Yesterday, Howard Dean failed miserably in the eyes of all but 10 members of the Gang of 500 by performing - by Gang standards - absolutely unfabulous in a key Beltway ritual.
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Today, Howard Dean's announcement speech was seen live by more supporters than any announcement in the history of presidential politics (we are pretty sure … ).
Those two contrasts perfectly encapsulate the riddle wrapped in an enigma wrapped in a question that is the essence of deanforamerica.com. If Howard Dean had a "normal" candidacy, yesterday's shifting, evasive, base-alienating performance on "Meet the Press" would have devastated his prospects.
A review of his senior staff's reaction suggests they couldn't have cared less, however.
To say Tim Russert was significantly more prepared for the interview than Howard Dean would be to insult Tim.
But as Dean made it official today at 1:00 pm in Burlington (and with thousands watching in big cities by satellite feed and on the web), the politico-media establishment continues to look at him as an anti-war pipsqueak, who, after yesterday, is decidedly not ready for primetime.
We could go into great detail about the substantive and stylistic reasons why Dean's performance was an utter disaster in the eyes of the Chattering Class, but doing so might give you a misleading impression.
Kit Seelye in the New York Times calls it straight: "Dr. Dean, a Democrat who prides himself on his straightforwardness, equivocated on several issues."LINK
Even the AP wire hinted at how gruesome it all was: "Interviewed Sunday on NBC's 'Meet the Press,' he seemed unsteady on some issues and prickly when second-guessed." LINK
Besides being evasive, Dean left himself vulnerable from the left, right, or both on the military, gay marriage, Social Security, and more.
He looked thin-skinned, unprepared, stuttering. His odd position on whether he had apologized to Bob Graham defied understanding.
What we say matters not.
What this next group of people says matters A LOT.
Some of the Doctor's supporters on the web didn't love the show. (A few also didn't appreciate the fact that Senator Russert asked hard questions. The nerve of that man!) LINK AND LINK
--"Could someone please explain to me why Dean said we need MORE troops in Iraq? … I am an avid Dean supporter because I THOUGHT he was against the Second Iraqi War — not for it."
--"Sitdown interviews are Governor Dean's worst venue … "
--"Did the DLC submit the questions for Tim Russert?"
--"What Dean forgot on today's MTP is that he's not running against Tim Russert. (Incidentally, I'm a liberal Democrat, and the notion that Russert is a conservative is rather silly.)"
--"I was really really disappointed with the interview. I thought it was Deans big opportunity to really mark his place, but he failed. I feel like Tim is overly tough on Dean, compared to how easy he has gone on many other people in the past."
--"Good exposure, and surviving was even better."
--" … Governor Dean missed a chance to hit the ball out of the park when Russert brought up Dean's apologies.:"