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Today, I will officially retire the ‘Howard Dean For President’ banner from my weblog’s homepage. Although, John Kerry has won 16 of the 18 primary contests, he has secured less than half of the delegates needed for the nomination. However, even after erasing the line in the sand in front of the Wisconsin primary, Dean has as much of a chance at the nomination as has Dick Cheney being proven right on the existence of WMDs’ in Iraq.

I got a good seat upfront on the Dean bandwagon some 18 months ago. On first hearing of his candidacy, I assumed (correctly) a Vermont Democrat would stand out and sharply contrast opposite party stalwarts like Kerry, Gephardt and Lieberman. Every early cable news segment on Dean never failed to mention his support of the Vermont gay civil union, which is now law. Then, one evening, I actually saw and heard a 10 second sound-bite from one of his stump speeches – I was immediately smitten!

To use a West Wing analogy, it was similar to that scene where Josh Lyman first went to see Jed Bartlett speak in a VFW hall, in New Hampshire. Howard Dean would be the Democratic version of John McCain – Straight Talk Express II. I did my homework on Dean, learning about his record and positions from his impressive website. I took an online questionnaire that matches your stand on major issues with a like-minded candidate. Howard Dean was tops on my list – a 100% match! I even donated $100 to the Dean campaign, in spite of being unemployed.

Let there be no doubt, that there were only two factors that caused the wheels to come off the Dean juggernaut – the ‘electability’ issue and the unfortunate ‘I Have A Scream’ debacle. The former is a legitimate example of the importance of the primary nominating model. However, the latter is an infuriating example of too many news outlets desperate to ‘shock and awe’ in the name of ratings, and an electorate too lacking in depth to look past it.

Even as a Dean supporter, my own nagging doubts included the ‘E’ word issue and a concern for a young, green and inexperienced campaign going up against Ed Gillespie and RoveVision Inc., and their fistful of dollars. Ironically, as my support now shifts to the presumptive nominee (John Kerry), those doubts dissipate faster than the rate of American jobs shipped overseas.

These past few weeks, I have enjoyed a perfect juxtaposition of dueling news story. First, there are the Vietnam veterans who owe their lives to a genuine war hero, featured prominently by the Kerry campaign. In contrast, the ongoing (and growing) controversy over Bush’s Guard service has only been exacerbated by an uncharacteristically inept attempt at damage control, by this White House.

Although, the Kerry campaign has already proved it’s mettle by an earlier primary strategic move, notice has been served that they will match the Republicans, blow by blow. A quick smack down in response to Matt Drudge’s scandal-mongering, was followed by a bullet point response to the ‘Special Interests’ spot posted on the RNC website.

Howard Dean has vowed to stay in the race until the Convention, but contrary to Presidential nominating lore, conventional wisdom argues there now has emerged an upside to this strategy. The media hype, focus and airtime devoted to the Dem primary fight, has had a devastating effect on Bush’s poll numbers, while in turn exposing the electorate to a convincing, fine-tuned message and reasoned case for denying him a second term.

When history is written on the Democratic Primary season of 2004, Howard Dean will not be an asterisk or footnote under I for Internet. He shook the party’s foundation to its very core by pointing out (among other things) that we were just as culpable for the 2000 election – because, we abandoned and quit fighting for our basic principles. Cowed by Bush’s popularity a mere 18 months earlier, we could have acquiesced, crossed our fingers and crawled to right, embracing Evan Bayh, the DLC and the manufactured swing voters called the ‘NASCAR Dads’ – by nominating Joe Lieberman (VP Sam Nunn?).

However, a nominee with a staid message that puts him just slightly to the left of Zell Miller, could not inspire record turnout in every primary and caucus, so far, or, move normal folk who have never contributed to a political campaign, to dig deep to give $100 dollars.

Today, an energized, feisty, principled, engaged and righteous Democratic Party and movement are spoiling for a fight.

We have Howard Dean to thank, for that.

Posted by Bert M. Caradine at February 18, 2004 12:12 AM