August 03, 2003
Dean invades the Texas airways

I've seen the Howard Dean TV ad that's running in Austin (you can see it here), and I must say I like it. He comes across as calm and reasonable, but still makes his point that President Bush's policies have been bad for the country. Thumbs up from this corner.

As for the wisdom of running this ad, let's first be clear about something. George W. Bush is going to carry the state of Texas in 2004. Texas didn't provide his biggest margin of victory in 2000 percentage-wise (that was Wyoming, which he won 69-28), but 59-38 is pretty impressive. The Democratic ticket got roughly the same number of votes in 2000 that it did in 1996, when Bob Dole nipped Bill Clinton by 49-44%, while Bush improved the Republican total by nearly a million ballots. That's a mountain that isn't going to be climbed in 2004.

So if Texas is essentially unwinnable for a Democratic candidate, why bother spending the money? There are three very good reasons to do so.

1. There's still the small matter of the Democratic nomination for President. Texas may not have any electoral votes for Howard Dean, but it does have delegates, and he will need all of them he can get.

2. By bearding the lion at his ranch like this, Dean generated all kinds of free publicity for his campaign. People all around the country will read about it. How many political ads - in particular, how many political ads that don't have some pissed-off advocacy group demanding an apology and a retraction - become known to an audience that will never see them? As an added bonus, now Dean gets to add the "unafraid to take on the President on his own turf" meme to his story line. That will serve him well some day.

3. From the perspective of the state Democratic Party, the best thing that could happen to them in 2004 is for the Presidential candidate to spend money contesting Texas. If people feel they have a chance to vote for a winner, they'll overlook the fact that their vote won't actually make any Electoral College difference. Getting these voters out to the polls in 2004 could make the difference between losing more Congressional and State House seats to the Republicans and holding steady or even picking up a seat here and there.

I doubt that the latter point weighed on their minds at Dean Nation, but I do hope that the national Party and whoever the nominee will be has realized that just beating Bush isn't enough. If you want to undo some of the things he's done, you've got to win back at least one chamber of Congress as well. Not losing ground in a state like Texas would help.

So I approve of this ad. I hope to see more like it next year.

(Sidebar: Be sure to read this WaPo article and this US News article on the good doctor. Via Not Geniuses.)

Posted by Charles Kuffner on August 03, 2003 to The making of the President | TrackBack

The ad was a stunt, and a pretty good one. They showed it today on MTP, and it will probably show on several other news outlets. It made a national impression and that audience, not Austin, was what Dean was going after. That's worth more than the cost of running a few local ads in a small market.

Showing Dean going after Bush reinforces the idea that he is now a frontrunner, able to go after Bush instead of his primary opponents. Doing it in Texas gives it a certain fearless spin. ON the whole, full points for this one. It shows that Dean's people have the gumption and the imagination that it will take to fight Bush.

Posted by: Alex on August 3, 2003 7:56 PM

Thanks for the link to view the ad. I agree that it's a fairly good one. Simple. Down to earth. This guy and his team are serious about winning and they are making up their own rules. I love it.

Posted by: ibyx on August 3, 2003 10:47 PM

#1 and #3 are bad ideas. If Dean is doing this for delegates, he's misguided. The primaries are usually decided before Super Tuesday; it's the way the system works. If Dean is doing this in hopes of making Texas a contested state, he's naive. Bush is too popular here, and besides, he has more than enough money to match Dean.

I still think Dean is making a smart move because of #2. This is free publicity -- it makes him look like the front-runner. Heck, he's on the cover of Newsweek and Time, and anything to reinforce the perceptions of Dean as leading for the nomination can be nothing but good for him.

Posted by: Owen Courrèges on August 4, 2003 12:39 AM