I don’t know how much the Confederate flag flap and apology will hurt Dean, but I doubt that John Kerry’s attacks on him for flip-flopping will have much effect.
Kerry has already pulled off the grandest of flip-flops on the war, so is in no position to criticize. The dynamic of the race to this point has been perfect for Dean. The Vermont governor established his bona fides as a McCain-like straight-talker with his relatively forthright opposition to the war. When almost all the other candidates tried to catch some of the Dean magic on the war by adopting his position on the war, they actually served to deny themselves any association with the key elements of Dean’s appeal: straight talk and principle. They made themselves seem even more like typical flip-flopping politicians. This is why it was so important in 2000 for George W. Bush, when trying to beat back John McCain, NOT to adopt his positions, but instead stick all the more firmly to his own. Dean’s opponents didn’t learn that lesson. Now, Dean is in such an enviable position because he has McCain’s strength–the reputation for passion and straight talk–without the weakness that ultimately denied McCain his party’s nomination–a tendency to attack the base of his own party. Dean is a McCain WITH the support of the most energized and committed members of his party–a powerful combination.