Friday, November 07, 2008

Senator Howard Dean?

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Howard Dean may be looking to add another to his list of many titles in the near future: Doctor, Governor, Chairman...Senator.

There is talk in Washington that Vermont Senator Patrick Leahy could be interested in a cabinet position with the Obama administration. But Vermont has a Republican Governor, which means any vacancy would subsequently be filled by a Republican appointee. The other rumor is that Leahy may not seek re-election in 2010, which opens the door for somone like Howard Dean to return home and mount a hefty challenge for the job.

This isn't the first time Dean's name has been mentioned as a potential Senate candidate. The subject also came up in 2006 when Jim Jeffords stepped down, but Dean opted to stay at the helm of the Democratic National Committee and see his efforts there through.

Party tradition is that the President, as Party leader, selects the new DNC Chair and then DNC members validate the selection at the next general meeting (which will take place in January). President-Elect Obama will likely want one of his people running the show in the beltway. Some who may be in the running include Obama campaign manager David Plouffe, as well as Deputy Campaign Managers Steve Hildebrand or Paul Tewes (who incidentally managed the day-to-day DNC operations during the general election).

Dean may be ready to say goodbye anyway: word around Washington is that he is not interested in a second term as DNC Chair.

Though At the end of four years, he can say that he has accomplished what he sought out to do: build a party with a 50-state strategy and a national voter file. The results from this strategy have been incremental, but they can in part be credited for the Democratic Party's ability to harness the sudden momentum gained in late 2006 (particularly in places like Arizona), and in part for investing in state parties which delivered narrow wins for Barack Obama in 2008 (Indiana and North Carolina come to mind) while building overall strong parties in other states which saw wider margin of victories over the past few years (Ohio and Virginia). This is not to take anything away from Congressional Democrats or Barack Obama, it's only to say that having state-level DNC infrastructure has been helpful.

Dean could conceivably also be in line for a cabinet position to head the Department of Health & Human Services. But Dean is more of a political animal these days and may not be happy with a cabinet position. Thus if a Senate run is not in the works, other possibilities could include assuming the helm of his own Democracy For America (DFA) organization, or possibly leading a similar grassroots organization.