Wednesday, February 18, 2004

What Went Wrong Although it's easy to understand the slow-motion implosion that followed Dean's Iowa loss, I don't think anyone has given a satisfying explanation for why he fell so swiftly from a strong first to a distant third in the Hawkeye State.

Still, I think the beginnings of an answer can be found in the first sentence of today's exit message:

Today my candidacy may come to an end—but our campaign for change is not over.

What kind of change, exactly, is he talking about here? Healthcare? Balanced budgets? Gay rights?

In Iowa, and in the rest of the primaries, for that matter, there was only one position--opposition to the war in Iraq--that Dean was clearly and closely identified with in the minds of voters.

We knew he wanted "change" and we knew that he was from the "Democratic wing" of the party. But that aside, we didn't know much.

For a Governor with an exemplary record and literally months of free (if intense) media exposure, the fact that people still know as little about Dean's positions as they do today speaks volumes about his campaign's failure to stick to a clear message and get that message heard.

CONTRAPOSITIVE is edited by Dan Aibel. Dan's a playwright. He lives in New York City.