“Unlikely Scenarios: How Dean Could Lose Primaries” Liz Marlantes, Christian Science Monitor, 1/8/04
Consider this: Howard Dean wins the Iowa caucuses - but by a bare margin. In a surprise twist, John Kerry comes in a strong second, trumping Richard Gephardt.
In New Hampshire a week later, Dr. Dean again wins, but the real news is Wesley Clark, who loses to the former Vermont governor by only a few percentage points. Suddenly, Dean is looking vulnerable - even weak - as he heads into a series of volatile primaries in the South and West. Several other candidates drop out and throw their support behind one of the Dean "alternatives."
As improbable as it may be, this is one scenario circulating in political camps about how Dean - still the clear favorite for his party's nomination - could, in fact, lose. Most Democratic operatives agree that if Dean pulls off decisive wins in Iowa and New Hampshire, he will gain strength and momentum that may make him almost impossible to beat.
Certainly, Dean's front-runner status has seemed less commanding of late. In national polls, his lead has shrunk to single digits, now just barely ahead of General Clark. Polls also show Clark now tied for second place in New Hampshire, where Dean's lead, while strong, has declined slightly in recent weeks.
At the same time, the Iowa race is undeniably tight: Dean and Gephardt are still fighting for first place, but there are hints of potential surges from Kerry and Sen. John Edwards that could complicate the battle for second or third.
Most observers now see Clark as the strongest potential challenger to Dean, speculating that a strong finish in New Hampshire might help propel the former NATO general to victory in Feb. 3 primary states such as South Carolina.