Here's MSNBC with the numbers at 12:30 AM out PST way
Obviously a good night for John Kerry. One forgets for a moment that he was supposed to have been here in this position all year, but it's been a weird ride for Mr. Heinz. I guess if his ambition really is to be President, that was a pretty good $6 million of his wife's money that he spent over Christmas to keep his campaign on life support. He really is at his best when the chips are totally down.
The next week will be interesting, and I think there will be some media blowback and buyer's remorse on Kerry. It looks like he'll throw a lot of energy into Missouri, particularly, and it looks like his to grab because of the money involved. Dean is going to stay away from Missouri and try to cherry pick in the Southwest and bide his time until the rust belt states come the following week. Clark and Edwards are going to have to challenge Kerry in the mid-South; because Clark will probably try to focus on the Southwest like Dean, it may be left to Edwards. I remain optimistic about Edwards in that sense; he should end up with South Carolina as Sharpton's current vote power recedes, and could, without much money or effort, be the simple beneficiary of any Kerry blowback in a place like Missouri. I tell you what, if Kerry takes a relative beating next week all over the South and Southwest where he is least well positioned beyond monetarily, he will find his frontrunner bubble rudely burst.
Dean did just enough to keep media perceptions from forcefully tanking his candidacy. He went from 3rd to 2nd, and was the only serious challenger to Kerry in New Hampshire. Of course, two weeks ago he was positively CRUSHING Kerry, but that was then and this is now. He's got the cash to fan out everywhere Kerry can go and more, and this is where I think his national legion of scarily focused supporters will come in most handy. Iowans and Hampshirites are pretty leery of outsiders as a rule, I think. I have a sense that the earnest Deaniacs will both be better practiced and less overtly annoying to the locals elsewhere. On the other hand, what Dean has to sell is least valued on the market in most of the states he's contesting. Still, his rebound from death was politically reassuring in a broad sense: a real candidate with real ideas was thankfully not dismissed on the strength of a zealous concession speech that was surely weird, but ultimately should not be the basis of nominee selection. By contrast, tonight's speech should have been cause for real celebration--he's not dead!--but while Dean gave a very nice oration, it was as if the Zoloft they'd been sneaking into his Diet Cokes had finally kicked in. The crowd was as into it as ever, but the candidate was not going to let anything unduly excite him. He learned, in the nick of time, that people are actually WATCHING him as he runs for President.
A bit of a surprise for me and many others; we were all riding the CW that Edwards had the Big Mo that was so important in Iowa. But this is about the most uninspiring 3rd place finish in the history of politics. Well, maybe all 3rd places are dull--except that some eventual winners have been 3rd in NH. You definitely do NOT get the idea that Wesley Clark will ride this 3rd place finish to victory in November. For one thing, he had about a month to himself here, and as soon as everybody got off the plane from Iowa, poof! there went all that work. Another week, and Edwards would have passed him. Another week, and I assure you Edwards will. Even his speech was apologetic: "we're smarter, better, stronger." Feh. What you're saying is that you learned that you can't put together a highly credible campaign--your first--in 5 months off the Internet. Clark's niche in the nomination process, if he had one, is clearly being obliterated. I cannot for the life of me figure out what he offers the Democratic voter that you can't get somewhere else. Every base he has, is being stood on by a different candidate.
Just a hair short of making the magical top 3, but this was as painless as a 4th place could be. There was some wild talk of him overtaking Dean if his bounceback was illusory, but Dean's people and dollars had just been here too long and in too great a force for Edwards to challenge him. But he was definitely everyone's favorite orator, and I think the hard on he gave the press (and the willies he's beginning to give some GOP strategists) will keep him from falling too far or hard. And of course his big entrance to the dance is South Carolina. Clark theoretically thinks he's going to contest in South Carolina, but I don't see great things--probably 3rd bordering on 4th like tonight, with Edwards and Kerry taking the first two slots and Dean threatening him from behind (so to speak). This is Edwards' turf, and just being a generic Southerner with veteran status isn't going to make it for Clark here. Besides, he'll split the vet vote with Kerry anyway. This state will of course be the marquee event for testing Kerry's play in the land of hominy, and secondarily now that Kerry's the frontrunner, how Edwards does as the tempting candidate to seek the electoral high fruit of '04. Get ready for a week's worth of wall to wall smiles and good ol boy populism, SC!
Poor Joe Lieberman went out there and tried to crow about 9%. None of the top four were losers tonight, although Clark came damned close. Joe Lieberman definitely lost. The victory for Dean is that even if he loses, the nominee will be a lot more like him than if Dean had not run. Dean's victory is Lieberman's loss, because in this winter game of crack the whip, Joe's centrist beliefs were ironically not at the center of the whip but way to the edge. The faster the "outsider who fights for YOU!" spin began to cycle, the slicker the ice got for Lieberman. As he careens around the metaphoric lake I've built for you here, he's got to be wondering how he went from inches away from the Vice Presidency, to teetering on the edge of dangerously thin ice. He's finished, obviously--NH was clearly his best shot and he failed miserably. Two of his comments in an admittedly difficult speech to write were particularly absurd. First, he whined about not getting a photo in the day's Union alongside the Big Four. "We deserved a photo in that paper!" he thundered. Friends, that's just sad. That's a pathetic way to rally your troops in their lowest moment. And then he said, "You know, for us it's always been more than a campaign." I sure hope so, because the campaign and a dollar doesn't even get you a single Euro these days. He'll waste some good folks' money by staying in it at least another week, but he ought to hang it up now.
Got 1%. Love ya Denny, but this may be time for you as well. Hell, you got to show your charts on NPR in a real live debate! Other than your utterly preposterous desire to immediately pull out of Iraq, I think you have excellent ideas for turning around this country, that will never, ever, ever, ever, ever come close to being adopted as policy by your fellow Americans--at least not in your political lifetime. You have added honor and substance to the debate. Your time is done. Be glad that assmeg Simon from American Idol doesn't judge the debates.
If he fucks things up for Edwards in South Carolina, there are going to be some Research Triangle-type crackers really, really pissed off at him. I think he'll do better than at least 342 votes (I don't want to short him; the returns are only at 97%, after all), but I give black voters credit enough for not considering Sharpton a serious candidate, even if they tell pollsters they're going to vote for him.
Beware of some seriously shameless pandering for the African American vote by all candidates, however. Bleh.