The Hawk Eye (Burlington, IA)

January 11, 2004

Kerry the choice
After a tepid start in Iowa, Kerry has finally given caucus-goers reasons to support him.

John Kerry pranced into Iowa last year without displaying an ounce of passion. He apparently believed the Democratic nomination for president was his for the taking.

Kerry has altered his course over recent months, showing the interest and the emotion and a grasp of the issues that could make Iowans who turn out for the Jan. 19 caucuses turn in his direction.

Howard Dean stormed across the border with a chip on his shoulder. His hard–charging style drew early attention and he has added enough to that base of supporters to make him the odds–on favorite to win the caucuses and head to New Hampshire with impetus.

But he has had to fend off recent doubts, first about his occasional bold misstatements that lead to apologies, but mostly about his staying power when the general election starts.

Kerry and Dean are both New Englanders. The last Democratic presidential nominee from New England, Michael Du–kakis, was a bust in the general election against the current president's father.

Dean was governor of Vermont. Kerry is a U.S. senator representing Massachusetts. Dean calls Kerry part of the Washington establishment that doesn't want any real change. Kerry condemns Dean as a hip–shooter without the experience to be president.

Both have similar platforms, in fact. Their health care solutions are similarly priced, while big government candidates like Dick Gephardt pitch hugely expensive plans that frankly sound outdated and unmanageable.

Kerry and Dean want to repeal President Bush's massive tax cuts. Kerry unfairly criticizes Dean for taking away middle–income tax cuts as well. The truth is, those cuts didn't amount to much and wouldn't be missed if the money could be put to better use.

All the Democratic candidates want to do away with the tax cuts. But Democrats will have to wrest control of Congress to make that happen.

Leading Democrats like Al Gore and Bill Bradley believe that Dean has the appeal to broaden the party's base and perhaps draw enough new voters to the polls in November to give the Democrats a boost.

But it's far from clear that Dean will be able to sustain excitement for his campaign, let alone show coattail strength.

By fall, voters will be looking for a solid alternative to Bush, who still faces struggles with Iraq and an uncertain economy. Kerry looks more stable than Dean.

Iraq is a developing black hole. Dean garnered much of his early support by bashing the White House's ill–advised invasion. But is Dean, who lacks any real military or foreign policy credentials, the right Democrat to challenge Bush on Iraq?

Kerry has a much more impressive foreign policy resume. And his military background is unquestioned.

Kerry needs to finish well in Iowa to stand a chance against Dean. He's mustered late support, but it may not be enough.

At least he has demonstrated that he is hungry for the job. At the start of the race in Iowa, residents here weren't so sure.

Dean is a fresh voice in national politics. The temptation is to go with the hot candidate. But John Kerry shows greater promise as the Democratic nominee.

The choice here is Kerry.

Copyright © 2004 The Hawk Eye.  Reprinted by permission.

Dale Allison, managing editor (1/12/04):

"Bill Mertens, our editor, made the endorsement...

"Briefly, our editorial board is pretty informal. It consists of Bill, our senior columnist Mike Sweet, our city editor Randy Miller and
myself, the managing editor. Bill will solicit our thoughts, but he prides himself on his political endorsements and writes them himself.

"Some political candidates will come in for interviews specifically seeking an endorsement, others do not. This year has been especially difficult because of the editor's health. In this case, Sen. Kerry neither sought an interview, nor did he participate in one. His views simply appealed to the editor."