This is what's so frustrating about following the buzz, whether it's for politics or movies or cars. In recent years it happened to Tsongas, Bradley and McCain -- outspoken, brainy, and unsual candidates capture the interest of the 'media elite' and the few hundred thousand cable- and blog-watchers. Everyone gets excited, the story gets a Newsweek cover, and people wait for middle America to catch on. Except the muscle of the party usually knows the voters best, and endorses a bland but electable politician who can fight for the vital center.
Maybe Dean, like McGovern, will capture enough dollars and win the nomination. But I think Wolff would argue that the angry, "special" followers of Dean will revel in the spotlight, and rub their uniqueness in the face of the centrists. The undecided center, in turn, will lean to a genial W.
Clinton couldn't beat Tsongas on substance, yet won the nomination because he charmed more halls and donors. But if Tsongas' followers in 1992 had the tech-connections of 2003 (meetup.com and the Dean staff blogs), could the nomination have gone differently? Maybe -- but it seems unlikely Tsongas would go on to unseat the first President Bush.
It's easy to lose sight of the fact that most Americans aren't cable news junkies or blog readers. So what if Dean was on the cover of Newsweek -- which is read by just 1% of the nation?. So what if he is leading in NH Democrat polls (or trailing only the undecideds?). He's still largely unknown in most states.
Those who do know Dean tend to love him, and throw cash at his campaign. But hey, there's a cult of people willing to shell out thousands for Segways, too. They swear by their Segways, revel in their specialness, and have almost zero chance of turning on average people to their benefits.