(Yep, that’s me on the left. With a lot more hair and beardless.)
“The Scream Heard ‘Round The World.” In 2004 during the Democratic Presidential Primaries, Gov. Howard Dean notified campaign supporters after a defeat in Iowa that he would be going to the rest of the primary states and take back the White House, which led to a “BYAAH” scream which was amplified and repeated over FOX News, the Daily Show, and every other news or “news” source one could imagine. Many who were only giving a cursory glance to the campaign would believe this scream tanked Dean’s campaign- the reality is sadly more boring, but we will explore it anyway.
As Clay Shirky discusses in his article, Iowa and New Hampshire tanked Dean’s campaign before the scream ever did. Iowa and New Hampshire are first two states that have Democratic contests- the Iowa caucus, which is a community-based exercise where groups of people get together and vote in a giant room after hearing from representatives from each of the campaigns. The New Hampshire primary, on the other hand, is a more traditional ballot-based voting system. Unfortunately for Dean, “the voters didn’t like him.” This is the reason Shirky gives for why Dean lost, and I would agree with that assessment. Trippi does show that the Dean campaign did offer a flavor for the grassroots online campaigning that Barack Obama would later use, “By the end of January 2004, as the primaries commenced, Dean had raised more than $41 million, much of it online; 318,884 citizens had contributed to the Dean campaign. Overall, 61 percent of Dean’s financial resources came from those giving $200 or less,” but the differences between the Obama campaign and the Dean campaign were in the planning and the likeability factor.
Whereas the Dean campaign started out of a small office and had to play massive amounts of catch-up to get to the levels that Kerry, Edwards, and Lieberman were enjoying, the Barack Obama campaign’s rise was planned and executed by David Plouffe, the political wizard who was legendary for his frugality and ingenuity with the trials and tribulations of a campaign. They knew Iowa would be the game changer and spent every waking second there, because they realized that it was Iowa or bust, given the Clinton’s successes in New Hampshire. With their strategy, they won Iowa and kept New Hampshire within three points.
Going back to Shirky’s likeability argument, Dean never resonated with the American people or had the catchy message of hope and change that Obama’s campaign used to great success. People were awed by Obama’s rhetorical ability and flocked to him, beginning at the 2004 DNC speech but to a much greater element during the 08 campaign. Youth who had before been unaffected by politics were motivated and energized to work for a candidate promising a complete overhaul from the unsuccessful Bush years.
So, what do you think the successes were with the Dean campaign and their failures? Do you agree with Shirky that the campaign ended in Iowa and New Hampshire? What lessons did the Obama campaign learn from Dean’s successes and failures?