Bill Press: Howard Dean is no George McGovern
In politics, voters choose a candidate based on what he stands for, not who stands with him. Most endorsements don't amount to a hill of beans.
One big exception: Al Gore's endorsement of Howard Dean. This is huge. By draping his battle-scarred toga over Dean's shoulders, Gore didn't guarantee him the nomination. But he sure did give Dean instant national credibility. And he catapulted him from a maverick outsider to the clear, establishment front-runner for 2004.
By jumping on Dean's bandwagon, Gore did one more thing: He helped destroy the absurd notion that Howard Dean is the next George McGovern, destined to take the Democratic Party in a suicidal plunge over the cliff in 2004, just like McGovern did in 1972 – losing to Richard Nixon in every state but Massachusetts.
That image, of course, is exactly what Republicans are already selling. "It will be necessary for Bush to make Dean unacceptable to independents and a segment of the Democratic Party – to 'McGovernize' him," Frank Donatelli, former Reagan White House political director, told the Washington Times the day after Gore's endorsement.
To which I say: baloney! I walked precincts for George McGovern in 1972. George McGovern is a friend of mine. Howard Dean is no George McGovern. Here's why.
Contrary to what today's Republican strategists would have us believe, McGovern was not wiped out over his opposition to the Vietnam War. True, in 1972, most Americans still supported the war. But McGovern lost so badly mainly because he ran a lousy, inept campaign.
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