ABCNEWS' Reena Singh was on the campaign trail with former Vermont Gov. Howard Dean as he ran for president. Reports filed prior to December 1 were by ABCNEWS' Marc Ambinder. For the latest report, scroll down.
Life is 'Hell'
MILWAUKEE, WI, Feb. 17 -- Howard Dean is facing the window. His chin cupped in his palm. He peers out from gold-framed bookish glasses and catches glimpses of the Wisconsin landscape underneath clouds as white as the blank computer screens that will soon record the tale of Howard Dean and his Wisconsin Hail Mary.
On the ground, the National Campaign Chairman is gone and there are reports that senior advisors have their bags packed for beaches and European cities. Some within the rank and file adorn their lapels with Miller High life pins instead of the customary Dean campaign buttons. Getting back to "real life," instead of campaign strategy, is the hot topic of conversation among staff and press.
Rather than be discouraged by the shift in focus, the candidate is rolling with the punches. On the Gulf Stream back to Vermont last weekend the Governor joined the traveling press in a raucous card game of Oh Hell. Later he appears relaxed with wife Judy at his side as they posed for a photograph with their son at his last regular high school hockey game at the same hour that other presidential candidates stood before cameras at the Wisconsin J.J. Dinner. On route back to the frozen-block-of-cheese state (Has my bitterness to being in Wisconsin in February been duly noted, yet?) he teased a reporter about the horror of being stuck in the motel room unable to open the door or the window and eventually escaping when a photog charming broke down the door. Screwed by Venus again. (Yes, also bitter about Valentine's Day.)
It's more like Howard's Big Vacation. Just last week he tackled water purification and dog pee with middle school aged children and then cow poop at a dairy farm. He played ping pong with a teenager in Milwaukee. The Governor breaks out with the Wisconsin fight song spontaneously. Last night, in fact, he took the stage in rolled up sleeves as the Wisconsin fight song blared at his last Badger State rally. And still there was no melt down. Today the fun continues as he visits the factory that manufactures his new favorite root beer and receives his very own Dean Press Corps 2004 t-shirt, which read "Establishment Media" on the front and "We Have The Power," on the back. (Bloggers, get over yourselves. The Governor loves the t-shirts.)
Critics chalk it up to denial, but regular slips into the past tense reveal signs of an understanding that his is unlikely to regain his front-runner status.
Tonight the death watchers join the core traveling press to Vermont. Reports of legacies, contributions and analysis of Dean's political carcass will come in their time. Until then Howard Dean is savoring the final moments as a presidential candidate. His thoughts in the clouds.
Dean presses on