It's not quite inevitable, but it's looking an awful lot like it.
Two more contenders dropped out of the race for the DNC chairmanship this afternoon, leaving Howard Dean looking ever more comfortable in the driver's seat. The big shoe to drop was Martin Frost's. The former Texas congressman seemed best positioned to take advantage of anti-Dean sentiment just a week ago, but his fortunes fell on two fronts all at once. First, the blogosphere began to question Frost's anti-Bush bona fides, pointing to a TV spot from his last congressional race in which Frost seemed to cozy up to the president. Then, the AFL-CIO, which represented Frost's last-ditch hope for a momentum-shifting endorsement, decided today to endorse no one at all. With no hope for a last-minute surge, Frost left the race rather than risking humiliation when the DNC votes on Feb. 12.
If David Leland wanted to avoid the risk of humiliation, he should have left the race long ago. The former Ohio party chairman never picked up any significant amount of support, and more and more DNC members were beginning to wonder why he was in the race at all. As of today, he no longer is.
With Frost, Leland and Wellington Webb out and Tim Roemer and Simon Rosenberg drawing little support from DNC members, the race appears to be Dean's to lose. It's possible that anti-Dean sentiment will still coalesce behind Donnie Fowler, who is favored by some party insiders. But Fowler is in the midst of a spat about campaign spending in Michigan during the 2004 election, and some Democrats are turned off by what they see as a failed power play involving the endorsement of the executive committee of the organization of state party chairs. There are plenty of voters who are uncommitted -- at least publicly -- but they haven't begun flocking to the Fowler campaign.
Frost didn't endorse anyone when he announced his departure today, but his farewell statement seemed to treat Dean's victory as a foregone conclusion. Frost said he had called Dean and "congratulated him for running a strong campaign." He didn't mention any other candidate by name.