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The doctor is in

Howard Dean looks like the probable selection for Democratic National Committee chairman. Donald Lambro of the Washington Times thinks that the selection of such a fire-brand leftist will likely hurt the party. Robert Novak and Dick Morris agree. Even leftist Harold Meyerson thinks that Dean “shlepps too much baggage” but adds that it normally doesn’t matter who the party chairman is. (Old-timers like my conservative cousin will enjoy the quiz question at the beginning of Meyerson’s piece).
For his part, Dean is making an interesting play by seeking the job. He must be betting that the Democrats will do well in the 2006 elecions. That’s not a bad bet — an incumbent president’s sixth year is usually a great year for the opposition. If that pattern holds, Dean will emerge as a hero and will be relatively well-position to run for his party’s nomination in 2008. In this scenario, Democrats will convince themselves that they can win from the left. And Hillary will have to move back to the left to contend with Dean, just as John Kerry did. Thus, the Democrats may be worse off if Dean succeeds in 2006 than if he fails.
Will Dean be a liability in 2006? Perhaps at the margin. But 2006 will be a referendum on the economy, the war on terrorism, and the situation in Iraq — not a referendum on Howard Dean.
UPDATE: One blogger points out that Dean has said that, if selected chairman, he will not run for president in 2008. In addition, the chairmanship is a four-year commitment. However, the fact that Dean had to promise not to run in 2008 shows that being chairman is no bar to such a run. Whether his promise is good under all circumstances remains to be seen. The same blogger wonders why the right hates Dean. I don’t think I hate him; in fact I kind of like his style. However, he seems to hate me.

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