A Million Wisconsin Voters Keep Options Open: Doom Dean Campaign With Fourth Place Finish
Almost one million Wisconsin voters redefined the 2004 presidential race by boosting North Carolina Senator John Edwards into contention with Democratic frontrunner John Kerry. Edwards received 283,326 votes (28.7%) to Kerry's 327,669 (33.2%).
Howard Dean received 150,682 (15.2%) which put him in fourth place just behind George Bush who got 158,673 (16.1%).
Clearly, only Kerry and Edwards have consistently run ahead of Bush in the primaries. The overriding message of the primaries is that the electorate is volatile and looking carefully at all its options. However, in a reversal of traditional political campaigns, all the candidates appear to become weaker rather than stronger the more they run around the track.
The turnout in 2004 was almost identical to the turnout 20 years ago. While 985,730 votes were cast in the primaries this year, 930,581 were cast in 1984. Ronald Reagan, the incumbent Republican president, received 280,608 votes to run first, compared to George Bush's 158,673. It makes a big difference whether one is elected by the voters or by the Supreme Court.
Gary Hart ran second in 1984 with 282,435 votes, almost identical to John Edwards' 283,326.
When the frontrunner gets around one-third of the vote and the incumbent president has failed to place first in even a single primary, the only rational conclusion is that the voters have a plethora of weak leaders from which to choose.
This bodes ill for the immediate future of a nation at war abroad and facing huge budget deficits at home. All that is needed to plunge the nation into a serious economic depression is a collapse of the housing price bubble. Given the weakness of all the candidates being offered this year, it is a pretty good bet that the worst will happen regardless of who wins.
Because the voters are clearly ambivalent about all the candidates, it is going to be a long, hard slog to November. The race will be close, because in such unappetizing situations, the only way to get the unappealing leaders to embrace policies supported by the people is to make sure that they have to fight hard for every vote.
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Contact: Joshua Leinsdorf