Monday, February 9

Dean - So This Is A Good Thing, Right?

After his announcement that if he can't win Wisconsin he would step aside, Howard Dean changes his mind:

Howard Dean: Campaign will Continue Beyond Wisconsin

Democratic presidential candidate Howard Dean changed his story again, saying Wisconsin is no longer the end of the road for his campaign.

"It's not going to be the end of the line," he told Action 2 News during a campaign appearance at U.W.-Green Bay, "but there better be a win in Wisconsin."

Dean made a bold statement last week in an e-mail to supporters that it was do or die in Wisconsin's February 17th primary. Without a win here, he said, he would drop out of the race.

Monday, Dean changed his mind. He addressed a crowd of about 300 people at UWGB, repeating how important Wisconsin's votes are to his future. But after his speech, in a one-on-one interview with Action 2 News reporter Sarah Thomsen, Dean said he will not give up even if he loses here a week from Tuesday.

"It's critical," he emphasized. "We want to win here and we're going to have to win here."

That was Dean's answer to the first question in our interview, and it's the same response he's given since last week's e-mail. But when pressed on his fate after Wisconsin's primary, he conceded.

"Would you drop out of this campaign if there's not a win in Wisconsin?" we asked.

"No," Dean answered.

"You'll stay in it?"


"In it for the long haul?"

Here are a few of the reasons as to what this could mean.

A sense of purpose - Dean has some indication that his support hasn't withered. It's true that his actual recognizability ratings haven't suffered, but they haven't improved much either. The once-undecideds and early Lieberman masses have pushed Kerry, Edwards and in some instances Clark past Dean's stagnant numbers. Still, the faithful have a strong message and Dean might feel he needs to deliver it, win or lose.

Roy Neel - Dean's new campaign manager might know something, but he never should have permitted what might be that ill-advised declaration about Wisconsin in the first place. If anyone has a reason to identify a make-or-break situation, it's Dennis Kucinich. Not having done so still makes him a serious contender in the eyes of many. Neel should know better on the surface, but if he has something up his sleeve, he better make it known. Is it a cache of delegates which will jump out of a cake in the next month? More surprise endorsements? (He lost AFSCME over the weekend.) As it stands now, this announcement is just ammo for an already biased punditry.

Bringing the message to Boston - This makes the most sense to me. It's the chance to put forth the tenets of the campaign in front of a national audience to show that there is a difference. If enough delegates see that difference, we could see a brokered convention. The good news is the top four guys are all capable of doing a MUCH better job than Bush, but I'm not the one who needs convincing. There's also the side benefit of extended TV coverage for the Dems and a much more compelling convention than what the GOP can deliver the next month. The bad news: While it makes for great television, it could indicate disharmony within the party which is more ammo for the right who have united behind their little king.

The Veep Factor - Dean recently expressed an interest in being a running mate if called upon. If he accumulates enough delegates, he could wheel and deal with Clark or Edwards to bring his delegates to a Clark/Dean or Edwards/Dean ticket.

Ego - Dean has developed one over the course of the campaign. It'd be hard for anyone who has been through what he has over the last year not to get their head a little inflated. But has it gotten that big?

There are many more scenarios that are being bandied around, including a big surprise orchestrated show of unity in Boston by the big four. Nice as that sounds, nobody is voting for the political equivalent of the X-Men to be our next president. It's a fairy tale.

Whatever the reason, I hope it's a good one, because the immediate ramifications - oh, aren't sitting too well with me. The campaign has been raising contributions since Thursday for Wisconsin, accompanied by some high-profile coverage on ABC and CNN. They broke their goal of $700,000 on the first day then challenged supporters to double it by the original Sunday deadline. That day has come and gone, and while they did fall short, they did hit $1,250,000 as of this writing. But this was for a make-or-break situation. Wisconsin or bust. Win or leave town. And now that's changed.

Am I wrong to see this as a PR problem? Does Dean think that this appearance of an about-face can be spun into gold? Maybe to the hardcore backers, but it may not win over an already skeptical electorate. And - guaranteed - it will be grabbed onto and shaken violently in the jaws of the wingnut punditry and media who are hungry for a misstep - ANY misstep - by a high-profile candidate. I'd hate to see this dug up later on as one of those annoying flip-flop memes.

Dean cannot afford to have the press neg out on him again. He must have something up his rolled-up sleeve, because after a year of cheering him on, I'm one Deaniac whose equilibrium is really being tested right now. Talk me into this.

Cross-posted at Daily Kos