Dean and Gephardt are the only two contenders who ought to be happy these days. Dean is further along than anyone — maybe even he — expected. And Gephardt has come on strong in Iowa, where he is leading Dean in the polls, demonstrating he’s no has-been — at least not yet. With labor support, Gephardt is in contention to win the first contest of 2004.
It’s no shocker then that Gephardt has been firing at Dean, branding him a Gingrich Democrat for having signaled a willingness to squeeze budget savings out of Medicare. "We need a Democratic nominee who is clearly different from George Bush," Gephardt declared. In return, Dean campaign manager Joe Trippi observed, "Gephardt had 27 years in Washington to provide universal health insurance, a prescription-drug benefit for our seniors or health coverage for our children. And what do Americans have as a result? Nothing." Ouch.
For Dean, the attacks on him are a sign of success. He’s the guy wearing the bull’s-eye — but it’s on his back. And time is getting short for those gunning for him. Which means the nasty season will only be getting nastier. Democrats worried that this intraparty bashing might hurt whoever wins the nomination should give up hope. Desperate candidates will do desperate things.