Some campaigns peak too soon. We'll soon know if the two hottest names in politics this summer, Arnold Schwarzenegger and former Vermont Gov. Howard Dean, are bright new stars or just streaking meteors about to fizzle out.
First, Dean. The latest InsiderAdvantage Presidential 2004 tracking poll shows the once-obscure Dean is now leading nationwide among the Democrats vying for the 2004 Democratic nomination. His early stand against the war in Iraq has become more fashionable among other Democrats, and his combined use of populist rhetoric and of the Internet has made him the "electro-pop" candidate of the presidential sweepstakes.
And then there's Arnold. The Terminator is basking in the theatre lights of the California governor's recall race, but the latest Field Poll of California voters shows him trailing Democrat Lt. Governor Cruz Bustamante among potential replacements for Gov. Gray Davis. (Just about every other survey taken shows Schwarzenegger with a substantial lead over the field of hundreds of candidates.)
So what does the Democratic presidential candidate Dean have in common with the Republican movie-star-turned-gubernatorial-candidate out West? Maybe that both are suffering from an old electioneering disease -- peaking too soon.
It can be argued that such a phenomenon isn't possible with Schwarzenegger, given that he only recently announced his candidacy and the election is set for early to late fall. But now there is talk of a federal judge postponing Election Day. Plus, Schwarzenegger's decision to take advice from "real businessmen" like Warren Buffet might provide just the recipe of delay and folly necessary to switch off the Terminator's motherboard.
Having run a gubernatorial race in which a party's nominee insisted on advice from "successful businessmen," I can personally testify that even the keenest business acumen rarely translates into astute political judgment. Buffet's disastrous suggestion that Californians don't pay enough in property taxes put the Schwarzenegger campaign in the ditch almost before it got going. No one doubts Buffet's Midas touch for business decisions -- nor the fact that a tax hike may indeed be necessary. But it defies reason for Buffet to publicly offer Schwarzenegger this flippant suggestion about raising taxes almost immediately upon being hailed as Arnold's economic wizard.
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