Dean is McCain, and McGovern, and Carter …

Dean is McCain, and McGovern, and Carter …

Dean is McCain, and McGovern, and Carter …

Who's winning, who's losing, and why.
Aug. 7 2003 6:48 PM

Dean Is the New McCain …

And the new Carter, and Goldwater, and McGovern, and Reagan …

Brown may be the new black, but Howard Dean is the new Brown. Jerry Brown, that is: a former governor who seems impervious to the tempering influence of focus groups. Or maybe Dean's the new George McGovern: an anti-war candidate destined to destroy his party. Or perhaps he's the new John McCain: a tightly wound straight-shooter known for his (usually) winning candor.

Dean, the once-obscure Democratic presidential candidate who doubled up on the covers of Newsweek and Time this week, has officially gone mainstream. But it's not like Dean came out of nowhere, campaign-watchers agree. He came straight out of the history books—they just can't decide which one.

Julia Turner Julia Turner

Julia Turner is the editor in chief of Slate and a regular on Slate’s Culture Gabfest podcast.

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So, here's Slate'sbrief guide to the many faces of Dean.

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Howard Dean Is the New …Says who: Said it best: What he said: What he meant:
Bill Clinton

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David Tell, Weekly Standard, April 14.

"Howard Dean, like the American politician he genuinely most resembles … Bill Clinton, has a knack for making people forget themselves and swoon."

Dean is both a natural pol and a crafty one. Karl Rove, watch your back.

John McCain

264 articles in Nexis.

 

Howard Dean (to Howard Kurtz, Washington Post, Nov. 25, 2002).

 

"I'm going to be the John McCain of this race."

 

Don't underestimate me. Oh, and I'm blunt.

Jimmy Carter

191 articles in Nexis.

David S. Broder, Washington Post, July 12

"Like former Georgia governor Carter in 1976, [Dean] the physician-politician is challenging a group of better-known Washington insiders—and conventional wisdom—for the presidential nomination of his party. … Like Carter, he travels with a single aide and stays as often as possible in the homes of local Democrats."

With a little shoeleather, anyone can win the nomination. Too bad Bush is no Gerald Ford.

 

George McGovern

137 articles in Nexis.

Al From and Bruce Reed, Democratic Leadership Council Memo, May 15.

"What activists like Dean call the Democratic wing of the Democratic Party is an aberration: the McGovern-Mondale wing, defined principally by weakness abroad and elitist, interest-group liberalism at home. That's the wing that lost 49 states in two elections."

Dean's a weakling and a snob. He can't beat Bush.

Bill Bradley

114 articles in Nexis.

Ryan Lizza, New Republic, Feb. 3 and Feb. 24.

Dean "is working feverishly to keep expectations low and to create the same maverick-versus-front-runner dynamic in New Hampshire that existed in 2000 when Bill Bradley almost beat front runner Gore."

With former Bradley staffers on board, Dean has captured the imagination of grass-roots lefties. Now he too can "almost beat" someone.

Walter Mondale

51 articles in Nexis.

Donald Lambro, Washington Times, Aug. 4.

"Dean Democrats risk further alienating [the middle class] if they run again on raising taxes—as Walter Mondale did in 1984."

Dean wants to raid your pocketbook, and Americans hate that.

Michael Dukakis

49 articles in Nexis.

Jonathan Chait, New Republic, July 28.

"Dean's opposition to the Patriot Act could be politically lethal. … Witness George H.W. Bush's 1988 attack on Michael Dukakis as a 'card carrying member of the American Civil Liberties Union.' "

If Dean's seen as a weakling, Bush will kill him.

 

Ronald Reagan

43 articles in Nexis.

Jim Fisher, Lewiston Morning Tribune, Jan. 17.

Deanknows what "Ronald Reagan before him demonstrated, that people will support someone they don't necessarily agree with if they think he is genuine. If Dean, a 54-year-old physician, is not genuine, he has gone out of his way to alienate a lot of people to present that appearance."

Americans who scorn Dean's ideas will vote for him anyway.

H. Ross Perot

25 articles in Nexis.

Rena Pederson, Dallas Morning News, July 13.

"Dr. Dean's campaign actually is more like Ross Perot's 1992 'United We Stand' campaign, which rallied Americans who felt left out of the big-money, politics-as-usual rooms. Dean posters and bumper stickers proclaim, 'I want my country back!' Most of his donations are less than $100 and come from every area of the country."

Dean may not win a single state, but at least he's galvanizing new voters.

Harry Truman

24 articles in Nexis.

Christopher Graff, Associated Press, Jan. 3

"Howard Dean is Vermont's Harry Truman … a no-nonsense, plain-speaking guy who loves to give 'em hell."

Dean is the new McCain. McCain was the new Truman. Ergo, Dean = Truman.

Josiah Bartlet

23 articles in Nexis.

Sheryl McCarthy, Newsday, July 3

Dean and the fictional president on The West Wing are both smart, maverick New England liberals whose wives are doctors. "Both can refer to the classics without coming across as highfalutin."

But smart lefties do win on television …

 

Barry Goldwater

18 articles in Nexis.

Linda Feldmann, Christian Science Monitor, July 3.

Dean has "momentum." But "the specters of Barry Goldwater and George McGovern—conservative Republican and liberal Democratic presidential candidates who lost their races spectacularly—loom on the horizon."

If Dean can't veer back to the center, he too will be remembered as a political joke.

 

Steve Forbes

18 articles in Nexis.

Jonathan Chait, New Republic, July 28.

"Both Forbes and Dean were the opposition party's ideal nominee. … Forbes, like Dean, took advantage of his outside-Washington status to batter more electable opponents for their inevitable compromises. (GOP nominee Bob Dole blamed his 1996 general-election defeat on the pounding he endured from Forbes in the primaries.)"

Dean's too far to the left to beat Bush. And if he keeps riling up liberal Democrats, his moderate rivals won't beat Bush either.

 

Jerry Brown

17 articles in Nexis.

Matt Bai, New York Times Magazine, June 1.

"Dean … has now gone from being this year's Jimmy Carter to being this year's Jerry Brown, and nobody who is serious about winning the nomination wants to be Jerry Brown. So Dean finds himself in a classic outsider's box. He probably can't attract moderate voters as long as he is seen as a protest candidate."

Dean can't win with those angry Dean voters and can't win without them.

 

William Jennings Bryan

1 article in Nexis.

Economist, June 28

 

"Liberal populism [like Dean's] has invariably proved to be a disaster for the Democrats. Remember Karl Rove's habit during the 2000 election of comparing George Bush with William McKinley? The reason why McKinley was able to usher in 30 years of Republican hegemony was that he was confronted by William Jennings Bryan and his agrarian populism."

"Agrarian populism"—isn't that Vermont's motto? Dean-style leftism may ruin the Democrats for a generation.

 

George W. Bush

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Howard Fineman, Newsweek, July 21

Bush and Dean share: "Mayflowering family trees, early industrial-era money, family compounds near Atlantic waters, prep schools and a party-hearty life at Yale (Bush '68, Dean '71). The birthright of such an upbringing is confidence in social position and a sense of license to say anything to anyone at any time—without warning, restraint, or evident regret."

Dean feels entitled to the Oval Office; as a result, he may end up there.

 

Howard Dean

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Roger Simon, July 23

"The candidate whom Howard Dean most nearly resembles is Howard Dean."

The comparisons above are meaningless. Either that, or there's no one left to compare him to.