Robert Novak

Most Americans and, indeed, most Democrats are hardly aware of Howard Dean's existence. The national polls that have propelled him well ahead of any other candidate still give him support from only one of four Democrats (slipping slightly after Hussein's capture). He runs far behind Bush in any one-on-one poll. However, the McAuliffe-shortened primary campaign is all in Dean's favor.

If Dean is the clear winner in Iowa and New Hampshire, he would seem assured of the nomination. Even if he is upset in Iowa by Rep. Richard Gephardt, it is hard to imagine Gephardt with enough money in the bank to battle Dean down the long primary election trail. Sen. John Kerry is seen as the only Democrat with the potential wherewithal to contest the money-heavy Dean, but Kerry's performance has been one of the year's great political disappointments.

As the economic outlook brightens, Democrats depend on the situation in Iraq to defeat Bush. That only deepens the party's dilemma. Surveys taken after Saddam Hussein's capture for the CNN/USA Today/Gallup poll show just 37 percent of Democrats think Iraq was worth going to war. But among all other voters, such support reached 70 percent (amounting to 61 percent nationally if Democrats are included).

Joe Trippi last week said the anti-Dean ad on foreign policy "panders to the worst in voters." Actually, the Democrats and Dean are out of step on the issue they think will move the nation. That makes it even more difficult to stop Howard Dean.

Robert Novak

Robert Novak (1931-2009) was a syndicated columnist and editor of the Evans-Novak Political Report.

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