Leading Out of the Starting Gate

It looks as if Clark’s timing was pretty good. Less than a week into his announced campaign, he’s grabbed a big lead among Democrats (22 to Dean’s 13) and has a three-point edge on Bush. 49-46, [*] , which is marginally the best among the Democrats. Pretty impressive in a poll where 26% say they never heard of him and 22% have no opinion (of the remainder, 39% have a favorable opinion and only 13% an unfavorable one).

The timing was good because he’s getting in at a moment when the country is increasingly dissatisfied with Bush, as the tightening horse-race numbers against the other candidates shows. That makes people want to think there’s a good alternative, which makes them want to like what they hear about Clark. And that first impression is likely to create a lasting benefit.

He’s also picking up some surprising support. Charles Rangel is behind him [*], apparently having talked things over with the junior senator from New York, who owes him her seat. [*].

Even David Hackworth, having taken a hard shot at him some time ago, seems to have been won over. [*]

The Spin Machine has already started what will be a year-long effort to slime him [*]; my bet is that if he just keeps smiling it will all bounce off. If the worst thing anyone can say about Clark is that (1) he stood up to the Russians [*] and (2) some less talented peers resented him, then the voters will probably just ignore attempts to construe his nuanced answers as “flip-flops.” [*] [More on that one here.]

And of course looking like a winner is just what Clark needs to jump-start his campaign machine. That soft swishing sound you’re hearing in the background is the sound of big-money checkbooks opening up.

Author: Mark Kleiman

Professor of Public Policy at the NYU Marron Institute for Urban Management and editor of the Journal of Drug Policy Analysis. Teaches about the methods of policy analysis about drug abuse control and crime control policy, working out the implications of two principles: that swift and certain sanctions don't have to be severe to be effective, and that well-designed threats usually don't have to be carried out. Books: Drugs and Drug Policy: What Everyone Needs to Know (with Jonathan Caulkins and Angela Hawken) When Brute Force Fails: How to Have Less Crime and Less Punishment (Princeton, 2009; named one of the "books of the year" by The Economist Against Excess: Drug Policy for Results (Basic, 1993) Marijuana: Costs of Abuse, Costs of Control (Greenwood, 1989) UCLA Homepage Curriculum Vitae Contact: Markarkleiman-at-gmail.com

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