HOWARD DEAN….An LA Times story this morning suggests that there are a few people who aren’t all that enamored with Howard Dean’s straight-talking style:

He has mischaracterized some of his opponents’ positions and fuzzed up his own. He has offered misleading statements, even as he challenges the integrity of others running. (“They need a backbone transplant,” he told a union audience Wednesday in New York City.) Before the race even heats up, Dean has been forced to apologize to at least one rival for misspeaking, and he angered several others who privately seethe over his potshots. All of that could make Dean a prime target when the presidential candidates stage their first televised debate of the campaign Saturday night in South Carolina.

I’m a little surprised that bickering among the candidates has broken out this early. Shouldn’t they be attacking George Bush and holding back the intraparty potshots as a sort of tactical nuke to be used only in an emergency?

Also: did Dean have this straight talking reputation as governor, or is it a recent invention? Are there any Vermont readers out there who can fill us in?

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