The Note

ByABC News
July 8, 2003, 9:17 AM

W A S H I N G T O N July 7&#151;<br> -- It's a hot July, and David Broder is writing about Howard Dean.

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"The path was marked very clearly by Jimmy Carter, more than a quarter-century ago, and Vermont Gov. Howard Dean (D) is following it scrupulously."

"Like former Georgia governor Carter in 1976, the physician-politician is challenging a group of better-known Washington insiders and conventional wisdom for the presidential nomination of his party."

Broder writes about Dean gaining traction by attacking his rivals for supporting "No Child Left Behind," for bragging about his record of fiscal discipline, and his touting of universal health care.

But (and we normally eschew the shaggy dog lead), Broder wrote all that on July 12, 2002, when Dean's progress was "measured mainly in the pile of business cards collected at every stop by Kate O'Connor, his gubernatorial aide and fellow-traveler."

Now, of course, Dean's progress can be measured in all sorts of ways, included the fact that he dominated the weekend's political coverage.

Most obviously, the print press was filled with Dean stories, and let's remind you what Broder's kicker was nearly one year ago today:

" (W)hen the Des Moines Register headlined a small story about Dean's visit, 'Vermont governor blasts GOP drug plan,' Dean remarked, 'It will be a breakthrough for me when my name is well-enough known that they can use it in a headline.'"

Now, of course, using the word "Dean" in a headline is no big whoop, and trying to figure out what to do about Howard Dean is the quiet preoccupation of more than one Democratic presidential candidate.

This is fun, inside baseball for those of you (read: "us") looking for an interesting 2004 storyline (in 2003 .), but the best American political coverage uses the ups and downs and twists and turns of every campaign to hold a mirror up to a still-young nation that happens to be the world's finest democracy.

Practicing and covering nomination politics are imperfect sciences, but you really can learn something about the mood of a party and we are serious about the mood of the nation, when an insurgent candidate does well.

We'd like to lock Congressman Gephardt and Senators Kerry, Edwards, Lieberman, and Graham in a windowless, un-air-conditioned classroom in Concord this afternoon and give them this pop quiz (not open book, and candidates only no help from Elmo, Jer-dan, Baldick, the Campaign Director, or Jarding):

--List three lines from Howard Dean's stump speech that always get a big crowd reaction and explain why. (15 minutes)

--Write an essay explaining what Dean's surge says about what the party wants in its nominee, and what larger sentiments does his message reveal about the state of the American psyche right now? (45 minutes)

George Bush survived a 19-point loss to John McCain because he became a Reformer with Results and started doing town meetings, proving he could adapt to a different message and a different mode of operation (as in: "steal what worked from the guy who was doing well").

A year ago, after Broder wrote what was one of the first pieces that made it into the Dean clip packet, there was some speculation that the Doctor might have been peaking too early.

And now that speculation has begun anew.

But ask any rival campaign whether Dean is still growing or is starting to bump up against the limits of his support, and the answers sound as if they are trying to convince themselves as much as they are trying to convince you.

Writing his paper's third consecutive day of Dean coverage, the New York Times ' Adam Nagourney looks at the weekend in New Hampshire, and two of the more seminal aspects of the Dean crowds: they are intense, and/but many worry about his electability. LINK

Writing about the challenges ahead, Nagourney says:

"Dr. Dean's fund-raising prowess has also placed him on a political precipice, compelling him to deal with his own success. He said he had called 'a big strategy meeting' with his top advisers for Tuesday at his headquarters in Burlington, Vt., to decide how to make the most of this attention without stumbling the way some past presidential candidates in his position have."

"'Look, every insurgent campaign has gone exactly through this,' said Dr. Dean, who is making his first bid for national office. 'The outsider is always given the back of the hand. Then these insider candidates, which is just about all of them, spin like crazy trying to get you to write unflattering stories about how we couldn't possibly win .'"

"History suggests that Dr. Dean will have to do some repackaging of himself in the months ahead. But he insisted that he had no intention of doing that."

While the other campaigns will grit their teeth and shake their heads and slap their foreheads at Dean's boasting of the best homeland security record in the field (for protecting Vermonters after 9/11), Dean's base couldn't care less about such things.

Over the extended holiday weekend, with Dean, Kerry, Graham, Gephardt, and Lieberman in New Hampshire, the candidates largely tried to stay away from even mentioning each other's names, although the Union Leader put a headline on a story suggesting that Joe Lieberman was looking to isolate Dean.

"Lieberman Seeks Distance From Dean" the paper said. LINK

Although Lieberman will not utter the word "Dean," he is right now the most aggressive in trying to make the case that Deanism is bad for the party. (Lieberman is perhaps obligated to be outspoken because his New Hampshire campaign is predicated on reaching non-liberal Democrats and independents).

Yesterday, when three young(ish) reporters tried to get Lieberman to take a version of our pop quiz as he was leaving a Concord baseball game, he wouldn't engage directly, but he did say "You have to go beyond the anger."

He also said, per Nagourney, "I think the policy of opposing all tax cuts, opposing the war, et cetera, et cetera, is a ticket to nowhere for the Democratic Party "

But a perspiration-less John Kerry (literally, NOT metaphorically) refused to discuss Dean directly at his July 4th parades, maintaining his policy of not discussing his fellow Democrats publicly.

So with his rivals refusing (for now) to take him on frontally (or steal some/all of his mojo), the media, as it so often does, rushed in to fill the vacuum.

There were profiles, and lots of focus on his campaign's using the Internet, and hand-wringing about what happens if he wins the nomination, but probably the seminal item was from Saturday's Washington Post , where Juliet Eilperin must-wrote Karl Rove cheering on Howard Dean at a parade (and the photo is a keeper!) LINK

"As a dozen people marched toward Dana Place wearing Dean for President T-shirts and carrying Dean for America signs, Rove told a companion, '"Heh, heh, heh. Yeah, that's the one we want,' .. 'How come no one is cheering for Dean?'"

"Then Rove exhorted the marchers and the parade audience: 'Come on, everybody! Go, Howard Dean!'"

Will Team Dean come up with a way to deal with the electability issue at their meeting tomorrow?

Will that be the issue that other campaigns go after him on, or will they broaden out the (public) attack?

Or will they, just maybe, think about WHY Howard Dean is doing well, and try to incorporate that into their modes and methods?

For the overwhelming glut of weekend cyber ink spilled over Mike Weissman's boss, see "Invisible Primary/DEAN" below.

With the president in Africa through the 12th, Dean and the other Democrats will continue to run around this week. Sort of.

Senators Edwards and Lieberman are in New Hampshire today. Senator Graham is in Oklahoma.

On Tuesday, plaintiffs' briefs are due in the consolidated BCRA case.

On Wednesday, Reverend Sharpton addresses the DL21C in New York City.

Also on Wednesday, the Young Republican National Federation Conference kicks off in Boston.

As part of his European trip, President Clinton participates in the Progressive Governance Conference on Friday.

On Friday, the National Association of Counties 2003 Annual Conference and Exposition opens in Milwaukee.

Governor Dean has no public events until Thursday in New Hampshire, so far as we can tell.

Congressman Gephardt has more than a dozen events in Western, Central and Eastern Iowa from Wednesday through Sunday. Also Sunday, Gephardt hears it from the Harkin heartland in Dubuque.

The president leaves tonight for Senegal.

Tomorrow: Senegal and Pretoria, South Africa

Wednesday: lunch with President Mbeki

Thursday: Botswana; visits a Southern Africa Global Competitiveness Trade Hub Exhibit; meets with women entrepreneurs; visits the Mokolodi Nature Reserve

Friday: Uganda; visits an AIDS clinic and patient support center; makes remarks; departs for Nigeria.

Saturday: In Nigeria, attends an HIV/AIDS briefing and returns that evening to Washington.

Today's California Recall headlines:

--Congressman Issa has long had his eyes on statewide office in California, surprising no one with his aggressive attempt at ousting Governor Davis

--Democrats may not be playing their cards right by refusing to put up a Democratic name on a recall ballot