HOWARD DEAN FOR DNC CHAIR….Howard Dean officially announced today that he’s running for DNC chair, and I have to say that I’ve warmed up to his candidacy a lot over the past couple of weeks.

As a presidential candidate I wasn’t much of a Dean fan because I figured he didn’t have a snowball’s chance of winning an election against George Bush. I still believe that. If John Kerry couldn’t engage the center of the electorate, there’s no way Dean could have.

But that’s not really a drawback for a DNC chair because he’s not competing for the center with George Bush. He’s leading a party. And his strengths in this position would be considerable:

  • He’s a well known figure, which means he’d automatically get more attention than any of the other candidates. There’s no substitute for the kind of charisma he’s got, and it’s something Democrats desperately need. With all due respect, Nancy Pelosi and Harry Reid just aren’t going to get the kind of face time that Dean can get.

  • He’s not afraid to speak out. He’ll beat up on the opposition, he’ll stir the pot, and he’ll say interesting things. He’s also shown that he’s willing to say things to Democrats that they need to hear too, whether they like it or not.

  • Despite his reputation, his policy preferences are pretty centrist. That means he can appeal to both the reformist wing of the party and the DLC wing.

  • I’ll bet he’s a pretty good fundraiser. Like it or not, the DNC chair needs to raise money from big donors, and I think Dean can do that. But he also has a proven ability to raise money from nontraditional sources.

Dean made some mistakes on the campaign trail last year, but I wouldn’t hold that against him. He’ll learn fast, and in any case mistakes aren’t as big a deal as DNC chair as they are in the spotlight of a campaign. We can afford a few mistakes here and there.

I suspect his biggest weakness is probably organizational. But there are plenty of good organizers out there. As long as Dean recognizes his own strengths and weaknesses, that shouldn’t be a big problem.

Right now, Dems need someone who can shake things up like Dean. If I had a vote, he’d have mine.

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