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Tuesday, July 29, 2003


On the Road With...Dean?

posted by Trammell at Tuesday, July 29, 2003 permalink View blog reactions
Be Like Dean!
John Kerry's voters ask their candidate to act like the other guy.
By Chris Suellentrop, MSNBC & Slate

DES MOINES, Iowa, July 29 — When I arrive at John Kerry's campaign headquarters Saturday afternoon for a "Kerry Country BBQ," the candidate's staff is buzzing about a tall young blond man who has arrived for the event. They want to prevent him from getting anywhere close to the candidate. Before I came to Iowa, I was conditioned to think of Howard Dean as the unpredictably exciting, insurgent candidate and to think of Kerry as the aloof, preprogrammed establishment contender. This is my first taste of what the differences look like up close.

What's all the fuss about the blond guy? I ask Kerry's Iowa press secretary, Laura Capps. "He takes pictures of himself with the candidates and posts nasty comments about them," she says. I’m not sure, but this may be a historic moment for the Iowa caucuses: The Kerry campaign is terrified of how their candidate will be portrayed by a blogger.

Later, I sidle up next to the man to ask about his Web site, which turns out to be far, he's snapped pictures of himself with six candidates. This is easy to do in Iowa, where campaign events usually end with a ritual that resembles Picture Day at a Major League Baseball game, as voters line up to take snapshots of themselves and their children with the candidate du jour. The blogger needs shots of Kerry, Carol Moseley Braun, and Bob Graham to complete his collection, but he fails in his mission at the Kerry barbecue. Instead, the next day he adds a picture of Kerry's head on the body of a chicken to the top of his site.

Kerry arrives a few minutes later, riding a Harley. A crowd of voters and campaign volunteers surround him, but it appears that the campaign workers are the ones making most of the noise, a lot of "Yay, John, woo-hoo!"-ing. (In contrast to the Dean campaign, I notice later that some Kerry volunteers and staffers are introducing themselves to the candidate, as if for the first time, and having their pictures taken with him.) [...]


At the two Kerry events I attended this past weekend, voters kept encouraging the Massachusetts senator, in effect, to be more like Howard Dean. After Friday's Kerry speech, a voter walked up to him and told him the Democrats must quit being passive. "Oh, I’m not passive," Kerry soothed. Today, he does something similar when an angry voter complains about the Leave No Child Behind bill. "Oh, I am so furious about it," Kerry says matter-of-factly. These are questions Dean wouldn’t even be asked.

As I'm leaving the event, I run into a Kerry campaign worker. He stops me and asks me about Dean and what he's like. He says he'd really like to hear him speak, but it's not kosher for staffers to go to other candidates' events. Maybe if he goes in plain clothes, he muses. Everyone talks about what a great speaker Dean is, he says, but how does he interact with people? I tell him I was impressed.

The more I tell him about Dean, the more crestfallen he seems to get. Without mentioning Kerry, I tell him that Dean never appears to be trying to walk out of a room. He interjects: "That’s a real problem we have, because Kerry's a senator, so he needs to be back in Washington. Dean's basically unemployed, so he can spend all day hanging out with three people." It's only a feeling I get, but I can't help wondering if he signed up with Kerry because he thought Kerry would win, and now he’s questioning his decision. As I head out to catch my plane, I think that the girl on his right appears to be consoling him.

COMMENT by Scott: Ouch, ouch, ouch, ouch, ouch.


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About Nation-Building

Nation-Building was founded by Aziz Poonawalla in August 2002 under the name Dean Nation. Dean Nation was the very first weblog devoted to a presidential candidate, Howard Dean, and became the vanguard of the Dean netroot phenomenon, raising over $40,000 for the Dean campaign, pioneering the use of Meetup, and enjoying the attention of the campaign itself, with Joe Trippi a regular reader (and sometime commentor). Howard Dean himself even left a comment once. Dean Nation was a group weblog effort and counts among its alumni many of the progressive blogsphere's leading talent including Jerome Armstrong, Matthew Yglesias, and Ezra Klein. After the election in 2004, the blog refocused onto the theme of "purple politics", formally changing its name to Nation-Building in June 2006. The primary focus of the blog is on articulating purple-state policy at home and pragmatic liberal interventionism abroad.