It will then be time for Howard Dean to say, "Now what?" "What do I do with all my Bush-haters? How do I continue to string them along as I endeavor to slither back into the land of rationality to position myself for at least, say, 40 percent of the popular vote?"
Not to worry. Deaniacs have nowhere else to go. So Dean can proceed to prove he's the centrist that his loopy supporters have been claiming he is all along. But how is he going to prove that? And how much is it going to help him if he does, especially considering that President Bush -- regrettably, in my view -- has veered center/left himself on so many domestic issues: education, prescription drugs, campaign finance reform, etc.?
Dean will probably ignore the substance of the domestic issues, too, and focus on the negative, trying to work on the hate angle here as well, through class warfare and portraying Bush as a blue blood, cozy with big corporate corruption. (Can you imagine how bonkers these Bush haters would be if a true, domestic-policy conservative were in office right now?) Nevertheless, such phony populism will satisfy Dean's carnivorous Bush-haters and may have some chance of capturing swing voters.
While I never take elections for granted and realize any number of things can happen between now and November, I truly think this will remain George Bush's election to lose.
And as this year unfolds we should keep a sharp eye on Hillary Clinton, who is focused on her 2008 presidential bid. She's savvy enough to know that war issues are going to dominate through 2004 and probably 2008. Consequently, she has already been positioning herself as more hawkish and less military-loathing.
But the shrewd Hillary will also have the advantage of observing and learning from Dean's (or whichever Democratic nominee's) campaign experiments to see what plays well.
Yes, this will be an intensely interesting year.