George Will

If Dean wins neither place, he is done, and neither Gephardt nor Kerry, having probably won one each (Iowa and New Hampshire respectively), is invincible. If Dean wins both -- arguably the ideal outcome for Lieberman -- Gephardt and Kerry are done. Then Lieberman can hope to prevail with the less liberal electorates in Delaware, Oklahoma, Arizona, Missouri, North Dakota, New Mexico and especially South Carolina, where perhaps 40 percent of primary participants will be African-Americans.

If Lieberman wins South Carolina, it will be partly because, he says, ``a certain bonding'' with African-Americans occurred in the 2000 campaign. It also will be partly because of the resonance among blacks of his religiosity. And it will be partly, he says, a reprise of 1960, when Lieberman, then 18, watched John Kennedy trying to become the first Catholic elected president. Lieberman recalls thinking: ``If he does well, he opens doors for all of us.'' African-Americans, he thinks, may feel the same about the first Jewish candidate for president from a major political party.

Mark Penn, pollster for Lieberman's campaign, is nimble at the art of finding silver linings on clouds. He says, in effect: Pity poor Dean. He has already been on the cover of Time and Newsweek. Are they apt to do that again, even if he wins early contests? And Penn notes that Dean's Vermont has ``no inner city problems Democrats can relate to,'' and a budget too small to pose problems that can test a chief executive.

In 2000, Lieberman, embracing his role as Al Gore's running mate, emulated Henri of Navarre, the French sovereign who converted from Protestantism to Catholicism to preserve his power, blithely explaining that ``Paris is well worth a mass.'' For Lieberman, being on the ticket was worth trimming on some issues (tempering his criticism of Hollywood's cultural coarsening, backing away from school choice through vouchers).

Dean fancies himself a bold risk-taker as he tells Democratic activists exactly what they want to hear. It is, sad to say, really risky in today's Democratic Party, which is tethered to teachers unions, for Lieberman to say that he will soon vote for legislation to establish an experimental voucher program for the poor children caught in the District of Columbia's disastrous schools.

George Will

George F. Will is a 1976 Pulitzer Prize winner whose columns are syndicated in more than 400 magazines and newspapers worldwide.
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