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Brownstein: Candidates shift aim to Kerry

CNN political analyst Ron Brownstein
CNN political analyst Ron Brownstein

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Ron Brownstein
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MANCHESTER, New Hampshire (CNN) -- Sen. John Kerry celebrated his second straight victory after Tuesday's New Hampshire primary, while the remaining Democratic presidential hopefuls put the best face on their finishes.

CNN political analyst Ron Brownstein discussed the results and impact on the campaign Wednesday with CNN's Bill Hemmer.

HEMMER: These campaigns set out for month to take on [Howard] Dean; now they have to face Kerry. How do they do it, and do they do it well?

BROWNSTEIN: Throughout 2003, all of these campaigns, all of the distinctions they tried to draw in the race, were designed to separate and distinguish themselves from Howard Dean.

Now all of a sudden, they are running a race that no one thought they would have to, against John Kerry. And the past week suggests to me that they haven't made a lot of progress about figuring out how they are go to sell themselves to voters, vis-a-vis, John Kerry.

Wes Clark wants to emphasize executive experience, he stumbled around talking about how he had stayed in the military longer than John Kerry. John Edwards' message is that he's more positive and Southern. None of these were sharp enough to move large number of voters after they started the week after Iowa leaning toward John Kerry.

The only one that's beginning to make progress in thinking this through is Howard Dean. He has a line of argument, but whether he has enough credibility with voters to sell that argument is the big question next week.

HEMMER: Who do you think the Democratic leadership wants at this point? Are they more comfortable with Kerry?

BROWNSTEIN: Excellent question. Only a few weeks ago, the National Journal magazine does a regular poll and hardly any I think it was down to 1 percent at one point -- thought John Kerry was going to be in the nominee. They are in the same position as the candidates. This is something very few people anticipated.

Certainly, there would be more comfort with John Kerry than there would be with Howard Dean, especially in light of the temperament issues. But I think there are still a lot of Democrats who are worried about John Kerry's ability to appeal across the country, especially in the South.

HEMMER: We've heard John Edwards talking about two Americas, the haves, and the have-nots, you heard Kerry talking about economics of privilege was the phrase he used. Class warfare ... does it work?

BROWNSTEIN: The history of it has not been great. The fact is the Democrats have tried this argument. It's a second order argument. It's often an argument you make when the economy is going well. Here's the irony -- the Democratic Party over the past generation is moving upscale. Their support is becoming more affluent, more college-educated as voters increasingly divide on cultural rather than economic lines.

The voters that they are aiming this populism at, blue-collar America, have become increasingly Republican in the past 25 years, on issues like guns, strength taxes, crime, while the Democrats are doing better with who, presumably, are the people they are rallying against. So, I'm not sure how much people are listening to this. In 2000, Al Gore tried it and it didn't have a lot of effect on the electorate.


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