It’s always slightly discombobulating when someone you’ve known for years and always written off as a mediocrity with no talents suddenly leaps to phenomenal success. In my line of work, it’s usually some fellow hack whose first novel gets optioned by Miramax for Cameron Diaz. Or the guy I sat next to at a friend’s wedding who tried to sell me his shoes, and next time I landed in Britain he’d somehow become the nation’s most beloved bisexual gameshow host, Dale Winton.
But right now it’s happening on a much larger scale to someone called Howard Dean. If you’ve never heard of him, don’t worry. You’ll soon be never hearing of him ever again. But just for the moment he is, improbably, the leading candidate for the Democratic presidential nomination. As another famous Dean once sang, ‘Everybody loves somebody sometime’, and Howard Dean’s sometime is now. Go, Deano!
In the quarter ending 30 June, he took in more dough than any of his rivals. All Monday, Fox News was hailing him as ‘the Six-Million-Dollar Man’, until it emerged in mid-afternoon that he was way up over six mil and heading for seven. And over two million of that was in Internet contributions, a record amount for a new fundraising medium.
So who is Howard Dean? According to whose spin you buy, Howard Dean is either the new John McCain – a scrappy insurgent who’s not afraid to speak his mind, etc. – or the new Bill Clinton – the successful Democratic governor of a small state whose winning charm makes voters swoon, etc., etc. Dean’s already slipped easily into a standard catchphrase, prefacing any answer to any question on policy – healthcare, gay marriage, genocide in the Congo – with, ‘Look, here’s how we did it in Vermont.’ And nobody titters!
As for the bus-and-truck McCain act, that got a workout the other day when Dean formally launched his campaign in Burlington, Vermont and cast himself as the outsider among a bunch of establishment drones.