As the awesome shock of Governor Dean's second-quarter numbers starts to wear off (or, at least, starts to become a comfortable part of the Invisible Primary furniture), the Big Think period begins, as we all try to figure out the myriad strategic and tactical implications of Howard Dean's rise.
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While most pundits and reporters this cycle struggle to simply count the dollars and change, two journalistas rush to the head of the "what it all means" pack: the Los Angeles Times' Z. "Mark Z." Barabak and the Washington Post 's Howard Kurtz.
They both have penned must-reads, suggesting that the Doctor is In … .both good shape AND potentially looming trouble.
First, Mr. Productivity, Herr Barabak, says that Dean's stock is still rising, and one judges Dean by conventional standards at one's peril:
"The best illustration of Dean's appeal — and the concern it has sparked among leading Democrats — may have been provided by his appearance two Sundays ago on NBC's 'Meet the Press.'" LINK
"Such interviews are a political rite of passage and must-see TV for the insiders who frame Washington's prevailing wisdom. And by most accounts, Dean performed miserably. He bickered with the host, Tim Russert, evaded some questions and equivocated in response to others. Most egregiously, in the eyes of critics, he could only guess at how many U.S. troops were on active duty around the world and incorrectly estimated the number in Iraq."
"No matter, at least to some. In the days that followed, contributions to the campaign skyrocketed, according to aides. (The period also included Dean's formal announcement speech and efforts to build support through an online straw poll conducted by MoveOn.org, a left-leaning group. Dean won 44% of the roughly 300,000 votes cast, easily finishing first.)"
"'People watched [Dean's appearance on 'Meet the Press'] and said, 'Hey, there's a guy who admits he doesn't know the answer. You never see anybody in Washington do that,' ' said Joe Trippi, Dean's campaign manager."
"But as the appearance also demonstrated, Dean has managed to avoid much of the critical analysis that attaches itself to a candidate thought to have a serious chance of winning the nomination."
"The Dean campaign, for its part, pushed ahead with its next unorthodox move — an Internet-based effort to gather tens of thousands of backers across the country Wednesday and have each pen a personal note asking a Democrat in Iowa to support Dean."
For the other candidates, it's not so clear how big a deal this whole Dean thing is, as evinced by two distinct views from within one campaign:
Gephardtian Bill Carrick shows Dean some respect via Barabak:
"'It's obvious that he's going to be a durable, long-standing player in this campaign,' said [C]arrick, a strategist for Democratic Rep. Richard A. Gephardt of Missouri … 'It's still a long way out. The challenge now is for [Dean] to raise up his game another notch or two and show he can stay competitive.'"