The Washington Post’s Howard Kurtz wrote an extensive article on the Howard Dean campaign, revealing deep divisions within the ranks and a candidate afraid to win:
In different conversations and in different ways, according to several people who worked with him, Dean said at the peak of his popularity late last year that he never expected to rise so high, that he didn’t like the intense scrutiny, that he had just wanted to make a difference. “I don’t care about being president,” he said. Months earlier, as his candidacy was taking off, he told a colleague: “The problem is, I’m now afraid I might win.”
As Dean was swallowed by the bubble that envelops every major candidate, he allowed his campaign to sink into a nasty civil war that crippled decision-making and devastated morale. In the end, say some of those who uprooted their lives for him, these tensions hastened the implosion that brought Dean down.
The polarization revolved around two people: Joe Trippi, the rumpled, passionate, sometimes headstrong campaign manager who drew rock-star coverage in the press, and Kate O’Connor, the quiet, shrewd, low-profile Vermont confidante who never left Dean’s side.
Without a doubt, Kurtz’s article includes blockbuster revelations, but none that will prove more controversial than his conclusion — supported by his sources — that Dean didn’t want the nomination. The rest of the modern political soap opera is all there, too, from the senior aides who want to control the access to the King to the money woes, the rabid press corps, and the hatchet men who became sworn enemies to each other while professing undying loyalty to the nominee.
Perhaps the most interesting revelation, apart from Dean’s reluctance to win, is the internal fallout of the Gore endorsement. Kurtz describes the Dean campaign as two camps that struggled against each other: Kate O’Connor’s Vermont delegation and Joe Trippi’s Washington establishment retinue. Trippi claims that Dean and O’Connor kept Trippi in the dark about the endorsement until it occurred:
It was early December, and Dean and Gore had agreed to keep quiet about the former vice president’s plan to announce his support within days, fearing a premature leak. Trippi grew suspicious when staffers were asked to charter a large plane to Cedar Rapids, Iowa. He asked Dean, who said someone would be endorsing him but he couldn’t tell Trippi who it was. Trippi reminded him that he was the campaign manager. But Dean wouldn’t budge.
The larger message was that O’Connor had known and the Washington faction had not. O’Connor said she was simply doing what Dean and Gore wanted. What no one knew was that this would be the high point and that the corrosive sense of mistrust would eat away at the campaign at the worst possible time.
Definitely read the entire article; it may one day be the seed of a much-needed look at the Dean phenomenon from a reasonably disinterested outsider, as I am sure that more than one “insider’s look” at the campaign will shortly be available at your local bookstore. For such an innovative venture, it descended rather quickly into the venality and pettiness that seem to be the destiny of so many failed campaigns.