically in the political landscape ahead. Dr. Dean has raised twice as much money as Mr. Kerry, and the senator has been forced to dip into his personal wealth to finance some of the campaign.
Okay: Kerry's not going to finish second in Iowa. Iowa is a Dean-Gephardt race. But even if he did take second place in Iowa, it's hard to see how that would help him close a 20-point gap in New Hampshire. A "surprisingly strong finish" (as the press likes to call it) primarily boosts candidates who aren't very well-known, because they get more attention from the media and the voters. People in New Hampshire know Kerry already.

Finally, as harsh as that bit is about "Dr. Dean has raised twice as much money as Mr. Kerry," it understates the amount of trouble Kerry's in. Yes, Kerry's 2003 donations ($22.5 million, not counting the $6 mil he borrowed from himself) were about half what Dean raised in 2003 ($40 million). But quarter by quarter, Dean's fundraising has been surging ahead and Kerry's has been falling. In the first quarter of 2003, Kerry was the top Democratic fundraiser, leading Dean $7.5 million to 2.9 million. By the fourth quarter, Dean raised $15.3 million to Kerry's 2.5 million. That's more than six times as much. The trend is what really counts.