Friday, February 12, 2016

Looking Forward - Democratic Edition

I watched most of the Democratic debate tonight while typing this out.  Bernie's full-throated calls for universal healthcare and free tuition are bold and clear, but just how much do you have to suspend your disbelief to think those goals are possible in the current United States of America, especially with all the oxygen being consumed on the Republican side demanding the repeal of Obamacare?

Hillary just sounds so much more realistic in pursuit of similar end goals.  The fact that Democratic party voters (at least to date) have rallied so significantly to Bernie's side shows a real frustration among Democrats at the status quo - and Obama's record in particular - that was not obvious to me prior to these first results coming in from Iowa and New Hampshire.

I'll admit it is tempting to look to Bernie as a real opportunity to shake up the American status quo on campaign finance and on inequality.  In that regard, the raw numbers in New Hampshire are pretty astonishing really.  Bernie got 151,584 votes (out of about 250,000) while Trump and Kasich got less combined - 145,315 votes (out of about 280,000).  If you combined the votes (which is not altogether crazy since New Hampshire runs an open primary), you get something like this:

Sanders - 151,584 - 28.6%
Trump - 100,406 - 18.9%
Clinton - 95,252 - 18.0%
Kasich - 44,909 - 8.5%
Cruz - 33,189 - 6.3%
Bush - 31,310 - 6.0%
Rubio - 30,032 - 5.7%

Not sure what that means, but it does put the extent of the support for Sanders in some context.  He is running a classic underdog campaign where the focus is less on specifics, and he has instant credibility as a completely incorruptible, dyed-in-the-wool true believer in an election where that is a (the?) prime asset.      

Still, I continue to have a hard time seeing Bernie's appeal beyond the Democratic party.  The most striking thing listening to the debate is how disconnected it is from the arguments dominating the Republican race.  That alone puts a lot of the aspirational dreams in Bernie's talking points in stark relief.  That gives him an advantage in the debates on domestic policy, where his positions are straightforward and conducive to 90 second answers.  But his struggles on foreign policy are real, and all the more so given it is a true comfort zone for Hillary. 

The exchange where Bernie raised Kissinger to attack Hillary was notable.  Surprised she didn't run further away from him, though she did manage to use it to get in a dig back about how no one knows who Bernie takes his foreign policy advice from.  (I'm sure Hitchens turned in his grave to see Bernie fail to nail Hillary more than he did when she said it is useful to rely on Kissinger's knowledge on China as informing her views in a Democratic debate.)

I expect the debate will be rememembered for the way that Hillary turned the question about leadership into an attack on Sanders for failing to fully support Obama.  Watching Bernie in the split screen showed she clearly struck a major nerve there.  Perfectly timed too, right at the end.  Game on.  It would be surprising to me if Hillary doesn't start to pull away by March. 

But in this election cycle?  Who knows.

Thursday, February 11, 2016

Looking Forward - Republican Edition

Back home again.  Always quite the trip when it results in your picture making the pages of the New York Times.  Hard to imagine much funnier.  Long live the first in the nation primary.

I was planning on writing a lengthier post on Donald Trump and why he should no longer be treated as a joke, but fortunately Ezra Klein has done my work for me.  Agree with every word.  The hours spent among the Trump supporters, and witnessing the extent of some fairly abhorrent and repugnant ideas given large cheers in huge crowds of people, was unlike any other political experience I can recall.  It left me feeling... concerned, for lack of a better word.  I saw a massive billboard driving past Concord on the interstate that said simply: "Donald Trump is unhinged.  - Jeb Bush" and that says quite a lot in itself.

So how might he be stopped?  An exceedingly tough question.  It is rather funny that last week I was hoping Rubio would falter post-Iowa, since a strong second there really would have set him on his way, and I was worried about him as the strongest general election candidate.  But now I am far more scared of Trump as a real possibility, and less so Rubio since his debating collapse.  Robotico looks to be toast now though, so the question is whether there are other alternatives that will stand in Trump's way to the nomination, seemingly against the will of the party.

The delegate math is fairly complicated, and therefore all the more fun to dive into.  538 has an excellent primer here.  The bottom line is that the initial states tend to be more favourable to Trump and Cruz, but the winner-take-all nature of Florida and Ohio make subsequent primaries from March 15 onward fairly critical.  The real question becomes whether big early wins for a candidate like Trump will translate into bandwagon support that allows him to run the table, or if there will be time for the so-called "establishment' to train their guns on Trump in a more sustained way.

To date, Trump seems to have managed a teflon campaign beautifully, but you have to think at some point he will have to withstand the type of attacks that Republicans are so adept at waging.  South Carolina is certainly a state known for its share of dirty politicking, and I am looking forward to seeing Saturday's debate and the new ads to come to see if any other candidate can make any inroads.  The early efforts are far, far from promising, but hope springs and all that.  Plus I am not the target audience anyway.

I expect Trump to emerge with the victory from South Carolina, with maybe only Cruz (and possibly Bush?) doing well.  Based on the delegate math, it looks to me like the pressure for the "establishment" (i.e. non-Trump/Cruz) candidates to coalesce will only really be felt post-Super Tuesday.  Trump is likely to have a good night then, with seemingly only Cruz in a decent position at this stage to challenge him head on in those early states.  So we are going to be stuck with him for awhile.

The question is whether Trump starts to look inevitable, or whether he has taken some hits to that point that put doubts into the minds of voters in the states to come.  Either way, the longer the race goes on, you have to think the advantage is to anyone but Trump.  The dream possibility of a split convention where no candidate has a majority of delegates is still in the cards, and may be the only way that Trump ends up losing the nomination at this point, and which would be must-see television for sure and a fitting end to this truly amazing race. 

All of that is to say you can at least see the logic behind the Bush attacks that are designed to get Rubio out of the race as early as possible, and certainly before March 15.  Recently Bush has started to hit Trump as well - worse than Obama is quite the charge in that party (on a side note, you can just make out my red Arsenal jersey behind Bush in the stock photo for that article, hilariously).  But seems that in the next week, the key head-to-head fights are more likely to be Cruz v. Trump, and Rubio/Bush/Kasich amongst each other.  No matter what happens, Trump is going to dominate coverage for at least the next few months.  It does not appear that there will be any way to stop him for some time to come, and the time for the Republican party to decide, and decide against him, is running out.

Tuesday, February 09, 2016

Some Final Thoughts from "the Ground"

Heading home from Portsmouth after this whirlwind weekend trip of 6 candidate events across the state.  Should give me time to get to Moncton in time to watch the results roll in tonight.  A few quick impressions for now, with more to follow later in the week:

1. The two big local issues in New Hampshire (on both sides) seem to be heroin abuse and college tuition.  Both come up regularly in questions and get prominent mentions in the stump speeches.  Seems shocking to me that the issue of heroin abuse is so rampant in New Hampshire, but it is so bad it is being described as a pandemic and apocalypse

2. The college tuition issue has helped Bernie - his solution of free tuition is simpler than Hillary's incremental and more nuanced plan.  He has a much clearer and direct message across the board, and it is surprising to me that so many Democrats in this primary just do not seem to care about whether it is realistic or achievable.  I wonder how much of that comes down to being the incumbent party in the White House, and how much of it is an anti-Hillary vote. 

3. Or is it a broader anti-establishment vote?  Hillary has the current Governor and Democratic Senator on her side, but those endorsements do not seem to be helping much.  Maybe they will in the get-out-the-vote efforts.  Certainly the Wall Street line of attack is killing her, and you can see the sense of entitlement seeping out occasionally among her supporters - for example, the comments from Steinem and Albright are just brutal and no doubt harmful to her campaign.

4. I have to say I was impressed by her though.  I was firmly for Obama in 2008, but Clinton would get my support in 2016.  No candidate is perfect (which you hear often enough in NH as the reason why the fickle voters here keep changing their mind) and she certainly is not.  But she's an incredibly accomplished individual and easily the better chance to keep the Republicans from winning the White House.  The fact that she is referred to simply as "evil" by supporters at Trump and Cruz rallies, whereas Bernie is just dismissed as an unthreatening crazy old socialist, is a further mark in her favour.  

5. As to the Republican side: Cruz is pure tea party - lots of biblical and constitutional quotations interspersed with constant references to the idol of Reagan, etc.  He is less threatening only in that we have seen these kinds of candidates before, and very hard to see how he could win a general election.  Rubio, on the other hand, is engaging and immediately personable.  His stump speech is peppered with jokes that are modern and funny.  Where Cruz name-drops Milton Friedman and Arthur Laffer, Rubio riffs about disco music and Ace Ventura.  It didn't seem like Rubio had much of a local New Hampshire team though, and it would not surprise me if he drops due to that debate performance.  His message is all electability.  Bush was surprisingly good in the town hall setting.  He has a lot of the establishment party support and you can easily see why.  He also has a ton of money remaining, with tons of lawn signs and full glossy brochures on hand.  He is running as the grown-up in the race, and you can sense the underlying animosity at Rubio for jumping the queue before he has actually done any real governing.  There was a lot of buzz last night that polls were shifting his way and Jeb! was the first Republican I saw to really go directly after Trump, a central part of his stump speech now.  How ironic it would be, in this year of anti-establishment fervor, if the race ended up being a Bush versus a Clinton.   

6. As for Trump, I want to reflect a bit more on that rally before putting my thoughts to keyboard.  But his celebrity-fueled candidacy really is fundamentally different than all the others, and there is an even more palpable sense of that in attendance.  The incivility, the fascistic appeal of a leader who will restore nationalist pride and solve problems by the sheer force of personality is unnerving.  The speaker that introduced Trump was Al Baldasaro, who quoted the Immigration Act as providing the authority to ban groups from entering the United States that are intent on overthrowing the government, and so justifies Trump's plan to ban all Muslims.  Which was said to great cheers, of course.  As were Trump's calls to reinstitute waterboarding and "far worse".  I have stopped thinking of Trump as a joke, and will be relieved when he eventually loses (hopefully!). 

7. Predictions?  Clinton will be happy to keep the deficit under 20%, and would be thrilled if it were in single digits.  I will say Sanders +13%.  Nevada and South Carolina become key for her to stop his momentum.  The remaining states are far less white and liberal, so barring any surprises she is still the overwhelming favourite for the nomination.  On the Republican side, Trump to win by about 10%and a virtual four-way tie for 2nd (I will go for a Kasich-Cruz-Bush-Rubio order of finish) that leaves all 5 candidates in the race until at least Super Tuesday.  And even more interesting times ahead.        

Monday, February 08, 2016

"I Believe That She...."

Something of a live blog, as it is currently 20 after 11AM EST here at the Manchester Community College (great free wifi) and I'm front row for the Clinton family rally that is set to kickoff in 40 minutes.  What a difference in atmosphere from Trump yesterday, from the music to the general optimism and civility.  I will need to take a few days to get back before summing up the thoughts and impressions from yesterday.

Scarier to see it and experience it in person in full colour.  I am looking forward to Hillary and particularly Bill put me back in the right mood.  Looks like the general election is shaping up to be hugely important (no Trump pun intended) and feels all the more real (for lack of a better word) having spent the last few days amidst the cast of characters. Will be good to wish these two well.

One thing I know for sure - running for President is a massive, massive undertaking that is hard to overstate.  There was a bit of a joke about Obama, that his greatest accomplishment before becoming President would be... Winning the Presidential nomination and then the election. It's actually not wrong.  Wish I could have been here in 2008...

The girl beside me is a massive Stoke fan and a guy on stage is leading the "I Believe" US men's national soccer team chant.  Ah, so hilarious.

Sunday, February 07, 2016

Who Will Trump Trump?

So I finally figured out how to access my old Blogger account - whether I get back in the blogging game for an extended period of time is still in question, but while this presidential race is so fascinating (and seeing as I've got a few bets on the outcome), I can't see how I can keep from posting a thought from time to time. Funnily, upon logging in, the site summarily informed me that I have to notify visitors of cookies under EU law. So to the masses: consider this your notification!

Anyway, this is an email I sent to MacDuff earlier today so not exactly written in blog format, but it's my quasi-response to his earlier missive from The Granite State.

Jealous! Read the blog and agree on what an amazing race this is. Can't think of another like it, where even after IA and NH there could still conceivably be a min of three and as many as six viable candidates still in the running (or at least, candidates who regard themselves as viable). If Bush performs well and Rubio falters then Jeb will be very reluctant to pull out, which is a key dynamic given that he's got such a ridiculous war chest for such a poor candidate, and particularly if he gets the endorsement of Christie etc. Rubio looked very weak and unpresidential last night at a time that he really needed to make an impact, though to be fair, the debates can be over-rated as game changers.

Another random thought on Jeb and Rubio - as of mid-Jan they were miles behind Trump and underperforming Cruz in the Florida Republican primary. They'll be taking votes off each other too on the day. In fact, Florida is one of Trump's highest polling states. Can those guys lay claim to being able to win Florida in the general if they're so far behind an outsider? Maybe it'll change after Super Tuesday (FL's is two weeks later on March 15), and you don't always have to win your 'home state' to win the nomination, but looks bad. On that note, Texas is the biggest prize on Super Tuesday, and Cruz will win, but he's not blowing Trump out of the water.

The other big prizes on Super Tuesday are Massachusetts (Trump up 25%), Georgia (Trump up 17%), Tennessee (Trump up 16%), and Colorado, Minnesota and Virginia (not a lot of polling data but I suspect Trump is ahead or close to it). A lot of blue-collar white voters in the bunch, and Trump will win that demographic with at least 40% of the vote. His strategy has to be, win New Hampshire convincingly to show he can win a state, hope the field stays divided through South Carolina and Nevada to early March, and hope to absolutely clean up on Super Tuesday, or at least as much as one can given that it's not winner-take-all on delegates. It is at that point that the field probably breaks up, but what if Bush outperforms and Rubio is not a runaway second, and Cruz has a load of delegates from Texas? Well, if he can sustain momentum at that point, I can see Trump winning or coming close in Michigan on March 8 and the next four biggest primaries on March 15 - Florida, Illinois, North Carolina and Ohio. If so he will have won several swing states and will have a lot of delegates. A lot of ifs and wherefores but I think the time to stop him is before the 15th. If it's still divided at that point then he could sleepwalk to a win before the opposition 

I know I keep banging the drum for Trump but it still seems amazing that he is still given only 7% odds of the presidency and 20% of the nomination, despite the fact that he's ahead in virtually all primary states this late in the game, and I think Hillary is more vulnerable than most expect. Where's the enthusiasm to vote for her? Combine that with a potential economic downturn and you've got the recipe for a Republican win. Interesting reaction to her stump speech - she's apparently trying out a new one so perhaps you were one of the first to hear it.

For good measure I've put some money on Kasich for the nomination at 200-1, as well as some on Bush for the presidency at 33-1. Not that I expect those outcomes ultimately, but I can cash in if / when the odds drop following relative performances in NH.

The Bern Your Enthusiasm episode was amazing...just watched. That is one of the most uncanny political impressions of our time. One to think about for the Sanders campaign: somebody suggested in 1992 that Ross Perot should campaign west of the Mississippi while Dana Carvey does the East.

I'm playing along via the betting markets and the large bet on Trump in NH is looking good. My thinking was that the rest of the field is too divided, and that the only candidates really spending resources and time there were the establishment candidates that never really had a chance of breaking out of the pack. Plus his polling lead is formidable of course. Market now pricing in 80% chance of a win for the Donald on Tuesday and that sounds about right. Re Trump's odds on a one-on-one situation, I think you're right, but the divided field makes it interesting. Even if his ceiling is 40%, his floor appears to be 25%, and he has no reason to drop out so long as the rest of the field is slaughtering each other. He loses a brokered convention though in many plausible scenarios, particularly against Republican insiders who will want to leave him in the cold, which I think is a big explanation for his low odds. 

This Fascinating Republican Race

I came back to the hotel from Hillary's rally around 9PM, and the Republican debate was already an hour old.  I watched the second half, with growing concern at what seemed to be another impressive Rubio performance, with his silky smooth answers on what it means to be a conservative, some depth and detail on foreign policy, and rhetoric attacking Democrats on abortion that I assume will play strongly to Republican audiences.  This was his moment to shine, consolidate his momentum out of Iowa as the Trump alternative with a strong 2nd place finish, and leave the others in his wake.  It looked to me like he might have taken it.

Except, turns out that first hour of the debate that I missed had a few rather important moments!  Immediately after it ended, all the pundits tried to outdo each other in bashing Rubio's performance.  As they should, given Christie's brutal evisceration of him as the scripted candidate that Rubio leapt right into with his absurd repetition, as close to a knock-out blow (albeit mostly self-inflicted) as you are likely to see. 

Rubio might have well lost his best chance at the nomination in that short span.  The moment to prove his detractors wrong came, and he absolutely blew it, reinforcing all the critiques (and maybe showing Democrats - and me - that he wouldn't be as strong against them as he might seem).  That sound is the door swinging open again for the also-rans to take advantage.  (Assuming of course that voters agree with the pundits and don't see the debate the way I saw the last hour or so, which is always possible.)

This race is now fascinatingly poised, precisely because the end game is so hard to see.  I have a hard time imagining how Trump wins a true head-to-head matchup against any of the other main candidates, except maybe Cruz.  But if the field doesn't narrow until late, then Trump could keep winning with a plurality of votes and take this by default. 

Cruz had a poor performance tonight and has been hurt badly by the Carson shenanigans (and his overall smarmy personality.)  If Rubio drops in New Hampshire as well, as now could happen, my money is on Kasich to surge into second here on Tuesday.  He was the first to be interviewed on the local channel on the local news, and he is falling over himself to brag about his 100 town halls and the mutual (he claims) love affair with New Hampshire.  He has nicely pitched his moderate, positive message.  Meanwhile, Rubio is the focus of attacks from the other two Governors.  The most prevalent attack ads here during the debate and on the local news coverage after were Jeb's PAC hitting Rubio on his lack of accomplishments.  With Hillary running left and presumably (in some voters' minds at least) not in danger of losing to Sanders, one or both of Kasich and Jeb could easily sway enough voters in the final days to leap frog Cruz and/or Rubio. 

Kasich coming 2nd and Bush doing well is probably a best case scenario for Trump, as is the recent antagonism between Cruz and Carson, who before may have been potential allies.  How does the field coallesce in those scenarios?   Can Rubio or Cruz rebound strongly enough later?  Can Kasich (or even low-energy Jeb?) catch on quickly enough in later states to force out the other candidates and take on Trump directly?  And what is the actual ceiling on Trump's potential vote with fewer candidates in the field, on Super Tuesday and beyond? 

Damned if I know.  Easy now to see how this could go all the way to the floor of the convention.  Having seen Hillary tonight, one thing is for sure.  Clinton v. Trump would be box office gold.  If it happened... those debates... oh boy.  As C.J. Cregg might say, it would be a sight to see.  I mean a sight to see.    

Saturday, February 06, 2016

The Secretary

By the time I left Moncton, it was 10:15AM or so.  Driving began a bit slow due to traffic and early morning road conditions, but made great time from Fredericton on, stopping only for gas and at the border as noted.  Pulled into Portsmouth at just after 4:30PM and got a bit lost looking for the hotel, before deciding to just go straight to the Great Bay Community Center.  A fortunate choice, as a long line-up had already started to form outside.  Hundreds of people were ahead of me when I took my place at 5PM.  The doors opened just after 5:45PM, although I did not get inside until just after 7PM due to the Secret Service's airport-style security that everyone had to go through.  Got into the gymnasium just before the scheduled 7:15AM start, which was fantastic as many others were not so lucky.

A few random points from the time spent standing in the cold for about 2 hours outside my first 2016 New Hampshire primary event:
- had fun eavesdropping on a few of the couples in line in front of me, emblematic of the discussions happening all over New Hampshire.  For example, the mom of three,  democrat and leaning Hillary, but concerned about her judgment on the email scandal.  Especially since the mom is always telling her children "to be careful what they put on facebook, so you think Hillary would know better than to use her own servers."  She also tried to go to Trump's event in Exeter but didn't get in, and said she was worried about going because she didn't want people to see her there and think she was a Trump supporter.  Her husband, an independent who is out of town Tuesday and has already voted for Kasich, is similarly a bit horrified at Trump's popularity.  This may not be surprising since he watches PBS and told a long story about a recent show on the admittedly incredible and perhaps relevant history of Andrew Garfield's selection as the Republican nominee in 1880.)    
- the guy behind me seemed convinced that Christie has already made the decision to drop out of New Hampshire and endorse Jeb and kept talking to different people on his phone about it.  
- young campaign staffers with clipboards worked the line in a non-confrontational way asking if there were any undecided voters.  Overheard one conversation in which a middle-aged woman said she liked Bernie Sanders, but did worry if he could implement his ideas.  The staffer (who turned out to be from Georgia) asked what she liked in particular about Bernie, which prompted a long conversation about the candidates' respective plans for tuition.  Somehow I do not think I will see that in line for Trump.  
- also met a contingent of senior "Arkansas Travelers for Hillary" who worked the line, including one guy I talked to who said Hillary was the lawyer who helped him with the legal adoption of his children before she was First Lady.  They did not like the cold.
Inside, Senators Franken and Shaheen and New Hampshire's Governor Maggie Hassan introduced the Secretary.  Lots of emphasis by Franken on her "progressive" credentials (name-dropping Paul Wellstone and a great quote of his: "We all do better when we all do better.") 

But Secretary Clinton was the highlight.  I was quite impressed by the live delivery of her stump speech - substantive and really engaging.  She certainly comes across as formidable, and a consummate politician.  And seeing her in the room among all the "Women for Hillary" signs held by grandmothers, mothers, and daughters - that puts it in quite the context, historically.  I can only wonder how many selfies she has taken this year.

If she does win in November, and I am becoming more and more convinced that she will, with everything that has happened over the past 25 years, that will be some accomplishment.

Proceed to Secondary...

Crossed the border at Houlton.  Made the decision during the drive that I would be up front about my intentions for the weekend with the customs agents, given that I had some of the planned event information printed out, and out of curiosity for their reaction.
"So why are you going to these primary events?" - I am just interested in politics, I guess. 
"Are you doing any volunteering?" - I am not sure, I hadn't really planned to. 
 "Sir, please pull your car over and proceed to secondary inspection." - No problem...
I park the car, hand over the keys and passport inside the building to an officer who is a dead ringer for Herc from the Wire.  Can I use the bathroom?  "Not yet, sir."  After a brief wait, Herc brings me into a smaller room and I'm asked to sit on a bench across from a make-shift desk.  Apparently he wanted me to make it very clear that I was just going to observe the primaries up close out of interest, and that I was absolutely not going to volunteer in any way, "...because that would constitute interference in a US election by a foreign national, which is a violation of US law."

To that point, I had only mentioned the first Clinton rally in Portsmouth (to which Herc responded that she would not be his choice, in a rather humourous exchange).  When I replied that I really had no intention of volunteering for any candidate, and was also going to head to the Trump rally the following day, my story finally seemed to click for him.  (And Herc also made it clear he was not a fan of the Donald either.)

We went back to the main area, where I was rather bizarrely told to please keep my hands out of my pockets.  Herc confirmed everything was good with his supervisor while I looked up and smiled at the framed photo of President Obama on the wall.  Moments later I was on my way, with assurances again that I would not be assisting any of the campaigns during my short stay.  Incidentally, Herc is technically wrong on the law, although in fairness I was asked early on for my occupation, so he might have been thrown off by the fact that I said I was a lawyer.

In all, another memorable border crossing, and some lessons learned about the consequences of full disclosure?  At least none of it felt too intimidating as it played out, except for the general dread of being at the whim of arbitrary decision making (and when I noticed there were handcuffs attached to that bench...) 

Friday, February 05, 2016

"Not only are we going to New Hampshire, Tom Harkin..."

Still snowing in Moncton, but managed to get here early this afternoon, before the storm that kept Trump's plane from NH arrived here in full force.  Nice to have the first few hours of the drive safely in the books.  Nicer still that there are clear blue skies forecast all the way to Portsmouth tomorrow and the first of the events with Hillary, who (all current noise aside) is still the likely President come November.

How things change with the passing of years...  And how strange the fragmented memories that come rushing back at times. 

This return to the first-in-the-nation primary has me thinking of the past.  In November 2002, I was over in London, and saw Michael Moore live - part comedic performance, part politics.  Someone asked him near the end why the Democrats were so unwilling to stand up to President Bush, and if there were any outsiders who might be in the wings that would more forcefully challenge his reelection.  I am pretty sure that was the first time I heard Howard Dean's name.  

A few months later, I saw some clips from Dean's March 2013 speech to the California Democratic Party, with its fantastically confrontational opening line: "What I want to know, is what in the world so many Democrats are doing supporting the President's unilateral intervention in Iraq."  So, in the midst of a growing frustration with US politics (and so with global affairs), here was something unique, to inspire.  "I don't want to listen to the fundamentalist preachers anymore!"  Ah, amen to that.

And so I gradually found myself getting more interested, and then involved, in the campaign.  And so in the end, I took a week off from law school in January 2004 and drove to Concord, where I was billeted at the home of another local volunteer, and went door-to-door to canvass for him with people who had come in from all over America.  I met Rob Reiner in the campaign HQ and, in a particularly surreal moment, made my way up to the small town of Bartlett to see Martin Sheen do an event for Dean at the Josiah Bartlett Elementary School (West Wing was in season 5).  

12 years is not that long ago, and yet... Pre-Facebook (founded February 2004), pre-YouTube (founded February 2005), pre-smart phones (I took a disposable camera on this trip ffs).  
3 days after Iowa and the infamous scream (more on that in a moment) Dean and his wife did an interview with Diane Sawyer.  It was done on the Thursday before the Tuesday vote, and by Saturday afternoon we were dropping copies of VHS tapes with the interview in the mailboxes of registered voters who were undecided between Dean and Kerry, according to the detailed phone banking compiled over months.  At the time I remember being blown away by the logistics of pulling off that massive undertaking at the last minute.  Now all I can think is - VHS tapes!

None of that actual campaigning mattered, as Kerry won the NH primary as well and coasted to victory.  As this excellent video from 538 points out, it wasn't really the "scream" that lost it for Dean (although having to explain it certainly didn't help the NH efforts!)

But, as others have also pointed out, Dean's 50 state approach, Internet-based campaign innovations, and the focus on turning out new, young, enthusiastic voters were each adopted and improved 4 years later, in support of a superior candidate in Barack Hussein Obama.  And now today Hillary is in a primary battle in which her main focus is in emphasizing the extent of her credentials as a progressive.

All of which is to say, this trip to New Hampshire feels different, in a good way.  There is still a lot that is terrible and a lot to bemoan, of course.  There will always be that.  But there is also progress to remember.  Dean's key campaign slogan was: "Take our country back."  I will take some pleasure this time around in hearing Republican pretenders saying that they now want and need to do the same.