Howard Dean Speaks At Asian American Action Fund
Brendan Smialowski  /  Getty Images file
Democratic National Committee Chairman Terry McAuliffe arranged a front-loaded schedule of primaries and caucuses that boosted the winner of the first two contests in Iowa and New Hampshire.
By Tom Curry National affairs writer
msnbc.com
updated 2/7/2004 10:27:46 PM ET 2004-02-08T03:27:46

His smashing victories Saturday in Michigan’s primary and Washington state’s caucuses gave Massachusetts Sen. John Kerry his biggest cache of delegates yet in the Democratic presidential race, putting him further ahead of his rivals and adding to the sense of momentum that has led party professionals such as former presidential contender Rep. Dick Gephardt to give their delegate votes to Kerry.

Each delegate brings him closer to the 2,162 needed to secure the nomination.

With his dual Saturday triumphs, Kerry now looks even more likely than he was Friday to outlast his adversaries, Howard Dean, North Carolina Sen. John Edwards and retired Gen. Wesley Clark.

Who gets the credit?
Kerry’s triumph is the work of several hands, from the young political veterans of the 2000 Al Gore campaign who are working in Kerry’s Capitol Hill townhouse headquarters to his base of donors from California to Massachusetts.

But four architects of Kerry’s victory deserve special mention.

First, and in an unexpected way, Howard Dean.

Last November, Dean, then the front-runner for the nomination, was cruising ahead of Kerry and all others on a wave of campaign contributions, many of them generated by his campaign Web site and his e-mail network of more than 400,000 names.

So confident of victory was Dean that in a bold display he asked his donor network to give money not to his campaign, but to that of Iowa Rep. Leonard Boswell. Dean had so much money in his warchest he could afford to share the wealth with a House candidate who had not even endorsed him.

Dean’s donors did as asked, raising $50,000 for Boswell in just a few days.

Bravado backfires
Dean’s bravado may turn out to be one key to his downfall: The former Vermont governor decided to opt out of federal campaign spending limits, freeing him to spend as much as he needed to crush his rivals.

Trying to keep pace with Dean, Kerry followed suit by also opting out of the spending limits.

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Dean, it now turns out, had done Kerry a great favor. Outside of the limits, Kerry is now free to raise and spend as he sees fit, while his nearest rival, Edwards, is still limited in his spending.

The second architect of Kerry’s victory was someone who isn't a nationally known figure: John Norris, Kerry’s formidable field marshal in Iowa, who helped keep Kerry in contention in the daunting weeks before Christmas when many pundits and pollsters were writing him off.

A congressional candidate in Iowa in 2002, Norris had his own network of Iowa friends and operatives who, partly out of personal loyalty to Norris, worked hard to put Kerry over the top with his victory in the Jan. 19 caucuses.

Kerry's win in Iowa was the key because it dealt a shocking blow to Dean’s illusion of inevitability.

Kennedy rallies the troops
The third architect of victory was Massachusetts Sen. Ted Kennedy, the party's elder statesman, who flew to Iowa to deliver rousing speeches calling on Iowa Democrats to support Kerry.

Kennedy, who'd unsuccessfully challenged the incumbent president of his own party, Jimmy Carter, in Iowa in 1980, wasn’t able to bring himself victory but he helped bring it to Kerry.

The fourth architect of victory was Democratic National Committee chairman Terry McAuliffe, who had designed a compressed primary schedule that concentrated contests in Arizona, Missouri and five other states on Feb. 3. McAuliffe’s front-loaded schedule meant that an unexpected loser in Iowa and New Hampshire would have no time to catch his breath and climb back on his feet before having to fight in the Feb. 3 round of contests.

The Dean campaign — staggered by its fiascoes in Iowa and New Hampshire — had no time to recover its strength for the round of seven contests last Tuesday. Dean failed to win any of them; Kerry won five of the seven.

Now, with Tennesse and Virginia contests on Tuesday, Kerry's rivals are running out of gambits that might slow his progress or sow doubts about his candidacy.

By largely conceding Michigan and Washgton state to Kerry, Edwards and Clark handed over most of the 204 delegates at stake to a man who already had a commanding lead in the delegate tally.

Thanks to McAuliffe and the DNC, time is now working very much in Kerry's favor.

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