Howard Dean on the Campaign Trail

Over the next several days, Dean's message will focus on his experience as both a Governor and a doctor. (Think "the candidate with the right prescription for America.") This image will certainly be bolstered on Thursday when Dr. Steinberg arrives in Michigan to stump with her husband. Also, an ad in Wisconsin will go up in the next few days.

And for those union watchers, senior adviser Gina Glantz laughs off any desertion talk, saying Andy Stern will join Dean in Michigan Friday.

Ultimately, though, the Dean campaign's most effective strategy may be the tried-and-true "crossing fingers" approach.

Good Bye, Joe

BURLINGTON, Vt., Jan. 28— Only a handful of items remain in Joe Trippi's office, which he once shared with Kate O'Connor. Of all Trippi's personal effects, O'Connor says she will miss his cherry skoal the most.

Others such as Tricia Enright, whom Trippi recruited to work on the campaign, will miss their daily spirited banter. "This isn't like other campaigns," said Enright. "We're very close." As news of Trippi's departure rippled from cubicle to cubicle, the already dampened mood of the office continued its decline. "He's the heart and soul of this campaign," said one staffer.

Trippi's decision to leave was a surprise to the staff and even to Governor Howard Dean who has brought on Roy Neel, former Gore chief of staff. Neel's role will be to "centralize" operations from the Burlington headquarters. As one senior Dean staffer put it, "Joe is not good at the day-to-day field operations stuff. I think Roy has the experience to do that for the campaign and we need that because of how much we have grown so fast." The Governor offered Trippi another position heading up Internet operations, but the former campaign manager declined. In a conference call the Governor said he "regrets" Trippi's resignation and that he hoped that Trippi would reconsider after a few days, but sources close to Trippi say he is "at peace with his decision and it's final."

Losing Trippi is another blow to the beleaguered Dean Team. First the big defeats in Iowa and a second place finish in New Hampshire. A dwindling bank account of 3.5 million dollars with 3 million dollars in expenses leaving a grand total of $500,000. The tally as well as a two-week pay cut for staff were announced yesterday at meeting in the Burlington office spawning rumors of mutiny.

The biggest morale buster for the Dean campaign may occur outside the campaign's headquarters. At Dean events, a flurry of reporters and supporters made Trippi seem more like a rock star than a campaign manager. Deaniacs felt so connected to Trippi that they often pulled him aside to offer suggestions. As for the traveling press, most say they will miss Trippi's Mondale yarns.

Pains In the Ass

Dark New England Highway, Jan. 28— Underneath extinguished overhead lights, reporters, photographers and Dean staff members drift off to sleep. How different would this bus ride have been if Howard Dean had wrapped up the Granite State in a first place ribbon? Images of more beer and chatter, reporters pecking away on laptops, staffers too excited to rest and perhaps even an impromptou press avail with the candidate come to mind.

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