I see little chance for a Democrat to defeat George W. Bush next year. Certainly not if one of the candidates doesn't soon break out of the pack of no-names and at least win the dubious honor of being the Democrats' 2004 nominee.
It stands to reason that one of the moderate Southern candidates, such as North Carolina's John Edwards or Florida's Bob Graham, could burst into the spotlight by abruptly announcing that they're going to skip the Iowa caucuses and the New Hampshire primary. Both those states are known for their quirky choices, and their election results are soon forgotten.
Why not take a page out of the GOP handbook of the early 1970s and create a "Southern" or "Sunbelt" strategy? After all, most political pundits are already looking to South Carolina as a first real test for Democrats who hope to carry moderate states. It might prove a stroke of genius for Graham or Edwards to bypass the waste of time, money and effort the Iowa-New Hampshire dance usually requires. They could instead concentrate on carrying South Carolina, Florida and Arizona, all of which vote early in the primary season.
With a recent union endorsement for Dick Gephardt, it's looking more and more like the gentle and amiable former House leader may repeat his Iowa caucus victory of over a decade ago. And the new celebrity Howard Dean now seems likely to battle it out with fellow New Englanders John Kerry and Joe Lieberman for the New Hampshire prize.
As for John Edwards, he has worked hard to build a base in Iowa, and perhaps that argues for him staying the more traditional course.
But Bob Graham has little to lose by traveling the unbeaten road. Newspapers have
described the longtime Florida governor-turned-senator as "eccentric." His recent hint that President Bush might be guilty of impeachable offenses for his alleged misrepresentations to the American people on Iraq looked like a moderate grasping at zany liberal straws. Still, Sen. Graham has a track record as a successful candidate in a hugely important state. He stands as one of the few Democratic candidates who come across as authoritative on both homeland security and the economy.