In a strategic move to refocus his political machinery, Howard Dean has shuffled his staff and accepted the resignation of (read: fired) his campaign manager, Joe Trippi.
Veteran observers of political tactics will recognize how dangerous this move is for Dean. After last week’s famous “Rebel Yell” in Iowa, Dean can ill afford to cause another press feeding frenzy, which is why Trippi’s removal comes as such a surprise. Trippi’s removal may serve legitimate internal purposes (according to insider sources, Trippi is not a talented manager of details) but it also provides more grist for the media mill.
After leaving New Hampshire with a second place ribbon, Dean did not appear to be the same lost cause as he did after Iowa. The potential for Dean to slip back under the radar and emerge again next Tuesday as a viable candidate was high, but the dismissal of Trippi at this stage sends yet another clear signal that all is not well in the Dean camp.
Apologists will be quick to point out that John Kerry also fired his campaign manager, but Kerry did so before the caucuses, and while no one was paying any attention. Dean, still flailing from his self inflicted political gut-shot, could not have expected Trippi’s dismissal to go unnoticed.
Leave it to Howard to make a rash decision in the heat of the moment. Mr. Dean should learn not to pour chum into the water when the sharks are circling.
A more seasoned national contender would have simply “added another layer” to his campaign staff, quietly rolled back some of Trippi’s responsibilities, and continued on as if nothing important had occurred. Instead, by removing Trippi from the manager’s spot, Dean again refocuses the media on himself, and on a political machine that is visibly hemorrhaging.