Dean is the only major Democratic candidate to evade the sissifying barbs of the GOP's shock-jock surrogates. First, comely John Edwards was labeled "the Breck girl." (He trimmed his hair, to no avail.) When Edwards flagged and John Kerry emerged, he was dubbed "Mr. Ketchup," implying that his wife's fortune, and by extension Teresa Heinz Kerry herself, wears the pants in their manse.
--Richard Goldstein in last week's Nation
I bring this quote up because a lot of people have been worried that Howard Dean would have been too vulnerable to attacks in the general election, and many of those people, I guess, are relieved, if not delighted, to see the Iowa result.
I understand that. But remember: Kerry's not going to be the candidate -- he may be the party's nominee, but if he is, Ketchup Boy is going to be the candidate. And if Edwards is nominated, Breck Girl is going to be the candidate.
You know what I mean: The process of turning the Democratic nominee into an awkward, pathetic loser and oddball is going to happen, no matter what -- the process just happened to kick into high gear a lot earlier for Dean. The mainstream press isn't parroting GOP attacks on most of the Democratic candidates yet, but it'll happen soon.
And you have to ask yourself who has the backbone to stand up to that kind of crap. Does Kerry? Does Edwards? I worry, especially about Edwards -- it's not that a sunny-dispositioned guy can't fight a bare-knuckle brawl and win (see Clinton, Bill), but right now Edwards is getting so many brownie points from the press for being nice that I'm afraid he'll be putty in Karl Rove's hands.
Well, we'll see. I suppose you could say these guys fought back in Iowa. But their primary antagonist was Howard Dean, and when they responded, the press piled on with them. The press damn sure isn't going to pile on with the Democratic nominee in the fall.
I want someone who can take hits and keep swinging. It doesn't have to be someone like Dean who seems like a battler -- maybe someone whose personality is a little less "hot" (as ol' Marshall McLuhan used to say) would play better in Peoria. But it's got to be someone who can take a low blow without crumpling, and who can battle back. I have trouble seeing Edwards as that candidate, or Kerry for that matter. But maybe they'll surprise me.