Howard Dean, you could say, has the race for the Democratic presidential nomination dialed in. Even the interruptions the front-runner gets while on the campaign trail seem to underscore that fact.
Case in point: Tuesday on the stump in Altoona in advance of the Jan. 19 caucuses, when the former Vermont governor's cell phone chimed out from his pocket as he spoke to supporters at a house party. That's hardly uncommon, and Dean usually fumbles for the phone and turns it off in a routine that draws laughs. But "this one, I'm going to get," he told the crowd.
"Hello? Well, you got me in a living room full of — no, no, no, don't you dare. Before you get off the phone ... " Dean held the phone up to the crowd. "This is Vice President Al Gore." The room burst into cheers and applause.
'You are just as popular'
"You are just as popular in Iowa as you were before," Dean said into the phone before gracefully ending the call by handing the phone to an aide so arrangements could be made for a return call.
Dean then told the crowd that Gore "said he loves you all, he's really grateful for all the help you were and he is looking forward ... I think he's going to come out and campaign for us."
The former vice president already had reached out and touched Dean's campaign in a big way with a December endorsement.