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Grading Howard Dean
How much credit should the outgoing Democratic chairman get for the party's success?
T

he Democrats were "in the wilderness and looked ready to stay there for quite some time," said Mike Madden in Salon, when Howard Dean took over as Democratic National Committee chairman. President Bush had just won reelection; the Republicans had taken control of Congress. Now Dean is stepping aside, and Obama should be grateful to him for forcing the party to fight back in states they had given up for lost and contributing to the Democrats' unexpectedly swift "rejuvenation."

If Dean helped Obama, said Kirsten Powers in the New York Post, it was only by "getting out of the way." He wasn't the "singular visionary" his fans make him out to be. The heads of the congressional campaign committees—Sen. Charles Schumer and Rep. Rahm Emanuel—"were more instrumental in Democratic gains in the House and Senate and key to their strategy was playing in red and purple districts," and Obama's heavy lifting on "red turf" was done by his "phenomenal" ground organization.

But it's silly to deny that Dean helped pave the way, said John Nichols in The Nation online. While other Democratic leaders talked compromise four years ago, "Dean promised to 'show up and fight.'" Republicans thought it was suicide to give Dean this job. But "with that 50-state strategy, his full embrace of netroots activism and, above all, his refusal to pull punches, Dean made being a Democrat mean something."

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