GORE AND DEAN….Dan Drezner has some reasonable thoughts about Al Gore’s endorsement of Howard Dean yesterday. Dean’s fundraising prowess is hardly noteworthy at this point, but Dan’s suggestion that Gore’s endorsement has pissed off the other candidates so much that it’s less likely they’ll drop out of the race is intriguing.

I also agree that Dean has, in a variety of ways, turned out to be a surprisingly gifted pure politician. Unbeknownst to most of us, he’s been playing a lot of different angles over the past year and that’s starting to pay off. Even his famously awkward phrasing often turns out to be a pretty good way of getting attention and driving the debate without actually being awkward enough to do him any real damage.

And while I’m on the subject, I think the almost absurdly conspiratorial beltway theorizing about Gore’s endorsement has really missed the point. Keep in mind two things: the vast majority of people have barely even heard of Howard Dean yet, and the vast majority of people don’t know any Democrats except Gore and the Clintons.

What’s more, unlike the beltway crowd, out in the real world most Democrats don’t even know much about Gore except that he’s the guy they voted for in 2000 and he got screwed in Florida. They like him, and his endorsement is more powerful than anyone’s but Bill Clinton’s. For a lot of people Gore’s endorsement is the first glimpse they’ve really had of Howard Dean, and in that sense it means a lot.

UPDATE: This is not to suggest that there isn’t a backstory to Gore’s endorsement, of course, nor that he hasn’t been promised some kind of position in a future Dean administration. I just think it’s worth putting that stuff aside sometimes and taking a look at how this appears to ordinary folks who aren’t political junkies.

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