Skip to comments.Why not Dennis for president, supporters ask
Posted on 09/21/2003 3:04:09 PM PDT by NeoCaveman
Matt Tapscott spends his free time on weekends trudging door to door in leafy Des Moines neighborhoods, clipboard in hand, trying to make the case that a little-known congressman from Ohio should be the next president of the United States.
His candidate, Rep. Dennis Kucinich, the onetime mayor of Cleveland, is bunched near the back in a field of 10 candidates seeking the Democratic nomination.
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Hoping to break out, Kucinich tells voters he "represents the Democratic wing of the Democratic Party" and offers fundamental change, not tinkering at the edges. That hooked Tapscott.
But another hopeful, former Vermont Gov. Howard Dean - once a long shot himself - says much the same thing to emphasize that he is no namby-pamby when it comes to challenging President Bush on Iraq and the economy. And in the early going, it is Dean, not Kucinich, who has captured the imagination of many "progressive" Democrats.
These Democrats are the ones who volunteer, contribute and ultimately go to the polls in state primaries.
Why Dean and not Dennis?
Kucinich's supporters are perplexed, believing their man to be the true progressive in the race. But Dean's status as a former governor, his early and uncompromising attacks on Bush and a hefty campaign treasury are hard for a U.S. House member from the heartland to overcome.
"I struggle a lot with why he [Dean] is getting the coverage and press," said Tapscott, the 46-year-old Kucinich volunteer in Iowa. "I wonder if it doesn't have something to do with being a governor - certainly a successful governor - of a very small state."
Voters seem to like having governors in the White House. Four of the last five occupants of the Executive Mansion, including the current resident, were governors or former governors.
Congressmen, each representing constituents in one of the 435 districts throughout the country, do not have as broad a political base, or the hands-on experience of running a government. The last House member to make the drive down Pennsylvania Avenue was Ohio Republican James Garfield, elected president in 1880.
Former Columbus-area Rep. John Kasich ran for the GOP nomination in 1999 but dropped out six months before the first primary when he was unable to raise enough money to be competitive. Rep. Richard Gephardt tried and failed in 1988 but is in the running again this year with the support of Lorain Democrat Sherrod Brown, whose district adjoins Kucinich's.
The stature now being afforded Dean was missing when he started informally campaigning in June last year. But a strong money-raising effort, a creative use of the Internet and a willingness to challenge Bush directly on the war and other issues vaulted him into the first tier of candidates. Recent polls show Dean leading in Iowa and New Hampshire - states that host the first major Democratic contests in January.
"Dean has the highly educated, highly liberal, suburban, liberal and progressive wing. And that's a group that's very intense for him," said New York-based pollster John Zogby.
Early on, Dean posted his positions on a campaign Web site and solicited donations. He also established a blog - or Web log - offering a campaign diary and an opportunity for supporters to share their views. He linked his online operation with moveon.org, a popular liberal-oriented Web site, and meetup.com, one that helps candidates organize meetings electronically.
As Dean gains momentum, he increasingly refers to himself as a moderate, pointing to his 10 years as governor of Vermont, during which he balanced the state budget and delivered a health insurance plan for children and the poor. "You have Dean also leading on self-identified centrists," said Zogby.
Former Sen. Howard Metzenbaum, who endorsed Kucinich in his successful 1977 mayoral campaign, is backing Dean for president, though he insisted that Kucinich is waging "an extremely able campaign."
"Dean, you might almost say, handles himself in a presidential manner," said Metzenbaum, who retired in 1994.
Most voters look for "plausibility" - identifying with a candidate they can imagine defeating the incumbent president and taking charge of the government, said Robert Shrum, a veteran political consultant who is advising Sen. John Kerry's campaign. "Kucinich gets more applause than he gets votes, probably," Shrum predicted.
Kucinich got into the race in February - long after Dean - becoming the seventh Democrat to brave the snows of New Hampshire and Iowa in search of the delegates needed to secure the Democratic nomination. His crowds were enthusiastic, but the money came in slowly, $1.3 million in the second quarter compared with Dean's $7.4 million.
"I do think Kucinich truly represents what Dean says he represents - the Democratic wing of the Democratic Party," said Katrina vanden Heuvel, editor of the venerable liberal magazine The Nation, which has carried favorable articles about Kucinich's candidacy. "My view is if Dennis had announced [for president] earlier, he might have gained more traction as the anti-war candidate."
Kucinich and Dean are vocal foes of the war in Iraq. Kucinich rallied a majority of House Democrats to vote against the war authorization, introduced a resolution of inquiry demanding that Bush release his evidence that Iraq possessed illegal weapons and called this summer for the immediate withdrawal of U.S. troops. If elected, he would trim the Pentagon's budget by 15 percent, he says.
Dean has no such legislative record and wants American troops to leave only as international peacekeeping forces are deployed. He has criticized the Patriot Act, which gave the Justice Department vast new investigative powers, but Kucinich actually voted against it. Yet, it was Dean who emerged last year as the strongest, loudest anti-war voice in the emerging Democratic field.
"If you look back at that speech he gave to the Democratic National Committee in December, he started talking about how Democrats were caving in to Bush," said Steve Chaffin of Marion, Dean's volunteer Ohio coordinator.
Dean, says Zogby, was able to create bumper-sticker material early on: " 'I opposed the war. I'm for the little guy.' " Kucinich, the pollster said, "is running to be the captain of the left. There's a campaign that's just too hot there. This is a Green Party-type candidacy."
Both Democrats would roll back all or part of Bush's tax cuts to pay for social spending. Both favor abortion rights, affirmative action and removing barriers to union organizing. Each would strengthen the enforcement of federal environmental laws.
But where Dean would expand existing programs and use tax credits to provide medical insurance in an $88.3 billion program, Kucinich would scrap the entire system and "take the profit out of health care." The Cleveland Democrat wants a single-payer system, essentially covering everybody under Medicare.
There are other differences.
Kucinich would cancel the North American Free Trade Agreement; Dean wants to reform it by insisting that our trading partners observe environmental and human-rights standards. Kucinich wants a federal law sanctioning gay marriage. Dean signed a state law authorizing civil unions, but he leaves the question of same-sex marriage to the states. Kucinich voted for Bush's bipartisan education reform law. Dean opposes it as an unfunded mandate on states that have primary responsibility for public education.
Tapscott, director of a Des Moines day-care center, isn't slowing down - not when Kucinich represents for him "the Democratic message I grew up with - a livable wage, universal health insurance, do away with NAFTA." His door-to-door canvassing is concentrated on households likely to attend Iowa's Jan. 19 caucuses, but he says Kucinich is also attracting new people, nontraditional voters.
John Kulewicz, a Columbus lawyer who ran Gary Hart's 1984 presidential campaign in Ohio, says Kucinich "speaks to the heart of the Democratic Party."
Yet, Dean is Kulewicz's candidate. "I admired his outspoken and thoughtful statement about the war [last year] which, at the time, took a lot of courage and foresight to make. He speaks like nobody else, it seems to me, in a very sensible way."
Plain Dealer Washington Bureau Chief Stephen Koff contributed to this story.
To reach this Plain Dealer reporter:
P.S. When they bringing in Couch (off topic)
Someone who makes Dean look moderate? Just Damn.
Let me count the ways.
Wait...I don't have all night and I there probably isn't enough bandwidth available.
Dennis takes on the Evil world of Medicine to "TAKE THE PROFIT OUT OF HEALTH CARE"
He really said that durring the 1st Dem debate.
Dennis is The Nation's candidate. They demanded that he drop his longtime pro-life stance in return for being anointed their chosen "progressive" in the race. He did all that and more. And he's running behind Al Sharpton.
Go Cain Go!
That gives me a big smile. That and the Browns are down by only 5 in the fourth :-)
Little known story is that Dennis may lose his house seat in the Democrat primary. The west side of Cleveland always has a pro-life congressman and Dennis the Menace flipped for the presidential run.
Yes... again :-)
It was 2.4 to 1 odds straight up. I'm doing the happy dance already :-)
Well Jerry is heads and shoulders above Dennis the Menace.
But since you are a local I'll ignore that part.....
"Moon over Parma
Bring my love to me tonight
We're going bowlin
So don't lose her in Solon
Moon over Parma tonight....
I said tonight
Moon over Parma tonight