The Dean Faithful

Back a couple weekends ago, John Kerry was on Meet the Press and I remarked that Kerry appeared to be avoiding Russert’s Dean baiting:

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 that seems to be the conclusion reached by Richard Blow, writing at

[T]he Dean campaign has brought such unexpected energy into the Democratic primary that the Dems now have an entirely different problem: If Dean loses, the party will probably lose in November 2004. …

It’s true, a Howard Dean victory may pose a challenge for the Democrats. Dean has to show he can run credibly in the South, and he needs to get black and Latino voters as fired up as he has white Democrats. But as problematic as his candidacy might be, Howard Dean is making it increasingly difficult for the Democrats to nominate anyone else.

If the other candidates aren’t careful, those attacks sure could backfire…

My prediction: the flip-flop meme sticks as the press look for a characterization of the Dean campaign that allows them to appear more objective. But when the fundraising totals are released for Q3 and Dean raises as much as $15 million (which would beat Clinton’s record of $10.3 million at this point in a campaign), the press will adopt the theory outlined by Blow above: that Dean’s energy — and money — are simply too big and growing too fast for any other candidate to beat him.

It’s a variation on this theory that led Matthew Langer to predict that Wesley Clark’s big announcement won’t be that he’s running for President but that he’s agreed to be Dean’s VP. Unconventional? Sure. Likely? Maybe not. But the double-whammy would prove to be too much for at least two of the campaigns. And there’s a certain elegance to it: Clark has to know that entering the race creates more confusion. Joining Dean (or any other candidate for that matter) preemptively would be about the only presidential campaign news to thoroughly dominate the news cycles (everyone else, of course, will be focused on California’s election in early October).

The next couple weeks will be telling.

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