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  A Campaign to Remember
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Last EditedArmyDem  Feb 19, 2004 11:04pm
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MediaNewspaper - New York Times
News DateThursday, February 19, 2004 06:00:00 AM UTC0:0
Published: February 20, 2004


No one can doubt that something new happened during the 2004 Democratic primaries: a candidate who lost may have as great an impact on the party's political future as whichever candidate wins. That candidate, of course, is Wesley Clark.

It is inarguable that Howard Dean put backbone into his fellow Democrats, tapping a powerful vein of anger at the way President Bush is running the country. And, with the help of Joe Trippi, his campaign manager, Dr. Dean devised a potentially revolutionary new model of campaigning by using the Internet to organize volunteers and raise money. In crucial ways, however, General Clark's candidacy changed not only this election but also elections to come.

General Clark made national security and electability the crux of his campaign. Before he entered the race, Democrats were suffering from a peculiar cognitive dissonance on national security. For any Democrat running for president in 2004, one question would precede all others: can you make voters feel that they will be safer with you as president than with George W. Bush?

Only if a candidate could persuade voters that they would be safer would he be able to interest them in other issues like the economy or health care. But most Democrats were afraid to ask the question. This unwillingness to confront the issue of national security made it possible for Democrats to convince themselves that Howard Dean could beat President Bush.
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