“Tide of Second Thoughts Rises Among Democrats” Adam Nagourney, New York Times, 1/9/04
Only a few weeks ago, Jenny Briggs, an Iowa State University graduate, was all set to enthusiastically support Howard Dean in the caucuses. But now, with the vote 11 days away, Ms. Briggs said she is having second thoughts as she watches Dr. Dean stumble through his difficult days of the presidential contest.
She said she grimaced when Dr. Dean, in what she described as an act of arrogance, declared at a debate in Des Moines on Sunday that he would balance the budget "in the sixth or seventh year of my administration," and then looked befuddled when his audience broke out laughing.
Ms. Briggs does not appear to be alone.
Democratic leaders in Iowa say that in a contest that is notoriously difficult to measure with polls, Dr. Dean is the dominant candidate, and they are struck by the powerful commitment of his supporters.
Still, in dozens of conversations with voters across central Iowa over the past three days, it became clear that some Democrats are taking a second look at the doctor from Vermont whose candidacy has transformed the Democratic presidential contest.
Such qualms could benefit Senator John Edwards of North Carolina and Senator John Kerry of Massachusetts. Both were often mentioned by voters as strong alternatives to Dr. Dean.
At the same time, Democrats in the interviews expressed weariness about a campaign that many said had gone on too long and had overwhelmed them with mail and automatic telephone calls. More than a few described the contest as grating in tone and texture. And in an electoral environment where animosity toward President Bush is matched only by the sense that he cannot be defeated, many Democrats expressed concern that the warfare among the candidates was making a hopeless cause all the more hopeless.
Indeed, several Democrats praised Mr. Edwards for largely avoiding the animosity, and said they would reward him with their votes.