At the same time, the other Democrats are facing fundamental questions that have little to do with Dean. Will Congressman Dick Gephardt get the AFL-CIO endorsement that he so badly needs at its executive-board meeting in October? Can North Carolina Senator John Edwards finally move the polls with his big political bankroll and appealing personality, or will he quit the race and run for re-election at home? Can 2000 vice-presidential nominee Joe Lieberman, struggling in both Iowa and New Hampshire, forge a breakout strategy in the lightning round of primaries that will follow? And finally, for Dean himself, the question is, How far can he expand his message beyond the antiwar theme that has fueled his rise?
The exhibition season is over. When Kerry talks about the weeks ahead, there is an unmistakable urgency in his voice. "We're anxious to get this thing cooking," he says. "We need to get going." It's still early, but not too early to worry whether John Kerry is already running low on gas.