The Governor has told reporters that he taps into the energy of the crowd at public appearances. And in Iowa that night, the crestfallen union members and young Deaniacs most definitely perked up during the Sen. Harkin and Governor Dean's performance. So perhaps it is less of a question of whether Dr. Dean went nuts and more of an example of what the Governor himself has described as the struggle of making the transition from local to national politics where the spotlight never fades and critics watch with extra scrutiny.
The result of the rally gone wild is a ten point drop in Boston Herald and Boston Globe polls; nervous Union endorsers, and an afternoon of explaining away his "impassioned pep talk" to local TV stations across the country while in Vermont to visit his family. The prescription to the Governor's ailments may be a strong debate showing tonight and a page calling Dr. Steinberg, who campaigned with her husband for the first time on Sunday. Judy Dean charmed crowds and reporters, but most significantly softened the Governor's image--something new policy is unlikely to accomplish. She will appear with him in a Diane Sawyer interview for Primetime following the debate.
Ordinarily the sight of Joan Jett tuning up her electric guitar in an airport with a guy who looks like he uses Elmer's glue as his primary hair styling product would get a second look. That's not the case, however, if it's 3:15 am and you've just spent the day campaigning with Gov. Howard Dean for the Iowa caucus.
The Governor mustered up as much passion as possible in a Portsmouth, N.H., airport hangar for the 500 people cheering and hitting white plastic bats together. In his battle cry, Dean said, "We have hardly begun to fight...I'm not the front-runner anymore. New Hampshire has a tradition of helping the underdog. So let's go get them." On the plane ride, Governor Dean slept while Joe Trippi and Paul Maslin worked the aisles of the new MD-80 press plane. Trippi explained tonight's third place finish as a "murder-suicide" and "classic Politics 101."
"Gephardt decided that he had to beat us at all costs, and killed himself and damaged us pretty badly. He ran negative ads on us week after week and made it a two man race, and then these two guys who weren't in it came up and practically stole our message. I mean if you closed your eyes and listened to them tonight, it's Howard Dean. One mistake we made was getting in front of Gephardt. But you can't control that."
Maslin said the campaign was looking forward to New Hampshire, which has the best Dean organization in the country. He also said that the campaign inadvertently attracted Edwards supporters to the precincts via the Governor's energizing message.
Governor Dean begins campaigning as the underdog (again) in a little under five hours.
ST. LOUIS, MO., Jan. 20 - It all happened so fast. One minute, reporters in the Gephardt filing room were barely settling in to spend what many believed would be a long night of ups and downs as the precinct numbers rolled in. Some tried to assess what would happen if he placed second, or maybe even third. Then, the numbers began rolling in, the fog lifted, and Gephardt's political future began to unravel. The murder-suicide between Dean and Gephardt came into focus.