Saturday, December 27

Finally - The Unapologetic Democrat

From the L.A. Times:

Attacks on Dean Just Slide Right Off
The Democratic front-runner seems immune to criticism that would sink other candidates. Supporters admire his blunt talk.

When Howard Dean appeared on NBC's "Meet The Press," the reviews were scathing, with most pundits calling the interview earlier this year a disaster. But others saw it differently. Traffic on Dean's Web site soared, and he collected more than $100,000 in the next 24 hours.

When Dean suggested America was no safer with Saddam Hussein in custody, rivals in the Democratic presidential contest seized on his comments as a major gaffe. But days later, more than 30 New Jersey lawmakers — joined by Gov. James E. McGreevey — elbowed onto a packed stage to endorse him.

The former Vermont governor has millions in the bank, more than any Democrat running, and a legion of followers, linked by the Internet, who crowd campaign events from Manchester, N.H., to Yuma, Ariz.

But there is one advantage that has proved even more valuable for the impulsive and irrepressible Dean: a Teflon coating.

For weeks, frustrated opponents have attacked the Democratic front-runner on everything from his skimpy defense and foreign policy credentials to the secrecy he slapped on his gubernatorial records. Nothing has stuck.

Stumbles, such as Dean's remark about Confederate flag-wavers, and factual misstatements, such as his assertion that no other candidate was discussing race before white audiences, have not only failed to slow his momentum but redoubled the commitment of Dean supporters.

"It's about all of us saying [expletive] to all the pundits," said Michael Cannon, 49, a New Jersey state worker who attended a rally in Trenton with a Dean sweat shirt, T-shirt and button on the back of his cap.

"Whenever negative stories surface, that just proves to me that I should be behind him all the more," Cannon said.

There has always been a strong anti-establishment flavor to the Dean campaign. So whenever he fumbles in the eyes of so-called experts, it makes him all the more attractive to disaffected Democrats scornful of institutions like the major media.

The campaign even posts some of the harsher criticism on Dean's Web site to spur fundraising. When a mysterious political group called Americans for Jobs, Healthcare and Progressive Values began airing an anti-Dean ad earlier this month with images of Osama bin Laden, the former Vermont governor's camp amassed $552,000 in a three-day Internet fundraising push.

"It's a polite way of saying where you can take it," Dean said.