WASHINGTON (CNN) - When President-elect Barack Obama heads to the Democratic National Committee today to formally unveil the new party chair there will be a notable absence, which is prompting some rare Democratic grumblings during these high times for the party.
Current Chairman Howard Dean left this morning for Pago Pago, American Samoa to attend the inauguration of that territory’s governor and a weekend fundraiser to raise money for the party there. Dean has so far visited all 50 states, and all territories except American Samoa.
Virginia Governor Tim Kaine, who was on the shortlist to be Obama’s vice president, will succeed Dean and formally take over the DNC post at the party’s winter meeting on January 21st.
An Obama transition aide said the only reason Dean is not going be at the Obama-Kaine event is that it conflicted with Dean’s travel plans. But multiple sources, including party activists, say Dean was not invited and would have cancelled his trip if asked. When told he was not included, Dean is said to have taken the news in stride and continued with his travel plans.
Dean’s absence at today’s event has raised eyebrows among some supporters, including state party chairmen, who credit Dean with originating and implementing the grassroots, 50-state strategy that Obama utilized so successfully and that helped Democrats take back control of Congress.
“It baffles me,” said one supporter. Another added it was “odd” the way Dean has been treated during the transition process. The supporters contacted by CNN requested anonymity citing the desire not to cause disappointment during a generally jubilant time for Democrats nationally. They however expressed frustration over the fact that Dean, a doctor and a former governor, has not been mentioned for a post in the new Democratic administration, a perk given to past successful chairmen.
“At minimum, sure it’s a slight” said one supporter of Dean’s exclusion at the joint Kaine and Obama event. This supporter said Dean’s inclusion would have sent a positive message to the state party chairs who have worked closely with Dean, and the DNC staff who worked under him.
While the DNC and the Obama camp worked together during the general election, the campaign independently executed and managed a fierce state-by-state field operation and did not rely as heavily on the party apparatus as past presidential campaigns have.