DEAN’S SUBTLE SHIFT ON REFORM PLAN…. Former Vermont Gov. and former DNC Chairman Howard Dean recently became the highest profile progressive voice to denounce the Senate Democratic health care plan. Just six days ago, he wrote an op-ed arguing that the Senate plan would do “more harm than good.” The day before, Dean said he thought policymakers should “kill the Senate bill.”

Since then, Dean seems to have shifted a bit. On “Meet the Press,” he said the bill “has improved over the last couple of weeks.” Rather than have it killed, Dean said he “would let this thing go to conference committee and let’s see if we can fix it some more.” He even said he’s “all ears” to a policy that doesn’t include a public option.

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Last night, talking to Rachel Maddow, Dean went a little further still. “Honestly, to see the Republicans up there carrying on the way they are, I basically concluded that maybe we should pass this thing,” he said, adding, “If the Republicans hate it, there must be some good to it.”

Dean also pointed to several improvements he liked in the final Senate bill, including measures that “tightened up cost control, money was added for community health centers … and increased doctor reimbursements to rural physicians. So they’ve done a number of things that will make this approach more likely to work.”

When Rachel asked specifically if the Senate bill provides “an appropriate foundation for a public option to be introduced” later, Dean replied, “Actually, it does…. Once you’ve got the exchanges set up … you could modify this at a later date.”

Is it me, or does this represent a rather striking shift in tone?

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Follow Steve on Twitter @stevebenen. Steve Benen is a producer at MSNBC's The Rachel Maddow Show. He was the principal contributor to the Washington Monthly's Political Animal blog from August 2008 until January 2012.