A day after promising to "get tough" in Iowa, Howard Dean instead went home. He's back in Vermont, 1,200 miles away, choosing to let this newly released television ad do his talking, reports CBS News Correspondent Byron Pitts.
"Where did the Washington Democrats stand on the war?" the ad asks. "Dick Gephardt wrote the resolution to authorize war. John Kerry and John Edwards both voted for the war. Then Dick Gephardt voted to spend another $87 billion on Iraq. Howard Dean has a different view."
It was just last week that Dean promised to stay positive in Iowa, no more tit-for-tat politics.
"I think the way to deal with that is not to go back at them because I think that's what voters don't like," Dean said Jan. 6. "I think the best way to deal with it is to rise above them and that's what I intend to do."
Ahead in a close race, Dean is sticking to his anti-war strategy, but instead of President Bush, he's going after his fellow Democrats. Dean himself avoided the national press on Tuesday, borrowing instead a page from President Bush's playbook and crisscrossing the country by satellite, talking to local TV stations.
He defended his latest campaign strategy in Iowa by long distance.
"I don't believe that we're having negative attacks that single out Sen. Kerry, for example, for his support of the war. It's not a negative attack; he supported the war," said Dean.
At least one rival warned that Dean's more aggressive stance could backfire with voters weary of assaults.
"What people are hungering for here in Iowa is a positive, uplifting campaign of hope, which is what my campaign is about," said Edwards, who has enjoyed a recent surge in Iowa, although he remains far back in the polls. Most polls show Dean and Gephardt at the top of the field, with Kerry ranked third and Edwards following him.
With polls showing Dean running strong in key early states, he's come under increasing fire from his rivals.
At the same time he's being forced to respond to rivals, Dean also is coming under closer scrutiny from the media as his campaign has gained momentum, and breaking news can force the campaign to adjust in midcourse. He's developed an aggressive damage-control strategy designed to confront potential problems before they blow out of proportion.
An example of that came last week when Dean claimed a prized endorsement from four-term Iowa Sen. Tom Harkin. Participants in that decision said Harkin notified Dean by phone Thursday night that he had decided to endorse. Within hours, a story broke of a videotape in which Dean said the caucuses are dominated by special interests.
Knowing the sensitivity of the issue in Iowa, where the leadoff caucuses are a prized event, Dean quickly called Harkin again, giving him a chance to change his mind if the flap proved embarrassing.
After examining a transcript of the exchange, Harkin decided to move forward with his endorsement, which was announced Friday.
Just last week, campaign advisers had plotted a different strategy to deal with the attacks. They planned to keep Dean above the fray while aides and supporters responded, but that tactic took out the campaign's biggest weapon — the candidate — and campaign aides began rethinking their plan.
The decision to shift gears came at a high-level meeting on Monday in which Dean was urged by top advisers to revert to his earlier message that had moved him from an obscure former governor of Vermont to a front-runner.
They warned Dean that this was no time to be cautious, and the new pitch was described as: "This campaign is about the people against the establishment and you are the people."
The shift was quickly reflected on the campaign trail where Dean launched a spirited assault on his rivals in campaign appearances, complaining he was tired of being under attack.
"I'm going after everybody because I'm tired of being the pin cushion here," Dean said Monday.
The shift was a welcome return to form, said some backers.
Courtney Work, an organizer in the campaign headquarters, said the campaign has been "up and down," but the aggressive tactic is his strength
"I like what he did yesterday," she said. "I think it's important for him to be himself, reminding people of why he jumped into the race."