Who’s afraid of Richard Gephardt?

Big Media Matt says he’s “puzzled” by this story in which a majority of GOP politicians and strategists polled named Rep. Richard Gephardt as the Democratic candidate that they think is the strongest challenger to Bush. I can understand his lack of enthusiasm for Gephardt, but I don’t think there’s anything puzzling about this, nor do I think there’s anything as sinister as a feint by the GOP to get us gullible Dems to back the wrong horse.

No, I think this simply means that the GOP is as unsure right now who the most “electable” Democrat is as the Democrats are. Each of the six major candidates has different strengths, and if you focus solely on those strengths, as appears to be the case here, it’s easy enough to construct a solid case for this guy or that one. The fact of the matter is that any Democratic candidate who succeeds at using his strengths and minimizing his weaknesses will have a good shot at the Presidency. It’s just that none of us right now knows who is the most likely do this, so we pass the time speculating. Maybe these Republicans are right and maybe they’re wrong, but the bottom line is nobody knows, and we won’t know until it’s too late for us Democrats to change our minds. That more than anything is what scares me about this race.

I do have one nit to pick with this article:

One of the main reasons many other Republicans fret about Gephardt is the electoral map, which many in the GOP say points to the Midwest as the region that will decide the presidency.

It says here that the party that obsesses the most over one part of the country will lose. There are key swing states all over the map – New Hampshire, West Virginia, Pennsylvania, Ohio, Florida, Michigan, Missouri, New Mexico, Arizona, Nevada, Colorado. Focusing on one region means not paying enough attention to voters elsewhere who may be receptive to your message. Al Gore ignored the Mountain West area, and lost Colorado 883,000-738,000 with 91,000 people choosing Nader, Nevada 301,000-279,000 with 15,000 people choosing Nader, and Arizona 781,000-685,000 with 45,000 people choosing Nader (source). Voters are ignored at a candidate’s peril.

UPDATE: Nick Confessore has a good take on this at TAPPED.

UPDATE: A very different take on the merits of a Dean candidacy at Tacitus.

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