Howard Dean Erratic, Undisciplined, Self-Defeating: Aide

The Washington Post will publish a story in tomorrow’s edition that gives a sobering, behind-the-scenes look at former Democratic front-runner Howard Dean, whose phenomenal rise stunned everyone, not least Dean himself:

Paul Maslin [Dean’s pollster] also reveals that Dean was so adamant about keeping his Vermont gubernatorial records sealed that he told his staff in December: “I’d rather end the campaign than have the world see everything.” Although Dean maintained he was acting to preserve the principle of confidentiality, the real reason, Maslin says, is that the candidate was sure he had insulted important Democrats and liberal interest groups in the documents. …
Dean’s “erratic judgment, loose tongue and overall stubbornness wore our spirits down,” Maslin writes. “He refused to be scripted, to be disciplined or to discipline himself.”

In a twist eerily reminiscent to us in Minnesota, Maslin reveals that Dean never believed he would win the nomination and began to crack under the pressure of being the frontrunner:

Maslin quotes then-campaign manager Joe Trippi recounting a meeting with Dean after the staff insisted he release the Vermont records: “He just lost it in here. He basically told me that he never thought he’d be in this position. Never thought he could ever win. . . . He was just about in tears, and for once, I really feel for him. He said, ‘I don’t know why I say the things I do.’ ”
“Seldom,” writes Maslin, “have I seen someone on the brink of political success more conflicted about it.”

Jesse Ventura, the so-called maverick who won a third-party bid for Governor in 1998, also was reportedly stunned by his success; rumor has it that his first action on hearing of his surprise victory on the morning after Election Day was to throw up. Like Ventura, Dean apparently ran in order to shift the debate — in this case, to the left — not to actually win. Dean rolled up huge amounts in on-line donations and fired up his base, and generally appeared to be untouchable, until he actually had to run from the front of the pack after the novelty wore off. That’s when the rhetorical mistakes and the flashes of temper got Democrats worried about Dean’s ‘electability’, and sent them to the candidate who was busy stealing Dean’s message: John Kerry.
The real story here is that the campaign process weeded out a candidate who clearly could never have handled the presidency, or even the general election campaign, for that matter. However, the Post’s Howard Kurtz buries the lead once again by focusing on Dean’s reluctant endorsement of John Kerry in the first paragraph, which isn’t mentioned again in the article.