The Washington Post this morning has a story about Dean courting Democratic party insiders and how some of them are starting to soften their stance towards them. It reveals that at least one Clinton cabinet member is planning to endorse Dean and that Hillary Clinton has started to make positive noises towards him.
I think we are seeing the beginning of a sea-change in the party attitude towards Dean. It was perhaps inevitable as Dean has come to look more and more like the party nominee. As much as they may not like the way he has used them as a piñata on his rise to prominence, it doesn't pay for many to be on the bad side of the nominee. But I think there is more than just simple survival instinct at work here. I think many in the party are starting to realize that Dean isn't as bad as they thought he was.
The last couple of weeks have been telling in this assessment. There were three things that I think have lead to this:
- Dean's performance on Hardball blew a lot of people away. He was NOT the hot head that he has been portrayed in the media. He was calm under Mathews typical rapid-fire questioning and he impressed a lot of people with his thoughtfulness about very important issues.
- The trip by Ed Gillespie, RNC chief, to New Hampshire to specifically call out Dean demonstrated to a lot of Democrats that the GOP isn't so convinced that Dean will be easy to beat. This stunt by Gillespie could prove to be a tremendous miscalculation on the Republican's part.
- Dean's opening of his fundraising apparatus to Cong. Boswell, and the $50,000+ that resulted from it, struck the party leaders right where they live: Dean demonstrated that he can help out his fellow Democrats, even ones who aren't necessarily on the same side as him (Boswell voted for the Iraq resolution) and he can give them a lot of money in the process.
I disagree, however, with the headline on that Post article ("Dean Now Courting Party Insiders"). For one thing, Dean has been courting those insiders for several months now. It's that they are starting to return his calls. And, what's more, some of them are starting to court him.
Update: Sorry, forgot to mention the other significant sea-change development. Molly Ivins has endorsed Howard Dean.