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When Your Pal Is Al ...

This news analysis was written by Douglas Kiker of the CBS News Political Unit.
Much already has been written and said about what Al Gore's endorsement means for Howard Dean – and vice versa.

To quickly recap:

For Dean it means a legitimacy among party insiders, a big money network, a surrogate speaker, black voters, Florida Democrats and affirmation that (despite some Democrats wishing it weren't so) he's the indisputable, irrefutable, unquestionable frontrunner for the Democratic presidential nomination.

For Gore it means newfound relevance, potential kingmaker status, a platform on which to talk about the war and -- if he gambled right and Dean does become the nominee, or better yet, president –- the power to challenge Bill Clinton as the Wizard-behind-the-curtain of the Democratic Party. (If there's any doubt the endorsement was at least a subconscious challenge to Clinton's Alpha Dog status, note the location of Tuesday morning's event -- one block from the former president's office in Harlem.)

Less clear is what the Gore-Dean cabal means for the other eight Democrats running for the nomination. Some thoughts, in descending order of impact:

Joe Lieberman: Gore's decision should serve as either a wake-up call or a death knell for his 2000 running mate. While the two have never been especially close – you'll recall that Gore informed Lieberman of his decision not to run again in 2004 via Blackberry and did not even make a courtesy call to inform Lieberman of his decision to endorse Dean – few people outside of Washington know that. Simply put, when people in Peoria picked up their newspapers this morning, their first reaction was probably, "I cannot believe Gore went against his best pal and political comrade, Joe Lieberman. ... There must be something wrong with Lieberman." For a candidate struggling to catch fire anywhere – name ID only goes so far as the actual voting approaches – Gore's decision was nothing but awful, terrible news.

John Kerry: And you thought your day was rotten? For the man who this summer griped about hearing nothing but "Dean, Dean, Dean," the news of Gore's endorsement was probably about as welcome as a checkup at the prostate doctor. Dean is beating him solidly in every New Hampshire poll and has sucked all the positive air out of the room for the man once dubbed "front-runner" by Time Magazine. So, with at least a week if not more of headlines on "Gore, Gore, Gore … Dean, Dean, Dean" to look forward to, I expect there'll be more than a few dirty words from John Kerry's mouth.

Dick Gephardt: The U.S. House veteran is fighting for his political life in Iowa, an absolute must-win state for him and one that like so many others seems increasingly fascinated with Howard Dean. An endorsement by Gore, who won the Iowa caucuses in 2000, won't help things for the man who won them in 1988 only to run out of money a few weeks later. There better be flowers and chocolates on Tom Harkin's desk this morning from "his oldest, best pal, Dick."

Wesley Clark: All is well: Wesley Clark has been "endorsed" by the 20 former Gore staffers working on his campaign. But staffers – as Al Gore learned in 2000 – do not a successful campaign make. Clark himself tried to remind people that some in the party question Dean's chance in the general election, and seemed to lump Gore with Karl Rove in the "Go Howard" department. "There's a reason Karl Rove is supporting my friend, the former governor of Vermont … But I'm the only one who can take back the presidency and go toe-to-toe with George W. Bush on national security." While there've been whispers that Clark is the favorite of Bill and Hillary Clinton, they have said they will not endorse any candidate before a nominee is decided and have only obliquely praised Clark. With the new-car smell wearing off very quickly and his numbers in key polls sinking, Clark surely would have welcomed Gore's nod. But, hey, he's still got Ron Klain and Chris Lehane's endorsements – for now.

John Edwards: Edwards' spokeswoman, a former Gore staffer herself, probably summed up the impact best when she sent out an e-mail in the wake of the Gore-Dean news with the subject line, "Yeah … But Who's Getting the Barkley Endorsement," referring to NBA great Charles Barkley who said on MSNBC, "There's nobody in the Democratic Party right now that floats my boat except John Edwards." For Edwards, Gore's endorsement means another week of wall-to-wall Dean (read: non-Edwards) media coverage, whether it's on how good Gore's endorsement is for Dean or how bad it is for Lieberman. What you'll have a hard time finding are articles on how Edwards is catching on anywhere. (Except, of course, in his own polls out of South Carolina and among retired NBA forwards – He's doing great on those fronts.)

Dennis Kucinich: He's got Ralph Nader – this week, at least. Who needs Al Gore?

Al Sharpton: We can only assume that coming off a "Saturday Night Live" performance and a $200,000 settlement he got from New York City because of a 1991 stabbing, Sharpton doesn't give a hoot about Gore and Dean. His only regret is that Gore did not do a hot tub scene with him on SNL before making his Dean announcement, as he did last year when he decided against running in 2004.

Carol Moseley Braun: If anyone lays eyes on her, please call.

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