Presidential candidates in decline can turn feral (actually, the same is true of any politician who feels the ground sinking beneath him or her). Dean is beginning to build an inevitability meme — or at least to grow his campaign to the point where (1) even smart analysts are afraid to bet against him (I heard an analyst on NPR today refuse to say that Dean couldn't win votes in the South, noting that Dean keeps beating his expectations), and (2) the campaign dynamic begins to be 'is there anyone other than Clark to become the ABD candidate'.
As the air gets sucked out of other campaigns, we'll see their real test of character begin. Will the candidates do the decent thing for the party and stick to the high road, even though it means likely defeat for their own candidacy? Or will they do the expedient thing, and do George Bush's work for him by going nasty, mean and negative?
For no candidate is the choice as stark as for Senator John Kerry. For he has the most to lose by far from the Dean Machine: Not only does Kerry lose what's left of his (anointed within the Beltway) front-runner status, but alone of the serious candidates he has no hope of being chosen as Dean's Veep, since a Massachusetts Senator adds nothing to the ticket headed by a Vermont Governor.
Current indications are that, faced with this painful test of character, Kerry is flubbing it: Kerry Opens New Attacks Against Dean,
Democrat John Kerry accused presidential rival Howard Dean of lacking principles and flip-flopping on key issues Thursday, hoping to convert the front-runner's fumble over the Confederate flag into a sweeping indictment of Dean's policies and personality.
“I think Americans deserve straight talk. I think they ought to know who Howard Dean is,” the Massachusetts senator said.
Pity. I thought better of Kerry than that. Can't he ever throw away the consultant-driven campaign playbook?