John Kerry never liked Howard Dean. More significantly, many argue, the Massachusetts Senator never took the former Vermont Governor very seriously.
As the presumed frontrunner toiled in the Washington summer diligently doing his day job and preparing for "the run," the upstart longshot hit the trail, creating indelible first impressions in Iowa and deftly navigating political cyberspace.
When Kerry officially started in September, he stumbled. Advisers came and went (sort of … ) while Kerry vets dismissed rumors of a demise, saying, "It's early," or "People aren't paying attention yet," or best of all, "This always happens in a Kerry race."
Whatever the ailment, the cure for "Seabiscuit Kerry" was seemingly thwarted by "Dean, Dean, Dean."
But, just over a week ago in New Hampshire, something happened.
The thoughtful, esoteric Senator, often taken to quoting Benjamin Franklin and referencing Dante in the same speech, tried something new: a simplified stump centered on deriding special interests and undercutting Dean's policy positions.
From foreign policy to Medicare — and don't forget guns — Kerry attacked the policies, but not the person.
It seems, however, fresh from two down days nearly full of closed meetings in Beantown, Kerry may have decided to unleash a last-lap strategy of Weldian proportions upon the Governor.
Following a brief tour of the Manchester Police Department with newly re-elected Mayor Bob Baines, Kerry stoked the embers of the Confederate flag imbroglio, hitting chief rival Howard Dean hard over the former his non-apology apology.
Outside the station, Kerry said, "Well, it wasn't an apology, the Governor himself said it wasn't an apology. He simply said that he regrets that his words hurt somebody. Now if he acknowledges that his words hurt somebody, he ought to apologize."
Then Kerry took it up a notch: "The Governor moves faster in more different directions, tells more stories than anyone I've met in politics. This is not a straight talker; this is a guy looking for the new angle every time he can."
Kerry also took a solid swing at Dean over the Governor's announcement that he will leave the decision whether or not to accept public financing to his supporters. Laughing at the thought, Kerry charged, "It's one of the biggest set-ups I've ever seen. What he's really trying to do is find a way to weasel out of the agreement that he made."
As for Kerry's publicly financed future, he demurred, "I haven't made a decision but I haven't been two-faced about it. I just haven't made a decision, period."
Read more from the trail with Kerry on abcnews.com: LINK
Dean: From ABC News' Dean campaign reporter Marc Ambinder:
Governor Dean will meet today with the executive council of the SEIU, which will then convene in a private session and hold an up or down vote.
SEIU matters because:
--It's a huge, diverse, growing union;
--Having its full-throated endorsement would help inoculate Dean from charges that he attracts little support outside of whites voters, professionals and upper-income liberals;
--SEIU President Andrew Stern commands enormous respect and influence within the Democratic Party; Dean would acquire a very visible rabbi for his efforts to convince the party elite that he's electable;
--SEIU plans to make up what it lacks in numbers in Iowa and New Hampshire by spending lots of money to mobilize thousands, and provide their chosen one with thousands of volunteer hours;