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What Howard Dean should Learn from J.Lo – Really
Kate Morrison

What do J.Lo, aka Jenny from the Block, and Howard Dean, aka Dr. Dean, have in common?

*News: Wednesday 14th - Dean wins the nonbiding District Of Columbia primary with 43 percent of the vote - Al Sharpton second with 34 percent

Well, as far as publicity is concerned, more than you might think. Do you remember when J.Lo was everywhere? Well, guess who’s everywhere now? Dr. Dean. By making himself available to answer questions from reporters, rally-goers, web-bloggers and anyone else who cares to ask, he’s said too much and in doing so he’s hurt his bid for the White House.

Dean’s time on the record is phenomenal. He’s been in so many places, tried to speak so honestly when he’s been there, that he’s made promises he can’t keep. He’s gotten angry and he’s said things he shouldn’t have. He’s said things he didn’t mean. And he’s meant things he hasn’t said. He’s over-exposed himself and it’s time to cut back.
Enter J.Lo
Back in 1999, to the public eye, J.Lo was really just Puff Daddy’s girlfriend. (And Puff Daddy was just Puff Daddy….) Well, J.Lo realized that if you gave her a little she could take a lot. So, she broke up with Puff, got some press for not carrying a handgun. Married Chris Judd, came out with an album, a movie, a clothing line, a perfume and bam!, Jenny’s running the world.
And then, along come Ben Affleck and bennifer-gate. A seemingly good idea, another movie, a perfect match, but no, it doesn’t work. Why not?

Because the gilt wore off, the crowd got tired and, just like that the Midas touch was gone. People got sick of her, and Jenny stopped being the latest thing and started becoming yesterday’s news. As opposed to being the over-achiever, the one that surpassed everyone with her intelligence, capability and under-dog status, she became just another player on the great media stage.

The same fate is threatening to befall Howard Dean. A surprise grass roots upstart among a crowd of Washington insiders, Dean did like Jenny, took a little, and made a lot. As his campaign manager, Joe Trippi, summed it up, we got where we are "because most of the field underestimated us."

Well, they aren’t doing that anymore. Dean is now the front-runner for the Democratic nomination and he’s everywhere. He’s on the cover of Newsweek and Time this week, the second time he’s managed to grace the covers simultaneously. He’s gone from being the guy that no one knows about to being the guy that everyone knows about. And now we’re getting bored of him.

Need proof? Just look at Dean’s polling numbers as of late. His support for the nomination has slid from a high of 31% on December 14th to 24% this past week according to CNN/USA Today figures. Ok, at least he’s still leading. But. When you realize that his edge on Wesley Clark has slipped from 21% the week of the 14th to 4% this past week, the scene becomes a bit more precarious. Especially when you figure that the poll’s registered margin of error is 5%. Give or take a little and Clark might just be leading.

So, what happened to Dean?
The same thing that happened to J.Lo: everyone saw one too many shots of her dressed in sweatpants with her thong sticking out and decided that maybe she wasn’t’ that great after all. Her star-wattage wore off. The commentary on her life was so detailed, her existence so ubiquitous, the America suffered, as implausible as it seems, from over-satiation. We were so inundated with her, that she ceased to hold our interest and the story shifted from what she was doing right to what she was doing wrong.

Dean, on a political level, is doing the same thing. He has said so much, a lot of it in a refreshingly off-the-cuff manner, that he has said an inordinate number of things he shouldn’t have. His critics have realized this and are seizing upon it. Now central to the anti-Dean rhetoric is a laundry list of his gaffes and discrepancies.
Dean is now being held accountable for everything he has said and done during the campaign, and he has said too much. Just like J.Lo, Dean’s over exposure is causing his star to fade. He’s running the risk off becoming too ubiquitous to be interesting.

It’s true. After an implausible grass roots start, Dean is becoming the up-and-comer everyone’s bored with. We know his story. We’ve heard him rant. We’re well acquainted with his visage. And we certainly know he doesn’t like George Bush.
None of this is in the least insignificant. It just leaves us wondering, "Who is this Wesley Clark?" Or, in Hollywood terms, "Is Gwyneth having a boy or a girl?"

Are we moving on? Have we finally decided that we’ve seen and heard too much of Dr. Dean? Are we shifting our focus to the unknown? Perhaps, and the mystical Wesley Clark may well be that unknown. A late starter who has kept fairly quiet until now, his campaign is the antithesis of Dean’s – and it’s taking off.
Howard Dean needs to realize this and scale back. And keep his chin up. Remember, Gwyneth suffered from over-exposure once too.
© Kate Morrison Jan 7th 2004

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