What it means
I like Josh Marshall's take on today's news:
The upshot of this endorsement is that the first serious impression that a lot of Democrats will get of Dean will be that Al Gore is supporting him. And that seems like an awfully big deal, especially since it plays favorably to Dean's chief perceived weaknesses -- namely, that he's a weak general election candidate.
It's sometimes hard for political junkies to realize that the vast majority of people just aren't paying that much attention to this stuff. This is probably the first 2004 campaign news that will have a big impact on the minds of those people and, as Josh says, that cannot be anything but a good thing for Dean.
I've always been a big fan of Gore's and I remain one, a strong one. But I was talking to a friend this evening about Gore's announcement and he said that Gore's endorsement wouldn't be all positive since a lot of people are still pissed at Gore for what happened in 2000.
But I think that's very much a DC reaction, and not one, I think, that's shared very widely among Democrats around the country. Whatever they thought of Gore going into 2000, I think most Democrats around the country see him as someone who by every measure was robbed of the presidency and thus has great credibility to make such an endorsement. (It's an estimation I agree with.)
Josh is on to something here as well. There is a huge disconnect between the party establishment and the rank-n-file. I know a lot of Democrats who were disappointed at Gore's performance in 2000, but most of them still have a lot of affection for the guy and honestly believe that he should be our President today. It was the Democratic establishment that ran away from Gore after the 2000 race (even before the Supreme's decision), not the ordinary Democratic voters.
And this is why so many of the other candidates have failed to connect with the voters. When you have John Kerry telling Democrats to get over the 2000 race you have as clear a sign as any that they just don't understand what is going on out here. When you have the DLC spilling more vitriol about their own rank-n-file then they are about the opposition, is it any wonder that they continue to lose?
Not all establishment Dems are like this. But enough is all that is necessary for them to become essentially irrelevant to what is happening in this race.