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Wednesday, January 28, 2004

Dean On The Ropes

Governor Howard Dean's sputtering campaign hit more bumps in the road today:

Democrat Howard Dean shook up his faltering bid for the White House on Wednesday, replacing his campaign manager with a longtime associate of former Vice President Al Gore [Roy Neel]. In a further sign of distress, the one-time front-runner implemented cost-cutting measures as he looked ahead to a series of costly primaries and caucuses, asking staff to defer their paychecks for two weeks.

Management changes and budget cuts do not indicate a campaign firing on all cylinders; it demonstrates the extent of the problem Dean now faces. With his opponents raising more cash and with seven states voting on Tuesday, Dean has to spend a ton of money and needs a steady hand at the rudder. I'm not sure why outgoing campaign manager Joe Trippi suddenly lost Dean's confidence. Most of the problems Dean has he brought on himself, from his foolish notion that Saddam's capture made the US "no safer" to his cranky rant against a retired Iowan and his manic third-place "acceptance" speech. Apparently, Trippi doesn't know either:

One source said the former Vermont governor offered Trippi a spot on the payroll as a senior adviser — similar to the position Neel has held since Jan. 1 — but he decided to quit rather than accept the demotion.

Trippi's hurt feelings are the least of Dean's worries at the moment. Continued success in fundraising, regardless of whether it's from large donors or small, depends on the perception that Dean has a strong chance of winning the nomination. A month ago, Dean was the only candidate in the race inspiring that confidence, but now Kerry has assumed that mantle. Donations will start to slow, if they haven't already, leading to the suspension of pay for his campaign team. Donors aren't the only ones losing confidence in Dean's prospects:

One day after absorbing a double-digit defeat in New Hampshire at the hands of rival John Kerry, Dean publicly and privately expressed his determination to remain in the race. At the same time, in a conference call with members of Congress who have endorsed him, he was told bluntly that finishing second wasn't good enough — that he had to show he could win a primary.

"He said he understood," said one lawmaker who was involved in the call.

Dean's campaign chairman Steve Grossman also said Wednesday that the candidate must win a presidential primary in the next two weeks to keep even his most loyal donor base — those giving modest amounts over the Web — contributing enough to make him financially competitive.

Translation: Dean must right his foundering campaign and win at least one of the primaries being held next Tuesday. Otherwise, what support he still enjoys will be looking for a way out.

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07:38 PM in DeanWatch | Permalink

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