Kerry and Russert are bobbing and weaving on MTP right now. Any Dean supporters that thought Russert gave Dean an overly hard time should be watching now — he’s being as hard on Kerry.
But each time Kerry answers, Russert comes back with a question along the lines of, “But Howard Dean…” It’s driving Kerry nuts, and I don’t blame him. I support Dean, and there’s no doubt that part of the story of this race is the horse race between Dean and Kerry — but shouldn’t this be as much about Kerry’s views, not Kerry’s views as opposed to Dean’s views? Russert’s doing it deliberately to try and tweak Kerry enough to get him to slam Dean, and so far (we’re half way through the program) Kerry hasn’t bit. He’s made a few comments, but so far he’s avoided going negative. For that, I commend him. Kerry’s got to be thinking that if he manages to navigate through this race with the nomination in hand, he’ll need the fiercely motivated Dean supporters behind him.
And isn’t that an interesting change in the race? Everyone has been talking about how, now that it’s Labor Day, Dean as frontrunner means Dean-with-target-on-his-back. But with more than 300,000 motivated supporters (and growing), anyone who overtly attacks Dean risks alienating the largest and most dedicated group supporting any candidate. They’re being used for good now — in support of the Dean campaign — but God help the candidate that is in their crosshairs.
One thing is certain (as if there were any doubt): Dean continues to define this race. Even when he’s not in the same zip code as any of the other candidates, he’s setting the agenda and forcing others to react to him. As long as that continues, he looks like the leader, he looks like the standard-bearer, and his name recognition goes up.