Reflections of a battered Clarkite

I think John F. Kerry is carrying a concealed horseshoe. Or perhaps he got more than Teresa Heinz when he sold his soul to the Devil. Tonight’s results really couldn’t have been better for him:

1. He won the big prize, Missouri, and won it big.

2. He won most of the smaller prizes, and most of them convincingly: Arizona, New Mexico, North Dakota, Delaware.

3. He did badly nowhere, finishing a respectable second in South Carolina and a very close third in Oklahoma.

4. But — and this is where I suspect Satanic assistance — he did so without knocking out either Edwards or Clark, leaving both of them, along with Dean, still in the race, thereby making it impossible for either of them to emerge as the “anti-Kerry.” Edwards won South Carolina convincingly, and finished second by a nose in Oklahoma. Clark eked out a victory in Oklahoma, and finished second in Arizona, North Dakota, and New Mexico.

The Rasmussen tracking poll through Monday showed Kerry without a majority, but with a commanding lead:

Kerry 39%

Edwards 15%

Dean 10%

Clark 9%

Lieberman 8%

Sharpton 3%

Kucinich 2%

Not Sure 15%

Lieberman’s departure should give Clark a boost, and the win in South Carolina ought to give one to Edwards, but Kerry’s performance certainly isn’t going to hurt him any. Forty percent in a four-way race — Dean apparently is in for at least another two weeks — ought to be a winning proposition.

None of this changes my view that Wesley Clark would make the best candidate for November, and the best potential President, of the group. (Though Kerry certainly looks like a stronger general-election canididate right now than he did four months ago, or even four weeks ago.) But Clark is going to need a miracle pretty soon, and he didn’t get one today.

There doesn’t seem to be much chance that either Edwards or Clark will drop out soon. Why should they? It’s not as if “stopping Kerry” is as urgent a need as “stopping Dean” was. So would it be too much to hope for a non-aggression pact, to minimize the damage to the eventual nominee, whoever he is?

The obvious man to propose such a pact is the man who would benefit most from it, and who’s been committing most of the aggression so far. That would be John F. Kerry.

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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