Saturday, January 29, 2005

No announcement from the Dean camp on Ickes' endorsement

There are many surprising things about the Ickes endorsement of Howard Dean. But one of the more intriguing for me is the fact that this news has yet to be announced on the Democracy For America web site. You would think, normally, that they would be trumpeting something this important.

There are two explanations I can think of for the cricket noise coming from Burlington: (1) they aren't ready to make the announcement official and this report is just a leak of something that will be happening soon, or (2) they have learned some lessons from the handling of the Gore announcement and don't want to make the same mistake.

I think the latter is the more likely possibility. When Gore told Dean that he would endorse the governor, Dean quickly arranged a press conference to announce it. It happened so quickly that even Joe Trippi didn't know about it in advance! While the announcement quickly cemented Dean's status as the front-runner, it also produced what I call the "Risk" moment in the campaign.

In the game of Risk, there comes a time when one player becomes so overwhelmingly powerful that it is in the best interest of all the other players to combine forces and wipe them out (because no single player would have a chance). This happened in the Democratic campaign, where members of the Gephardt and Kerry campaigns worked together behind the scenes to release some really disgusting attack ads on Dean. Furthermore, while I don't have proof of this, I am convinced that Gephardt deliberately sacrificed his own candidacy in order to take out Dean (perhaps in exchange for a seat in Kerry's cabinet).

None of this excuses Dean's mistakes in that campaign. I'm only talking about this as an illustrative example of why Dean may be more circumspect about the Ickes' endorsement. It is a big feather in his cap. But if he were to really brag about it it could quickly coalesce the Anybody-But-Dean forces into a final effort to stop him. He's already experienced that once. He doesn't want it to happen again.

So he will keep the Ickes's endorsement as a nice little piece of news to pass around behind closed doors, another way to persuade reluctant delegates. But he won't go talking about it much in front of the cameras or in press releases on his web site. Instead he'll make much more noise about endorsements from the rank-n-file delegates.

After all, it is they who will ultimately have to vote on whether Dean gets the job.


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