Panic At Deanville: Joe Trippi Departs
Yikes! What the hell is going on at Deanville today. In a move that frankly I think is overkill, Howard Dean wanted to demote Joe Trippi as campaign manager today and replace him with former Al Gore operative Roy Neel. Apparently Dean wanted Neel to be Chief Operating Officer and for Trippi to be reduced to Strategist and Internet Guru, but Trippi refused to report to Neel and left the campaign. Worse yet, in making the announcement to the staff, Dean didn't tell them about Trippi's departure when he announced Neel's hiring; Trippi came in and told them himself.
Roy Neel? So much for running against Washington Insiders.
Oh yeah, rather than follow Trippi's advice to stay away from too many contests in the next several weeks and focus instead on winnable delegate-rich states, Neel and Dean decided to compete everywhere, thereby requiring cost cutbacks and staff to wait two weeks for their paychecks. What happened to the money? The move was made apparently after Dean's congressional supporters told him that he had to win somewhere in the next two weeks or risk losing both financial and their support. But don't they think the Internet fundraising will suffer a blow now anyway by throwing the popular Trippi overboard for a Washington Insider?
Excuse me, but exactly who was responsible for getting Dean to this point? Is Joe Trippi suddenly so stupid with that Internet fundraising thing? Is Joe Trippi responsible for the post-Iowa speech? Is Joe Trippi responsible for the off-the-cuff misstatements to the media? Perhaps Dean is second-guessing the spending decisions and the burn rate, but doesn't Dean share some of that responsibility himself?
Trippi is responsible for taking the campaign to the next level of wholesale multi-state politics. It may be that Dean feels Trippi is not the guy to get him beyond this point. But is Roy Neel? Is not Joe Trippi the guy who built the organization so far? Was Neel responsible for Gore's late rebound in 2002, or was Donna Brazille?
To those of you who are Dean supporters, I apologize if I sound like I am overreacting myself here. But this sucks to me. It was one thing for Kerry to sack Jim Jordan months ago when Jordan had run the campaign into the ground. That was warranted and the results and Kerry's decision have been validated since. But for Dean now to sack Trippi as campaign manager on the premise that Iowa and New Hampshire were his fault is a crock. In Iowa, they simply got beat by an underestimated and under-the-radar field operation led by guru Michael Whouley. There is no shame in getting beat by Whouley, and besides, Kerry was doing much better as a candidate himself. Trippi as I said is accountable as to why Kerry got twice as much of the vote than Dean.
But again, it wasn't Trippi who gave the speech after Iowa, and I suspect Trippi had something to do with Dean's laudable recovery from that. But just like that, he is asked to take a lesser role and give up operational control of the campaign. Instead, he bolts.