Washington Prowler

Thrown to the Wolverines

Michigan governor abandons Dean. Plus: Gephardt’s backers regroup.

By 1.29.04

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ANOTHER WOMAN NOT AT DEAN'S SIDE
If former Vermont Gov. Howie Dean thinks he's somehow on target to compete in Michigan, he may be in for a surprise as rude as what awaited him in Iowa and New Hampshire.

Dean has made clear the past couple of days that he is looking past the February 3rd primaries and caucuses, and focusing on events like the Michigan presidential caucuses four days later. Deaniacs believe that Michigan is prime Dean country given the backing the candidate has received from organized labor.

But according to sources in the campaign of Sen. John Kerry, the Massachsetts Miracleman and his strategists have nicely pulled an end around Dean and have sealed the endorsement of popular Michigan Gov. Jennifer Granholm. It could be announced as early as next Monday, if not earlier.

"Dean isn't going to know what hit him," says a Kerry staffer crowing from South Carolina. "He thinks he can win Michigan? He's already lost Michigan. He just doesn't know it."

As well, according to Kerry sources, the candidate will not only bask in the endorsement from Granholm, but on the same day he's also expected to receive backing from the Sheet Metal Workers' International Association, which boasts 150,000 members nationally. This would be the largest labor group to sign on with Kerry since he received the early backing from the International Association of Firefighters.

"The sheet metal folks, along with Granholm, give us the edge in Michigan and elsewhere in the rust belt," says the Kerry staffer. "We think we've effectively cut off any future Dean momentum that he hasn't already cut off himself."

TOUGH ACT TO FOLLOW
On Thursday, former Democratic presidential candidate, Rep. Dick Gephardt held a conference call with the heads of the unions that formed the Alliance for Economic Justice. Mostly AFL-CIO-member manufacturing unions, the 18-member AEJ last year endorsed Gephardt last year for president in 2004, and is now looking at three possible replacements: Kerry, Clark and Edwards.

"We wanted to get the opinion of Representative Gephardt," says an AEJ member. "His views on who of the remaining candidates best shares the views we support are important to us."

Prior to leaving Iowa, Gephardt staffers had suggested to campaign volunteers with ties to the AEJ that they throw their support behind Edwards. But national Gephardt campaign advisers said that was not the official recommendation of the candidate, who is holding back endorsing any of his former competitors.

AEJ members are actively working for candidates in South Carolina and Michigan. The group won't hold any of its members to a particular candidate until a new endorsement comes down the pike, most likely after next week's round of primaries and caucuses.

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