Hard to say, I suppose, since early voting is just underway, but it seems like the gaffe's just keep on coming. I am frustrated by Dean's apparent inability to engage Clement seriously on the PR side of things. He seems under prepared to meet a challenger who, at this point, has successfully captured the invincibly popular (although realistically at odds) positions of no new taxes combined with promises for everyone. Maybe a television-saturation campaign will ultimately work, but I don't watch much TV, so I'm not sure why the ads seem to work so well. While Clement's overall position lacks credibility, Dean seems unable to score any significant blows against it.
That bothers me because the choice for mayor now seems more difficult than ever. Do I vote for the man who promises everything I hope to see the city do, but whose no new tax pledge will require him to pass the bill to future generations through creative financing strategies (at best) or simply go back on his promises (at worst), OR do I vote for the man who seems unable to expose the flaws in that campaign by educating people about specific policy solutions that could serve to show him to be more realistic and capable?
One problem seems to be that Dean seems to be running an incredibly insider-driven campaign. The campaign seems confident that it is smarter and better than Clement. Despite a clearly broader-based, more visible, and more popular public campaign by Clement, the Dean camp seems to believe that being smarter will be enough to win.
I love smarter. I want competent, realistic leaders, but anyone who has followed my opinions for very long knows that I sincerely believe that genuine and effective leadership requires more than just smarts and competence. Leadership ALSO requires the ability to convince people to follow you in the smarter course of action. It is true that the smarter course is not always more popular, and I agree with the historical reality that no new tax pledges almost ALWAYS force unnecessary choices between courses of action that are truly better for the community and those we can actually afford. But, effective leadership means being able to convince the people in the community who are asked to sacrifice for the community's greater good to understand and accept (even if grudgingly) the need for that sacrifice. This is the most important leadership quality that a strong mayor must have, and neither of these two has convinced me he has that quality yet.
Lining up endorsements is just a dressed up public opinion poll. (And BTW - The latest apparent SNAFU from the Dean camp regarding endorsements calls into question the general competence of the campaign if nothing else). I still haven't made up my mind. Let's hear some specifics. Mr. Dean: Find a clear way to call Clement out on the basic credibility gap that most already suspect; Mr. Clement: describe specific courses of action that you will take which Dean will not. September 11th is approaching, and many of us still need help to make up our minds....At least I do.