Of course, the long haul is only four weeks away at the most, which takes us to March 9. So little time, and yet so many strategies. First there is the umbrella Wisconsin strategy, and under that the rubber stamp sub-strategy. The Governor is calling on Wisconsinites to be independent-minded and chose him over He-Who-Shall-Not-Be-Named-In-This-Report. Here's how it works: "The media claims this contest is over. They say your voice and your vote don't count. They expect you to rubber stamp the choice of others. But you don't have to listen to them. Wisconsin: You have the power to keep this debate alive. You have the power to choose the strongest candidate to beat George W. Bush."
Sidebar: The above brings us to the "Kill the Traveling Press" strategy, shown in Dean's jabs at the "establishment media" from the stump. Increasingly, members of the traveling press are being approached by irate and sometimes violent-looking Deaniacs demanding more favorable campaign coverage and inquiring why we've been so unfair to their leader. (If I had a nickel for every time a Deaniac asked me if I thought the "scream" was overplayed, I … well, I'd be writing this note from the Four Seasons Bali wearing an oversized bathrobe instead of from the Milwaukee Hilton sans robe.
Back to the rubber stamp sub-strategy, which has its own ad that went up last night in Wisconsin — titled "Rubber Stamp."
Last night at a rally in Milwaukee Dean announced the "Back to Bean Town" offense. Self-inspired by a line from his stump speech that offers the president a one-way ticket back to Crawford, Texas, the Governor generously decided to extend a vacation to the front-runner when he said, "Maybe we should send someone back to Boston, Massachusetts, too." The hiccup in that plan, as one astute reporter observed, is that Boston is the site of this summer's Democratic Party Convention. When this tiny detail was brought up to the Governor behind stage at his last event, he explained that he was simply being a "party unifier."
Perhaps, the most forward-thinking component of the Dean ground war is the youth outreach. On Tuesday Dean visited two schools to speak with young folk who will most likely vote in 2008 or 2012. He presided over a history class as a guest teacher and even offered his expertise on water purification when he walked into room 102 at Longfellow Middle School in La Crosse where students were examining water samples under a microscope. Here are some of the pearls of wisdom from Dr. Dean:
HD: Which do you think is safer, to drink water from your toilet or from the river? It's true.
STUDENT: I'd rather drink from the toilet.
HD: That's right.
The class went onto discuss "dog pee." The Governor asked, "Which has more bacteria, dog pee or river water?" The class went with "dog pee."
"I do not recommend drinking urine, but if you drink water straight from the river you have a greater chance of getting an infection that if you drink urine," said Dean to students who were now laughing uncontrollably.
Dean was a hit in classroom 102 and most likely he'll make a splash in the homes of these students as well. Can you hear it at the dinner table now? "Honey, what did you learn in school today?"
"Howard Dean taught us that it's safe to drink pee out of the toilet."
Oh dear — appealing to junior voters is indeed a dangerous strategy.