Whither Howard Dean?

At least John Kerry is married to Teresa Heinz, giving this bit a remote Pittsburgh connection. With Kerry on top of the Democratic presidential field, Howard Dean (number two and fading) has a strategic decision to make: Should he come out blazing before the next round of primaries and try to knock Kerry off his perch? Or should he solidify his position as part of a two-candidate field by taking the legs out from under Clark and John Edwards?

I helped run a Democratic presidential campaign in Iowa 20 years ago, and what was true then remains true today. In a crowded field, the media are looking for two people to focus on. If you're not in that two-candidate group, your job is to get there and stay there.

According to today's New York Times, Dean "really geared up for what we thought was going to be a front runner's campaign. It's not going to be a front-runner's campaign. It's going to be a long war of attrition." Dean thought he could use Iowa and New Hampshire to get to the top and stay there, but those were gambles that didn't pay off. You can't run a front-runner's campaign until you're actually a front-runner, and Kerry is the first real front-runner we've had.

For Dean, the conventional wisdom today would be this. It's time to be strategic. Take out Edwards and Clark, then ride the rest of the primaries out, mano a mano with John Kerry. I'm betting that Dean follows his own muse, focuses on Kerry, and blows it. Edwards and maybe even Clark may last one more round. After next Tuesday, Lieberman will be all but gone, and Dean will be fading fast. Kerry and Edwards make it to the convention, with Kerry the nominee and Clark the VP.


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Pittsblog 2.0 is written by Mike Madison, a law professor at the University of Pittsburgh. Send email to michael.j.madison[at]gmail.com. Mike also blogs at Madisonian.net, on law and technology. Chris Briem of Null Space drops by from time to time.

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