Do The Impossible

My Crash Course on Presidential Politics Inside the Howard Dean Campaign

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Dean's Decisions

November 17, 2011

By John P. Gregg

The Valley News


Former Vermont Gov. Howard Dean, whose grassroots 2004 presidential campaign helped set the stage for Barack Obama's victory in 2008, has his own campaign Boswell.

Longtime Dean aide Kate O'Connor this month has published a 480-page inside look at the Dean campaign, which started in obscurity, soared as he opposed the war in Iraq, and then quickly crashed to earth as Dean lost both the Iowa caucuses and the New Hampshire primary to rival John Kerry.

The 47-year-old O'Connor, who lives in her native Brattleboro, said Do the Impossible: My Crash Course on Presidential Politics Inside The Howard Dean Campaign, takes an honest look at the pitfalls the campaign encountered, especially once Dean gained national attention for his full-throttled campaigning.

“I didn't sugarcoat it,” O'Connor said in a telephone interview yesterday. “When we became the frontrunner, there was total dysfunction within the campaign.”

O'Connor, who had long worked for Dean as a special assistant and secretary of civil and military affairs in Montpelier, and then was a senior adviser, constantly traveling by Dean's side on the campaign, makes no secret that she and Joe Trippi, the political consultant brought on as Dean rose in prominence, didn't get along.

An excerpt of her book posted on her website -- -- also paints a picture of the gloomy mood as they all flew back from Iowa after Dean finished a disappointing third in Iowa in January, 2004.

“Howard sat with his shoes off, his feet up against the bulkhead. His face was a shade of gray that was slightly lighter than the charcoal suit he was wearing. He was silent. The look of disbelief on his face told the story. The self-proclaimed ‘greatest grassroots campaign of the modern era' had been cut down,” O'Connor writes.

O'Connor, who now serves as Gov. Peter Shumlin's campaign treasurer, said Dean read a draft of the book about a year ago. She is publishing the book through an arrangement with Northshire Bookstore in Manchester, which prints each copy on demand, at $25 a pop.

Asked how she would summarize the book's key conclusions, O'Connor said: “I think we weren’t ready for the success that we had.”