Instead of the promised campaign finance reform rhetoric, the frog-throated candidate croaked on about his record, his conviction, his passion and his warts. Policy Director Jeremy Ben-Ami rated the Governor's debate performance as his "strongest ever." Regarding the argument of what is better to lead with-the heart or the head-Ben-Ami said: "If you calculate every decision with your head, you will lose. That' what the others do and the fact that Howard leads with his heart makes him so much more refreshing than the politics as usual crowd."
Other staff members were pleased that their candidate got his two messages across: the courage to stand up for what he believes in and his executive experience as Governor.
After watching the executive side of Dean and then the softer side of Dean, America saw the funny side of Dean. Huddled around the television in the Dean Manchester headquarters, young staffers stood among empty pizza boxes and watched the top ten list on Letterman. The shoulder flash got the most hooting and hollering.
The number of events for the next four days remains the same, but expect to see more stop-bys at diners and other public places. The Governor will also take to the phones and knock on doors as part of a Hail Mary strategy.
Live Free, Dean
MANCHESTER, N.H., Jan 22—In 1809, Revolutionary War hero General John Stark raised a glass and made a toast: "Live Free Or Die; Death Is Not The Worst of Evils." Almost 200 years later, in Manchester, New Hampshire, Democratic presidential candidate Howard Dean updated the General's words for his campaign battle cry: "Live Free And Dean."
The independent, rebellious phrase seems fitting for a candidate who will spend the next 5 days promoting the image of a straight talking, Washington outsider to save his bid for the presidency from dying. Senior advisors say their candidate is going back to his root message to distinguish himself from the other candidates. Bottom line: "Howard Dean is not afraid to stand up for what he believes in."
On the day of the last debate before the primary, the Governor plans to unload his latest arsenal when he introduces specifics to his campaign finance reform plan including limiting individual contributions from $2,000 to $250. Policy advisors explain that the plan is structured to eliminate special interest money and "Washington as usual politics." Regarding the plan, senior advisor Gina Glantz says, "I think that this is a message about average Americans being in control of their environments. You can't get things-like health insurance-done in Washington unless you have campaign finance reform. It goes to the ability of politicians being able to do the right thing without being tied to special interest dollars."
To be determined is how this message will play out to voters over the days leading up to the primary and whether it will be enough to defeat the fiery post-caucus debacle that has provided fodder for late night television two nights in a row. The traveling press, headquartered in Manchester, continues to monitor the fallout at their hotel's communal dining room while feeding on bagels and headlines. As for the Dean staff, one advisor refers to the intense rally speech as simply a "distraction," while others scoff at the attention and blame the "establishment media" for the negative spin.