From Jim Gilliam's blog archives
Shooting the messenger

February 7, 2004 1:38 PM

CalPundit begins the post-mortem process on Dean, his campaign, and the Internet. His point? The Internet was hugely successful in building Dean's campaign, but the candidate just sucked.

It's a given in my business that the best marketing in the world can't sell a product that people don't want, and in the end I think that's all that happened here. After all, look at what the internet accomplished for Howard Dean: it raised a ton of money and generated loads of activist enthusiasm, which in turn bought a huge ground staff, encouraged endorsements from two of the biggest unions around, allowed the campaign to saturate the airwaves with advertising, boosted him to #1 in the polls, and helped fund a 50-state organization that was the envy of every other candidate.

In other words, the internet was instrumental in helping build all the traditional mechanisms that elect a candidate. The fact that it still didn't work just means that the candidate wasn't good enough. After all, Phil Gramm raised a boatload of money in 1996 and then disappeared without a trace. It happens.

Politics is a funny business and it's hard to know why some people succeed and others don't. But whatever the reason for Dean not succeeding, I don't think the blame can be laid on his internet operation. Without that, he wouldn't have gotten even as far as he did.

I've said for sometime that the Dean campaign has very little to do with Dean, it was just the message that we are responding to. I was wrong though. In the end, it really is about Dean.

They liked what he had to say -- his message defined the entire election cycle -- but they shot the messenger anyway.

More from the archive in Howard Dean, Internet.

Shooting the messenger (02.07.2004)

Next Entry: Confronting the Evil of Confronting Evil (02.07.2004)
Previous Entry: The Commission (02.07.2004)

Read the 4 comments.


I don't think the candidate sucked. I think that the campaign was amateurish, and there was no time to turn it around, when that became obvious. Also, Dean underestimated the extent to which he needed to curry favor with the establishment. Just getting big endorsements wasn't enough. He needed to make the career political operatives comfortable with him, and he alienated them. He needed to make big media like him, and he alienated them as well. The campaign was not media-savvy. And finally, Dean is just too much of a straight shooter. Dirty tricks are a necessary evil, when running for President. Not only must you use them, but you must be able to do so without getting caught. You must attack through surrogates, not directly. Maybe, someone should write a book which boils down all of these rules, but I have a feeling that it's in Machiavelli's "The Prince", if I would only take the time to read it.

Sat Feb 7 2004 11:07 PM


Actually, I take that back. The candidate did suck. Dean isn't really a politician. He's an outstanding manager. Kerry is a master politician, and so is Edwards. Most likely, they will form the Democratic ticket, no surprise there, except for those of us who underestimated the black art of politics.

Wouldn't it be nice to have a great politician and a great manager as President? Great management is necessary, in order to fix serious problems in the government, but you can't do anything in the government, without help from others. The great politician is able to get the support he needs, by hook or by crook.

Bush is a master politician (or his handlers are), but he is a really terrible manager. Management is drafting the plan, politics is getting the support to set the plan in motion.

Sat Feb 7 2004 11:13 PM


There's a big post-mortem on Dean in today's L.A. Times. I don't have the link handy, but it's probably easy to find on the latimes website. The article claims that the turning point was when Dean said that we weren't safer after Saddam Hussein was captured. Go figure.

Sun Feb 8 2004 4:47 PM


Thought I read a story the other day where Dean blamed AL GORE for giving him the kiss of death with his endorsement.

Mon Feb 9 2004 8:07 AM

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