Losing Iowa as he
did and what he did in the aftermath severely hurt any chance of Howard Dean
partaking in a particular swearing-in ceremony on January 20, 2005.
Losing New Hampshire Tuesday night to John Kerry has now made it virtually
impossible. Some say Dean peaked too soon. Others peg the now infamous "I
have a scream" speech in Iowa on caucus night. Besides Dean's now numerous
political foot in mouth misstatements and his angry-at-the-establishment
platform, what hurt Dean immeasurably was his choice of friends. John Kerry
had Ted Kennedy stumping with him in Iowa several times, specifically toward
the end. It paid off handsomely, as Kerry blew past Dean, who placed a distant
third. Of all the endorsements Dean picked up in the last two months, none
was thought more important than the December 9th endorsement of the 2000
Presidential election popular vote winner, former Vice President Al Gore.
Since that day, Gore had stumped for Dean twice in Iowa: the day he endorsed
Dean and once again on January 10th, on the eve of the final debate in Iowa.
At that time, the Zogby poll had Dean at 28% to John Kerry's 15%. Gore won
Iowa in 2000 over George W. Bush, and was well-versed in the Hawkeye state’s
liberal politics. Instead of campaigning for Dean, someone Gore stated "clearly
stands out," Gore was busy giving a policy speech about global warming to
his pet political organization, MoveOn.org in New York, which was experiencing
its coldest winter in recent memory. So on January 15th, with the temperature
hovering barely above 0°, Gore wooed thousands of radical leftists while
Dean began a quick descent in Iowa.
Hampshire, the story was no different. Gore was MIA in a state he also won
in his primary bid in the 2000 election, where he beat another Dean endorser
and no-show, former Senator Bill Bradley. As Dean limped into New Hampshire
badly in need of a boost, Gore seemed to have a more pressing engagement.
In fact, the last time Gore was spotted was in the control room of NASA on
Sunday the 25th in California, watching the landing of the Mars rover "Opportunity"
with Republican Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger.
It was thought by some that the former Vice President's bold move to endorse
someone so outside of the mainstream as Dean was his answering a call to
his own true liberal roots. Gore was seized upon during his campaign for
the presidency as a man without identity, referring to consultants as to
what persona he should portray in public, seeking to strike the "right" tone
among the electorate. He was a candidate uncomfortable in his own skin. With
his endorsing of the liberal dark horse from Vermont, Gore looked to be answering
a call to nature, principally his own.
This was the much awaited "reemergence" of Al Gore, and his stepping back
into the political dogfight sure to happen in 2008. It was also his challenge
of moving the Democratic Party in a new direction, most notably away from
the tutelage of Bill and Hillary Clinton. Still stinging over the results
of the 2000 election and self-indulgently blaming his loss on Clinton's scandal-scarred
presidency, Gore chose to bed down with the anti-establishment Bush-hating
left, and abandoned the centrist policies he once claimed to have espoused.
Now Dean heads to South Carolina for the start of a seven state primary surge,
with delegate counting beginning to loom as a factor. He does not figure
to do well in states like Missouri and Oklahoma, which means he must win
in states like Arizona and New Mexico in order to stay in the race. If Dean
can win a race, he can hold on to February 17 and hope to stop Kerry in Michigan
and Washington. But front runner status and the momentum belong to John Kerry,
and with that comes campaign cash. This was not supposed to be the script
with which Howard Dean would be entering South Carolina. Up until three weeks
ago, Dean was projected to win both Iowa and New Hampshire. With Al Gore's
help, he might have won both.
So far, Gore’s endorsement of Howard Dean amounts to nothing more than what
I'd like to call a shadow endorsement: you see its outline, and you know
it's there -- yet it has no substance, making it inconsequential. So what
should you expect Al Gore to do for Howard Dean in South Carolina? Well,
South Carolina mattered so little to Gore in the 2000 presidential election
that he made exactly one stop in the state throughout the entire campaign.
To Dean, it must feel like a lifetime ago when he had the money, the base,
and the organization to beat the “Washington establishment” by stunning the
beltway with wins in Iowa and New Hampshire. Now, in all probability,
he fights for a prime speaker's spot at the Democratic convention in Boston
this July. There, the iconoclastic Howard Dean can rub elbows with the Democratic
power base he professes to despise so much and ask Gore, who attempted to
play the “kingmaker” back in December of 2004 by endorsing him, why he abandoned
him when the throne was in his grasp.
Vincent Fiore is a freelance writer.