Hillary And Deeaan, Sitting in a Tree...

Via Steve Clemons, Marty Sieff's analysis of what Dean means for Hillary Clinton is quite good. His basic point is that Hillary will stroll to reelection in 2006 (adding evidence to the theory is her tremendous approval numbers and her easy lead in head-to-head match-ups with Giuliani) while Dems across the country fight it out. Dean, for his part, will run a hard-edged national strategy with more than a few pages coming from the Gingrich playbook. If his progressive bomb-throwing works, Hillary can easily adopt it. If Dean fails (and considering how tough the '06 map is [see Dayton's retirement below], he might be assuming an impossible task), Hillary can run as the heir of Third-Way liberalism.

Good, even counterintuitive, stuff. But what surprises me if how little I've seen on the most obvious benefit Dean's DNC ascension confers on Hillary -- no Dean. Barring a Democratic revolution that reshapes the nation and wins both houses of Congress, he can't run in 2008. The absence of a liberal icon and populist firebrand (who doesn't like the Clintons, by the way) is a godsend to a cautious, establishment candidate like Clinton. Maybe Russ Feingold can take his spot, but Dean's revolutionary abilities stemmed from a peculiar convergence of technological circumstances and rhetorical attributes, none of which look repeatable. There'll certainly be a liberal choice and there's always an insurgent (press-created in the event no one decides to step up), but they seem like more conventional challenges than the unheard of, misunderstood threat that Dean posed.

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