Webb out; Dean up

Published January 31, 2005 9:45PM (EST)

When we talked earlier today with an aide for Howard Dean, he predicted that we'd see "big, big pieces of real estate" moving in the DNC race soon. As we spoke, he made a point of clicking through the Web site of the Denver Post.

It was a not-so-subtle hint about the news that was soon to come: Former Denver Mayor Wellington Webb is dropping out of the race. Webb, the only African-American in the race, never picked up much steam with DNC voters. And while other candidates are holding on to see what labor does when it starts endorsing Tuesday, Webb never had a shot with union leaders unhappy with decisions he made as mayor. Webb immediately endorsed Dean, and his supporters in Colorado have begun to follow suit.

Webb's departure and endorsement are two more dominoes falling in Dean's direction. Over the weekend, he picked up the support of Clinton aide Harold Ickes. On Monday, he won over the Association of State Democratic Chairs. Now he has Webb, and he's waiting to see what comes next from labor.

An aide to Donnie Fowler told us today that it's "still a two-man race," and that Fowler is the second man. While Dean picked up the endorsement of the ASDC, Fowler got the nod -- albeit barely -- from the group's executive committee. Fowler's aide told us that's an important signal: It sends the message to DNC members that "it's OK to be for Donnie" even when all the momentum seems to be heading toward Howard Dean. It also underscores the lack of support for the man many thought would be Dean's strongest rival, former Texas Rep. Martin Frost.

Labor is now the great unknown. Fowler's aide said that if anyone claims to know which way labor is leading, "he's lying." They won't say as much, but Fowler's aides also know this: If labor falls hard for Dean Tuesday, this race could be over.

By Tim Grieve

Tim Grieve is a senior writer and the author of Salon's War Room blog.

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