I tend to agree with Matt Stoller that the Democratic primary campaign thus far has been fought in an unfortunately kid gloves-ish manner. There is, however, a good reason for this. One of the more insightful parts of Bob Shrum's book is when he's talking about the 2004 primary. There was a lot of sentiment inside the Kerry campaign that the thing to do was to hit harder against Howard Dean. The dissenters pointed out that hitting Dean would only drag Dean and Kerry down, and the real beneficiary would be someone else. The only hope was that someone else would start mixing it up with Dean, and then the fact that polling showed Kerry was favorably regarded by most Democrats -- even though few expressed an intention to vote for him -- would work in Kerry's favor, as people turned to him.

This year, you have three Democrats -- Hillary Clinton, John Edwards, and Barack Obama -- who are all quite well-liked by primary voters. A candidate who viciously laid into the flaws of one of the other two could quite possibly sow some doubts. But he (or she) would also alienate some people. And, of course, the subject of the attacks would fight back. The real winner would be the third candidate.

The trouble is that it would actually serve everyone well to see the big, obvious attacks get rolled out and see all the candidates counterpunch. This is especially true, since all three really have very little electoral field testing.

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