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July 2, 2004
Deaniacs Threaten Floor Fight

Supporters of Howard Dean have launched a campaign to get their favorite candidate on the Democratic ticket as John Kerry's VP, and sent a message to the presumptive nominee -- pick our man or watch your unity festival dissolve into a floor fight:

The National Draft Dean for VP Committee has not contacted either Dean or Kerry about its efforts, but it expects to approach the former Vermont governor before Democrats gather in Boston for the convention July 26.

"Howard Dean shifts the dynamics of the race," said Michael Meurer, co-chairman of the draft committee, who argued that Dean on the ticket would stop progressives from voting for independent candidate Ralph Nader. Dean has shown up on few, if any, lists of serious contenders for the vice presidential nomination. Members of the draft committee say they believe their efforts to persuade Kerry through petitions to choose Dean will prove futile.

So they came up with the idea of forcing a vote at the convention. "We're gearing up for and we're resigned to a floor fight," Meurer said.

At least 300 delegates have to sign a petition to put such a question before the convention; organizers claim they've already got 350 firm commitments from delegates to sign on and indications of support from another 150.

Once again, the Deaniacs threaten to undo the Democrats. Howard Dean sounded a discouraging note, at least publicly. Dean said that he "trust[s] him to pick a vice-presidential nominee that will best serve the Democratic Party and the country," and that he fully supported whoever Kerry chooses. Dean has kept a low profile since flaming out at the beginning of the primaries, trying to allow Kerry to attract as much attention as possible; in other words, he shifted from maverick outsider to team player, up to now.

However, Kerry's inability to gain traction has clearly worried some Democrats, especially those who remember the Dean days somewhat more fondly now that time has passed. The top candidates for the VP slot do not promise much more magic on the stump, either; Edwards comes closest, but he's also the least experienced and has even less executive credentials than Kerry. Gephardt and Vilsack promise even less excitement at the convention than Kerry, while Hillary probably brings too much excitement -- for Bill, and the last thing Kerry needs at the moment is to get outshined by the Big Me. Deaniacs want that excitement, that good feeling back, and if they don't get it, they may wreck the nominating party and eliminate the big bounce Kerry needs coming out of it.

The problem for Kerry is that it puts him squarely in the middle once more. In order for the Senate's most liberal member to attract the important swing voters, Kerry has to select a centrist. However, picking a centrist will, as is obvious now, alienate the Deaniacs who energized the early primaries for the Democrats. Those voters may well wind up giving Nader a very long look, and at the least will be less than fully motivated for the remainder of the campaign season.

The other danger for the Kerry campaign will arise if they start believing their own press releases and operate from the assumption that Kerry actually is a centrist. If that is the case, then Dean may wind up on the ticket -- which will combine the least effective campaigners in the party on a ticket that will skew hard left, the wrong direction entirely. A Kerry ticket that runs further to the left with Dean will bring about another Mondale or McGovern fiasco. And with the Deaniacs threatening floor fights, we may wind up seeing not just 1972 but 1968 all over again.

Maybe the networks will change their mind and cover the conventions this year. Unless, of course, Katie Couric has a croquet match on NBC instead.

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Posted by Ed Morrissey at July 2, 2004 6:26 PM

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