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One of my goals the next few weeks is to make sure that Howard Dean gets his due props and, by extension, all of us who fought to make Dean's vision a reality.

Dean envisioned the Democratic Party building a new base in solidly Republican strongholds, and should Barack Obama win the presidency and Democrats expand their margins in Congress on Tuesday, as most polls predict, Dean will walk away from this election as one of the unsung heroes.

"Quiet" is not a word most people would have used for Dean four years ago, when he bowed out of the 2004 presidential race with a now-infamous scream.

But Dean, the former Vermont governor, took control of the Democratic National Committee (DNC) in 2005 amid cries that he would embarrass the party — and from there, built the party’s political machine [...]

Even Dean’s one-time opponents give him credit.

"I think it’s partial vindication," said Harold Ickes, a longtime ally of Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton’s (D-N.Y.) who opposed Dean for the DNC chairmanship. "There are special circumstances in each state. In Alaska, who would have predicted the conviction of Sen. [Ted] Stevens [R]?"

"Partial vindication"? I'll take it. Of course, Democrats were helped by Stevens' conviction, but his Democratic opponent Mark Begich was competitive long before the indictments. In fact, Begich was up 47-41 in a poll _last December_. In fact, Stevens has led in very few polls this year.

And even in the presidential race, until Palin was added to the ticket, Obama was making it a single digit race in a state Bush won by 25 points in 2004.

But like I said, I'll take it Ickes' tepid admission. Remember, Ickes is this guy:

"We have to remember McCain is not a standard, off-the-shelf Republican," Ickes said, echoing the argument he says he's making to superdelegates, and pointing up Clinton's inarguable strength with Roman Catholics, Hispanics and elderly voters in key November battleground states such as Ohio, Florida and Pennsylvania. "He will have a lot of appeal for Hispanics. He'll trounce [Obama]."

Ickes was integral in the Clinton campaign's efforts to dismiss Obama victories in places like North Carolina and Georgia by saying they didn't matter because Democrats couldn't win them. So his hostility wasn't directed just at Dean, but at any Democrat who suggested we were more than a coastal and Great Lakes party. Heresy!

If 2008 has taught us anything, it's that Democrats can compete near everywhere, and no state, county, or precinct need be ignored. And while that was our message, it was Howard who took it to DC headfirst against fierce establishment opposition. The status quo "battleground state" mentality may have been a loser for Democrats, but the DC political elite still had nice, comfortable lives, and anything that might threaten their status was suspect.

For Ickes to even tepidly admit that Dean was right is serious progress.

Originally posted to Daily Kos on Tue Nov 11, 2008 at 06:45 AM PST.

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