“Watch Howard Dean”

Jonathan Raban, a British ex-pat living in Seattle, writes a long “letter“ in this week’s Seattle Weekly about the effect the war is having on the political landscape in the U.S. His conclusion? “Watch Howard Dean.”

Here’s the key graph:

The immediate upshot of his speech (by no means limited to the war) was an orgy of text-messaging from state delegates to their party officials back home, saying that Gephardt had rescued himself after a bad start, Lieberman had flopped, and Howard Dean had carried the day gloriously, on the economy as much as on the invasion of Iraq. Dean is far from being a Gene McCarthy figure; he comes with a raft of policies, one of which happens to be about the war. In the last month, he has moved from being an utterly obscure figure to anyone not from Vermont to being a neck-and-neck front-runner in the Democratic nomination race. If this has come as a surprise to most national political commentators, it doesn’t seem at all surprising if you happen to live in Seattle.

Raban nails it, in an analysis I’m surprised more domestic pundits haven’t made. Much of the writing so far seems binary: either the war goes quickly (helping Bush, and to the extent it helps any Democrats, it helps Lieberman, Kerry, Edwards but definitely bad for Dean) or it goes badly, in which case the only person to get a boost would be Dean. Bottom line? Raban says that the war will end, the dust will settle, and many Americans will ask “Why?”

At which point they’ll see Howard Dean.

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