for a particularly interesting analysis of the ways in which the Democratic party has changed in this election, perhaps due to Dean, perhaps not.
Being a Dean supporter, naturally I believe that this shift towards a more populist and progressive tone is due in large part to Dean's candidacy. I hate to buy into this kind of mud-slinging, but I really do believe that the other candidates are co-opting Dean's message to a certain extent. However, in their defense (as argued in the article above), times have changed and Democratic voters' interests have changed, so the politicians' messages have changed accordingly.
But this still smacks of opportunism to me. Yes, times have changed, and the centrist/Clintonian/DLC message of the mid-90s is no longer a viable option in a country that has been so polarized (by a President who was supposedly the "great uniter", no less). So now we have this "fight" message, and a "Bring-it-on" mentality, and if Dean was doing this all along, why, that's just a coincidence! Why couldn't Kerry & Edwards et. al. have stood up with that kind of message in the first place, if that's what they really believe? Or are they just telling us what we want to hear, now that they've finally figured out what that is?
In the end, I guess a Kerry candidacy (and presidency) would not be the end of the world. But I'd always worry about whether he is doing things because they're right, or if he is doing things because they poll well. I suppose that's why, through everything, I'm still a Deaniac. He had guts to stand up for what he believes in, and he still does.