Magazine article Newsweek

Lying in Wait for Dean

Magazine article Newsweek

Lying in Wait for Dean

Article excerpt

Byline: Howard Fineman

You'd think that Howard Dean's rivals would start attacking him--big time--now that his Internet-based fund-raising prowess has elevated him to what amounts to front-runner status in the Democratic presidential race. But each leading contender has his own strategic reason for laying off, at least until the fall, if not beyond--a scenario that could backfire by allowing Dean a free ride until it's too late to stop him.

Advisers to the other front runner, Sen. John Kerry, don't want to attack Dean now because they think he'll crumble quickly when they finally do. In the meantime, Kerry advisers say, it's good for the race to be seen by many party insiders as a two-way Kerry-Dean contest, since that deprives the other top-tier candidates--Dick Gephardt, John Edwards and Joe Lieberman--of media attention and campaign donations. "We can take Howard Dean out whenever we want to," said one Kerry adviser. "Why do it now?"

If it really is a two-man race, Kerry hopes ultimately to argue that the party can't afford to nominate the antiwar Dean. Another Kerry adviser says, "The Democratic Party isn't going to want to nominate another 49er--a guy who loses 49 states, the way George McGovern did in 1972." Other Dean rivals are happy to leave Dean alone on the theory that he is most bothersome to the Kerry campaign, especially in New Hampshire, where the primary next January is do or die for both men. "Either Kerry or Dean is going to survive the New Hampshire Primary, but not both," said an adviser to another rival. …

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