Simon: We bought the spin. Trippi is an extremely effective salesman and a very likeable guy and we too often bought what he was selling without questioning it much. (There were sources on the campaign besides Trippi, but how many of us bothered to call them?)
Iowa is not an easy state to cover, because the caucus process really does demand good organization and judging the true state of a campaign's field operation is not easy. Even though the story was buried, the Chicago Tribune took one small look at the true state of Dean's organization in Iowa and was rewarded with a good story. Very few other journalists bothered. Although the campaigns think we are too skeptical (they would say cynical) already, in fact we are going to have to be more skeptical in the future when campaigns tell us how well organized they are. The good news: We have four years to think about how we are going to cover the next Iowa caucuses.
The Note: What role did Howard Dean play in his own demise? Has the media's alleged role in Dean's downfall been overstated?
Simon: In some respects, Dean was a major contributor: He was unable to grow as a candidate from an outsider/ insurgent/Internet candidate to someone with a broader appeal. As one of his top aides pointed out to me, while the Internet got Dean 600,000 supporters, he was going to need 54 million in the fall to win. Many on his campaign begged him to stop emphasizing the "You Have the Power" message in Iowa and go back to his original issues of health care and balanced budgets. For reasons I deal with at some length, he wouldn't do it. On the other hand, his organization in Iowa was seriously flawed and there are some who think his organization let him down badly.
But you can't blame the media for the downfall of Dean. The Deaniacs were among the least likely people on the planet to believe or care what the media thought, anyway. And you can't blame the Internet -- the Internet helped Dean get as far as he got. But Dean needed a Plan B and he didn't have one because his organization was having a tough enough time executing Plan A.
Sen. Chuck Hagel (R-Neb.) might already be skirting Senate rules by using his official Senate Web site for political purposes, an indication that he may be preparing a 2008 presidential bid. LINK