Democratic musical chairs strengthens debate process

While ice storms were blowing in the Midwest, Republicans as well as Democrats were voting to elect their party’s candidates in the New Hampshire primary. Since George W. Bush was running unopposed, all eyes were on the Democratic candidates. While John Kerry seems to be emerging as the frontrunner (a word that seemingly jinxed Howard Dean’s campaign), others are saying they will stay the course. This gives voters more choices, creates a democratic debate with more issues and might also help win the fight against Bush in November.

Even though some analysts have warned that the Democratic party had better get their proverbial ducks in a row early on in the year — which was also the main reason for many primaries being moved up closer to the beginning of the year — in order to stand a chance against the incumbent president, the game of musical chairs between Dean and Kerry could be a blessing in disguise.

In early December, Dean’s lead in the polls saw him declared as frontrunner by many media outlets, and lead to him gracing the covers of such publications as Time and Newsweek. White House strategists took the cue and started planning a Bush campaign with Dean as opponent. Now that Kerry has taken the lead in not only Iowa last week with 38 percent of the votes, but also Tuesday in New Hampshire with 39 percent, the two seem to have all but traded places.

John Edwards, coming in with 32 percent in Iowa and 12 percent in New Hampshire, has also had a surprisingly good start. And even though he evaded the questions about a possible post of vice president on Larry King Live Tuesday, he remains a possibility for the post if he and Kerry maintain their current positions. Naturally, he also still has a shot at coming out on top, which is probably why he says he is “focused entirely on being president.”

But even the candidates with less than satisfying results do not seem to be ready to give up.

Joe Lieberman said Tuesday night he would “certainly not” drop out, and as Bob Dole stated tongue in cheek “has already bought advertising time for next week,” even though his result of 9 percent of the votes in his home state is somewhat lackluster.

Others candidates, like Rev. Al Sharpton, and Dennis Kucinich who garnered 1 percent of the votes in both states, intend to stay in the race. Both candidates have said repeatedly that they do not expect to win the candidacy but will remain in the race to raise issues that would otherwise remain unaddressed.

Washinton Post editor Bob Woodward summed it up nicely on Tuesday night when he said, “voters are still shopping.” And while it would be mathematically possible to have a winner of the Democratic ticket by March 9, the current situation can only be good for the democratic process and keeps the opposition guessing whom they will face come November..