Behind the Scenes

The Vermonster

Once the frontrunner for the Democratic nomination, Howard Dean has lost a lot of ground to Clark and his free candy bars. Can the campaign recover? Our reporter hitches a ride on the Dean bus and reports on the new political strategy.

on the Howard Dean campaign bus, on the way to Iowa

Political Strategist #1: OK, Governor Dean, we’ve got a crisis. Wesley Clark came out of nowhere, and now he’s a serious contender…

Political Strategist #2: …And we think it’s because of all the Clark Bars he gave out at his rallies.

Presidential Candidate Howard Dean: You do?

Strategist #2: Absolutely. Face it, Clark Bars are yummy. And they say ‘Clark’ on them. Pure genius!

Strategist #1: And we’re hearing a rumor that the Kerry people are planning on giving out little boxes of Crunch Berries, except—get this—they’re repackaging them as Kerry Berries. That’s kind of stupid, but we simply can’t ignore the trend.

Strategist #2: So our goal is clear: We need to find some kind of candy we can give out at your rallies.

Dean: Actually, we call them Meetups.

Strategist #2: Whatever. Right now you’ve got a problem, HD, and that problem is that there’s no such thing as a Dean Bar. Or a Howard Bar. Or…wait, do you have a middle name?

Dean: Brush.

Strategist #2: Really? That’s cool! Of course, there’s no such thing as a Brush Bar, either. Damn these chocolatiers and candymen!

Strategist #1: Hold on! It’s coming to me, it’s coming to me… I got it—Brushy Slushies!

Dean: Hmm. Aren’t Slushies from The Simpsons?

Strategist #1: Not originally.

Dean: I don’t know—Brushy Slushies?—it makes me sound wishy-washy. Plus, I’m not sure about the whole candy thing. I don’t think it looks good for me, a doctor, to be giving out candy.

Strategist #2: All due respect, Governor, but it’s not like you’re a dentist or something.

Dean: Ha! That’s for sure. Say, what about giving out apples?

Strategist #1: Have you ever gotten an apple when you were trick-or-treating? Even if you don’t get one with a razor blade buried in it, it’s still the worst thing in your goodie bag. Plus, an apple a day keeps the doctor away. That is definitely not the message we want to send. Hold on: Inspiration strikes! Maybe we could create a new candy bar! What kinds of candy bars do you like, Dean? [gets ready to take notes]

Dean: I like things with gooey centers, like chocolate-covered cherries.

Strategist #2: Too messy. What about Dean Beans? You know, like jellybeans? [to Strategist #1] Write that one down!

Strategist #1: [sets down pen] Nope. Reagan already cornered the market on Jelly Bellies…

Strategist #2: …I got it! Those Harry Potter beans are pretty cool! What about those?

Strategist #1: The Harry Potter beans are Jelly Bellies, too. And I’m not sure we want voters to associate Howard Dean with earwax or vomit.

Strategist #2: Point taken. Damn. OK, no Jelly Bellies. What about those generic jellybeans like you find in Easter baskets?

Dean: I don’t want to be perceived as generic.

Strategist #1: How could that happen? Hey, what about Boston Baked Dean Beans?

Dean: I’m from Vermont, you know.

Strategist #2: We knew that.

Strategist #1: Yeah, we knew that.

[awkward silence]

Strategist #2: So what do you have in Vermont?

Dean: Well, we’ve got Ben & Jerry’s.

Strategist #2: Oh. My. God. [looks at Strategist #1, holds hands palms-up at shoulder-height] Ben & Jerry’s? I’ve been waiting for an opportunity to do just this very thing since that pow-wow we had with Al’s folks in ‘99 about Gore S’Mores! [points toward Dean] Dean-o, consider the election yours. Here’s what we do: The three of us tool over or up or wherever to Vermont, walk right into the head offices or barn of Ben & Jerry’s, and say, ‘Howard Dean, the king of Vermont, wants you to make a special flavor named after him.’ They’ll say, ‘What should it be called?’ And we say…

Dean: ‘Vanilla Bean Dean!’

Strategist #2: Good, but no!

Strategist #1: ‘Tower of Howard Power!’

Dean: Hey, that sounds pretty good!

Strategist #1: Yeah…it could be a mixture, a couple of things that are conservative, like vanilla, and a couple of things that are a little more radical, like, I don’t know, broccoli. You know, something for everyone.

Dean: What about gooey stuff?

Strategist #1: OK, gooey stuff too. Jeez.

Strategist #2: Still a little messy, but I love it! Do we need a slogan to go along with it?

Strategist #1: Easy! Howard Dean? Ben & Jerry’s? Kismet. How about ‘Dean gives Bjs?’

Dean: I like it!

Strategist #2: Montpelier, here we come! Or wherever!