First off, as a disclaimer: as the post title indicates, the word is "dying" not "dead," even if I sound all dreary and like I am saying that about the Dean campaign from hereon in. I already made the mistake of doing that with Kerry last month and we all know that turned out. There's also my personal maxim of never underestimating the Dean campaign, which holds true even amidst the present scenario and is also the reason why I've always defended Dean himself against those like Brian who claim he'd be a general-election disaster (even if I myself didn't support him partly because of similar concerns and saw them increasingly legitimized even before Iowa and its aftermath). And finally, at this point in the campaign, so many things that I never could have predicted (the aforementioned Kerry resurrection; Dean not only becoming the front-runner but the guy that Establishment Dems were running to get behind or at least kiss up to; and Gephardt not only losing Iowa as expected, but losing BIG) have happenned at this point that nothing would genuinely surprise me in an absolute sense.
That being said, things don't look good for the Dean movement. It's not just that his toughness has rubbed off on the others, he has collapsed from a 30-point lead in NH, Joe Trippi has been ousted, the campaign is nearly going broke and not paying staffers to save, or any of that. Kerry didn't just win NH in spite of Dean's organization and money; he won in lieu of them, as seen in his mobilization of veterans and recent success at online fundraising. In short, the Dean camp started to drink its own Kool-Aid and believe in his (and their) inevitability, the same growing hubris I detected back when I decided to support Clark over Dean, and even back over the summer when I was getting legitimately exicted by the fact that Dean was revolutionizing the mechanisms of political campaigning and getting tons of exposure. They figured that they would simply overwhelm everyone in Iowa and NH (thus eliminating Kerry and Gephardt), use that to solidify their growing support in the Feb. 3rd states and win last-minute undecided voters (so long Clark, Edwards, and Lieberman), and cruise from there on. What they didn't count on was that the buzz they generated would not just make him a front-runner and a target, and excite Democrats nationwide (indeed, Iowa and NH had record turnout), but do so in a way that would end up turning off the overwhelming majority of those who started following things only around December (which is to say, most people other than those paying attention way back in the spring/summer and overwhelmingly won over temporarily by Dean). After Iowa and the admittedly over-hyped "Scream," the balloon had burst and Dean has been left with nothing.
At present, Dean has become so desperate that he has not only taken to calling his opponents Republicans a la Nader, but abandoned the very predicted strategy that made him so appealing. That's right, I'm talking about the vaunted 50-state strategy. Not only have they given up on winning a single state this coming Tuesday, the once-thought moment of triump, but as of today they've basically conceded everything up to Wisconsin on Feb. 17th, with the theory that momentum and delegate-amassing via second and third place finishes until then can allow for a "last stand" of campaigning, grassroots activity, and almost all remaining money (which would then produce a ground-swell of anti-Kerry support and media coverage in the two weeks up to Super Tuesday). The problem with that scenario-- aside from its betrayal of promise and principle. its assuming that pouring money in will work unlike in Iowa and NH, and the expectation that everyone but Kerry will be gone or fading by then-- is that as of now, its a distinct possibility that Dean might not even get second in a single state this Tuesday! Indeed, some polls seem to be indicating that he could end up falling to fourth or even fifth in some places. He needs a huge influx of undecided voters in order to perform even decently and create momentum to even get him to Wisconsin, and a ton of signs point to that as not being a likelihood.
If that's the case, and Dean still continues, his amazing campaign will have likely become an exercise in self-aggrandizement and futility, and those remaining supporters should truly consider the notion that while Dean has transformed the Democratic Party process, he's not the guy to finish the job in November. I might semi-selfishly add that some of the folks who were behind the Draft Clark movement have crafted an open letter to Dean supporters that makes a pretty damn good case. Should things turn out as they are trending, and Clark do as well as polls and organizational strength indicate (a win in Oklahoma, close second or surprise win in Arizona, and solid seconds or thirds mostly elsewhere), I'd seriously encourage any Dean supporters not won over right now to look at things afresh on Tuesday night. If Clark does well and Edwards lives up to his current trends (a must-win first place in SC and second in MO), this race will be Kerry's to lose. Knowing that most Dean supporters are not too happy with Kerry generally (and with some legitimacy-- while I like the guy a ton and think he could make a good candidate, he's still behind Clark and Edwards in my book and he did genuinely do some disgusting things up in NH it seems), I'd think that they could end up proving themselves a deciding factor in choosing the nominee should they finally come to realize that it probably won't be Dean himself.