Howard Dean on the Campaign Trail

Speaking of children, the Governor flies home tomorrow afternoon to watch his son's hockey game. Most of the press will travel to Burlington with him, but not on Pearl Jam I, Pearl Jam II or Cheese Head I. (Cheese Head I replaced Pearl Jam I as the press corps began to dwindle. The seven-passenger Diamond Jet is eerily reminiscent of the early Dean campaign days.) Instead it will be back to the old Gulf Stream tomorrow.

On the way to Vermont, perhaps the Dean senior staff will mull over a plan that has been subtly recommended by the traveling press. It's the Hawaiian Island Strategy.

Long rides and new ads

PORTLAND, Maine, Feb. 8 — There seem to be certain dangers of life on the road as a political reporter — like food poisoning, living on the edge of catching pneumonia from your colleagues and sleep deprivation. Now add to list: crammed into a bright blue VW Bug with three other journalists as pint-sized, truck-driver-mouthed Hillary, the 21 year-old intern, breaks speed barriers down the darkness of a Maine highway.

The ride south on the Highway to Hell began in Auburn, where we stayed behind to watch a caucus from start to finish. We had been to several caucuses in Maine throughout the day with Gov. Dean, but only to listen to him speak with the voters. After the Governor left Auburn Middle School, the real work began. First, the room elected a chair and a secretary, and then everyone broke up into their wards. A man asked his neighbor whether his daughter got into Middlebury College. When the neighbor said no, the man shrugged and said, "Well it's their loss. She's great."

Congenial dialogue about kids, the weather and the health of mutual acquaintances — minus nasty Edwards flyers — weaved through the room. There was also a lot of paperwork and moving people around. And confusion, too. No one except the chair seemed to know what is going on. A man who seems like he is 100 if he is a day old gots up on a chair and began to count absentee ballots. Then he called out each candidate and tallied up the numbers of hands raised for each name. He lost count and counted again. Not sure if it's exactly right on the third time, he waved his hands and said, "That's close enough for government work." Kerry won Auburn with 99 votes and Dean came in with 93. The first and second place result replayed throughout the state.

There's only one press plane now. It's Pearl Jam II, except when the Governor boards — then it becomes Pearl Jam I. Before we are wheels up, Styrofoam cartons containing lobster rolls are passed throughout the cabin. Tomorrow the Wisconsin offensive begins with the old and the new. The old biographical ad goes up and a new ad, which was created by volunteers and will be picked off the Dean for America Web site by supporters, hits the airwaves on Tuesday.

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