Some very good news for Wesley Clark in the latest Gallup poll: he’s back within 4 points of Dean, and way ahead of the rest: Dean 24, Clark 20, Kerry 11 Lieberman 10, Gephardt 9, Edwards 6. There’s a big gender gap; Clark is clobbering Dean among men and getting clobbered among women.
That seems to back up the idea that Clark would do better competing for the male vote in November, historically a problem for the Democrats. But right now, it gives the Clark campaign a challenge: how to get some women to vote for him. Getting DVD’s of the “American Son” bio-video into the hands of a bunch of voters might help, and I gather that process is already in the works.
Among all voters (not just Democrats) Clark’s negatives are up, but at a still-manageable 26% (vs. 37% favorable). Dean’s favorable/unfavorable is a nasty-looking 28%/39%. In fact, all of the Democrats except Clark have net negative favorability nationally, suggesting how much damage they have done to one another and to the party by slanging at one another in those stupid debates.
The poll was taken before the Bradley endorsement, which I would guess to be largely a non-event, and before Clark announced his tax plan, which looks like a political winner to me. It’s different enough from previous polls so I wouldn’t put too much stock in it before seeing it confirmed, but added to the New Hampshire numbers it sure makes the “Dean v. Clark” narrative look much more plausible, doesn’t it?
Some of the darkening of Dean’s image must reflect his verbal bobbles over the past couple of weeks. But some of it reflects the way the RNC sliming apparatus is starting to work on him. At first blush, you might (if you think, as I do, that Dean would be the weaker of the two candidates in November)have expected Rove & Co. to hold their fire until Dean was solidly in command of the Democratic race. However, they actually faced, and face, a fairly tricky timing problem.
On the one hand, I don’t think they want to run against Clark. On the other, they couldn’t afford to let Dean build up a highly positive image nationally; first impressions stick. (What’s happening to Dean now is what the Democrats should have been doing to GWB in the winter of 1999-2000. Of course, they wouldn’t have had to invent any phony scandals, just document the real ones.)
It’s possible that the Republican attack dogs will now feel that the initial slime-job on Dean is done, and will back off from Dean and see how much more mud they have available to sling at Clark.
Not much, I’d bet; that’s an advantage of not having held elective office before.