From ABC News' Dean campaign reporter Marc Ambinder:
It was sexier than Arafat and Rabin. As a green T-shirted and purple-jacketed Howard Dean was making his way to the front of room to receive their joint blessing, AFSCME's Gerald McEntee gave SEIU's Andrew Stern a wet kiss on the cheek.
The friendly overture and the skin-to-skin contact overshadowed two different approaches to Dean, and two different benefits that Dean receives from two different unions. The dual endorsements today may have more impact as a one-two punch than as a powerful left hook.
SEIU chose Dean because he won over its members — his grassroots, bottom-up appeal, health care, anti-war message hit home. And AFSCME chose Dean in part because McEntee and other officials concluded that a Dean nomination was inevitable … and went with the flow with despite McEntee's stated preference for a candidate who had credibility on foreign policy matters. And because Dean won over its members. (Whatever sway McEntee has over his 1.4 million-person union, he would not be able to swing a Dean endorsement if his workers disagreed.)
AFSCME's endorsement will certainly help in Iowa, where Dean has to compete against Dick Gephardt's union juggernaut there. But it will also help, the campaign believes, sway undecided members of Congress, interest group political officials and those members of the Establishment who think about Dean and get queasy. McEntee's knack for finding the current in Democratic politics and jumping in can be uncanny.
SEIU will help in New Hampshire, and the campaign hopes there will be some indirect crossover from the union's efforts to identify and turn out health care voters. Stern is also one of the single most influential Democrats in the country. But perhaps the SEIU endorsement's most direct effect will be in the image primary (that whole diversity piece) and in later states.
For example, 180,000 members of SEIU's 1199 local in New York have already been sent a mailer "educating them about Dean's health care policy and the endorsement," according to a person familiar with the union activities. And hundreds of Dean delegates will volunteer for Dean's primary campaign there.
And that marks only the beginning of what SEIU 1199's Dennis Rivera plans to do.
Nationally, the more than 3 million members of both unions will very shortly receive their first official communication urging them to support Dean, according to union officials.
Read more from the trail with Dean on abcnews.com: LINK
George Will evaluates Dean's decision to opt out of public financing, and uses it as a chance to say, "There may be more moral vanity in Howard Dean than in any politician since Woodrow Wilson, which is why Dean is incapable of admitting that he has ever been wrong or changed his mind (about Medicare cuts, raising the retirement age, NAFTA, basing affirmative action on class rather than race, etc.). LINK
The Washington Times sees Dean opting out of federally matching funds as "logical." LINK
Howie Kurtz writes about how the media think Dean might already be unstoppable — with plenty of quotes from all your favorites in the national press corps. LINK
Case in point: Stuart Rothenberg writes in Roll Call that Dean has almost wrapped up the Democratic nomination, writing "The Democratic race is over."