A quick update from the morning after in Iowa.
This morning my friend Alex and I went to see Howard Dean in his first big event in New Hampshire. Iâm here now. Dean is taking questions. Weâre at the Holiday Inn in downtown Manchester.
More analysis later, but for now a few thoughts.
Itâs a fairly small venue, a smallish ballroom. There are two or three hundred supporters. Perhaps more. Iâm not good at estimating crowd sizes. After looking around I was struck that most of the people sitting in the audience looked like they were in their forties or fifties.
If you thought Dean in New Hampshire would be anything like his full-throttle speech last night, youâd be mistaken. The crowd is getting a bit more lively now that heâs taking questions and loosening up. But he started the speech calmly, either listless or measured depending on your interpretation.
He said thereâd be no red meat (his words), and that he wanted to give a policy speech. He said it would be a âdifferent kind of speech.â And it certainly was.
He didnât talk much about the war. It was mainly balanced budgets, health care, etc. He seemed to be working at least in part from prepared remarks. It was nothing like the speech I saw down in DC a few months ago, a raucous rally.
It was hard to call it a rally. It was, as Dean said, a policy speech.
Dean's rationale for this was as follows: he said he got into the race because he thought Democrats weren't standing up for Dem principles, that they weren't taking the fight to President Bush. He said his opponents are now doing that -- something he took credit for. So he'd go back to discussing policy issues, what he did in Vermont, what he'd do for America, etc.
This was the event I was most interested in seeing today. I wanted to see if Dean --- and just as much his supporters --- could take a punch. Last night was one helluva punch.
Can he and his supporters maintain their energy and organization? Will they lose morale? The flip side of bringing in new blood is that they may not have a lot of campaign experience. They may not be able to keep up their focus when things get rough. Just think what it was like to keep working away for Kerry six weeks ago ...
(Now Joe Trippi is standing next to me. A quick look. Now heâs gone.)
This is just one event. But from sitting here it seems like a pretty low energy affair. Itâs not at all the kind of event where the supporters seem charged.
One other thing: barely a mention of the campaign in New Hampshire as a campaign. What they have to do to win. We need to do this, we need to do that, etc. Some hits at his opponents for not having the right position on the war. But not by name and not much more than that.
Things are picking up now a bit. And it's coming from questioners. And Dean is feeding a bit off them.
Just now a woman got up and asked a question attacking Fox News (âan embarrassment to this countryâ). She hopes that all Fox News employees lose their jobs. Dean picks up the riff and notes how Fox News viewers have the highest rate of believing that Saddam was behind 9/11.
Late Update: Dean definitely picked up steam toward the end of the Q & A with the audience. Now we're waiting for his press availability.