Stephen Green ponders whether Howard Dean’s candidacy is stagnating in the face of surges from Wesley Clark (in New Hampshire, as he’s had the whole state to himself while the rest of the Dems pander to Iowans prior to next Tuesday’s essentially meaningless precinct caucuses) and John Edwards (who’s picking up endorsements and favorable media coverage in Iowa).
At this point, the narrative for Iowa is pretty much written:* Edwards surges to a surprisingly strong third-place finish, and Dick Gephardt fails to live up to expectations in his own back yard against Dean, effectively starting the “death bells” for Gephardt’s campaign—with the nails to the coffin coming when he finishes spectacularly poorly in New Hampshire.
So, what’s the New Hampshire narrative? Today’s polls still show Dean with a statistically-significant, but rapidly eroding, lead over Clark. If Dean and Clark finish within single digits of each other, Dean fails to live up to expectations—and has to hope that Clark, Edwards, and Gephardt divide the South Carolina electorate enough for Dean to finish #2 behind Edwards. If, on the other hand, Dean gets a double-digit win over Clark in New Hampshire, that’s probably enough to make him the designated frontrunner and tip the balance in the non-S.C. February 3rd primaries through favorable media.
Stay tuned, things are about to get interesting…
* Update: Ok, maybe not… where the heck did Kerry come from?