BACK FROM THE DEAD
It was not lost on any senior leaders in the Democratic Party that Florida Democratic Party Chairman Scott Maddox endorsed former Vermont Gov. Howie Dean for DNC chairman on Monday.
That it was a Southern state, and one viewed as critical to the Democrats' future, only compounded the fact that the Florida state delegation's support adds a great deal of momentum to a candidacy some thought was dead. Maddox's endorsement, followed by his remarks that he had no problems with Dean's liberalism or lack of Southern roots, set off all kinds of alarm bells in Washington.
Maddox's move was compounded by news within Democratic circles that former John Kerry campaign adviser Jim Jordan was working on behalf of Dean.
On Tuesday, everyone from Senate minority leader Harry Reid to House leader Nancy Pelosi and organized labor leaders was exchanging phone calls and attempting to set up strategy meetings to map out how best to put up some kind of challenge to Dean's candidacy.
"Believe me, there are calls being made to Chappaqua to get the former president more heavily involved in this thing," says a DNC fundraiser. "There is panic that Dean's candidacy is reaching a threshold at least in votes by national committee members that might discourage others from really pressing ahead with a challenge. But he doesn't have a lock on this thing, and there is still a good chance an alternative will be found."
Seemingly the strongest alternative is former Rep. Martin Frost. But House leader Pelosi, for her part, refuses to throw her support behind her former arch nemesis even though many within the House Democratic leadership are counseling her to be open to Frost's candidacy.
Frost's moderate politics and his Texas background are viewed as the necessary, attractive alternatives by anti-Deaniacs within the DNC leadership.
And it isn't clear how deeply Bill Clinton can immerse himself in a process that has seen a certain level of coolness toward Clinton candidates. "On the one hand, you have people who want to see the party returned to a more moderate, nationally appealing New Democrat philosophy, which is Clinton all the way," says a Democratic political consultant in New York. "On the other hand, you have folks wary of giving Clinton too much standing after the McAuliffe debacles of the last few years. We're on better financial footing, but two cycles of bad defeats is tough to take, even if you love Bill Clinton."
Compounding the Clinton Conundrum is the growing sense that Hillary is positioning herself to at least dip her toe in possible presidential waters 18 months from now.
New Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee chairman Rahm Emanuel (D-Ill.) already has staff at work on identifying a group of candidates that he can recruit should some Senate Republicans decide to retire ahead of their re-election bids.
Such retirements would almost certainly lead to Republican House members running for open Senate seats, thus giving Democrats a shot at picking up seats if they can run strong candidates.