Last winter, he led Dean 39 percent to 11 percent in that New Hampshire survey of likely Democratic voters. Now, Dean leads Kerry 30 percent to 17 percent, a turnaround of 42 points. Where 65 percent of likely voters had a positive image of Kerry as of last winter, only half that number do today. Add to this that Dean led all other Democrats in fund raising in the third quarter, and it is becoming difficult to see just who is going to stop the antiwar ex-governor.
The anti-Dean vote may be the majority inside the Democratic Party. But it is divided among Gephardt, Kerry, Clark, and Sens. Joe Lieberman and John Edwards, with no sign any of the five can pull it together before Dean begins rolling up victories in Iowa and New Hampshire, and pulling away. One Democrat could step in at this late hour, stop Howard Dean and seize the nomination. But she is reluctant.
If, however, Dean is nominated, he will be an antiwar candidate of a party most of whose national leaders -- Gephardt, Kerry, Edwards, Lieberman, Daschle, Clinton -- voted for war. The last Democrat to take so vivid an antiwar stand was George McGovern in 1972.
Second, Dean's call for repeal of the Bush tax cuts will make him, for the purposes of GOP campaign commercials, the pro-tax candidate. Lieberman is already on tape predicting a "Dean Depression." Democrats have not nominated a tax-raiser since Walter Mondale in 1984, and like McGovern, he, too, lost 49 states.
Third, Dean's support of civil unions for homosexuals in Vermont will make gay marriage, and the GOP constitutional amendment restricting marriage to a man and woman, the social issue of 2004.
In 1972, Nixon ran against McGovern as the candidate, in Sen. Hugh Scott's phrase, of "acid, amnesty and abortion." If Bush and Karl Rove, using the $170 million they plan to raise by spring, can paint Dean as pro-homosexual weddings, pro-hiking taxes and "soft on Saddam," Dean and the Democrats could face a wipeout
Nothing is certain in politics. Few predicted the Bush swoon of last summer. And the economy could go into that "double-dip" recession some predict. But as of now, it looks like "Four More Years!" for GWB.