The Dean Machine

Continuing his historical habit of accumulating surprise endorsements, Dean got the nod from Harold Ickes this morning. Ickes, of course, is cleaved to the Clintons, and his emergence at Dean's side effectively ends all speculation that Hillary is standing athwart his candidacy yelling "Stop!". Here's the money quote or, more to the point, the money leak:

Ickes, who heads the political action committee of Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton, D-N.Y., said the endorsement was his alone and "does not reflect Sen. Clinton's opinion."

While Ickes would not comment on the Clintons' preferences, he is a close ally and would not be endorsing Dean against their strong objections. No one was immediately available in Sen. Clinton's office to comment.

Italics, of course, are mine. The appearance of such a speculative paragraph in an AP article, of course, is Clinton's. And without their opposition, I just don't see Frost mounting a strong enough challenge to topple the governor. The funny thing is that in this, the first race where the Clinton machine had real influence, the standard hinting of her manipulative, pre-presidential hand went in the wrong direction. Hillary almost certainly wants Dean in the Chair's seat, because Dean as chair precludes Dean as candidate, and Dean as candidate is one of the larger threats to Hillary's effort. She's too identified with the establishment to want a popular, iconoclastic rabble-rouser like Dean facing her in the debates and leeching progressive support from her candidacy. Helping clear his path to the Chairmanship helps clear her path to the nomination. Which is why the speculation that she was single-handedly choking Dean's chances was so silly, and Ickes endorsement so logical -- the person with the most to gain from a Dean-led DNC is Hillary.